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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Love On The Shelf

Don't leave your most important relationship to languish

 A new couple came to see me to consider beginning marriage counseling.
They've been married a long time, have grown children and some little grandchildren.
They've known each other since they were kids.
They are middle-aged now, still working at their careers and actively engaged with their family life.  So, what's the problem?
Their marriage is withering on the vine.  Why?  It's been left unattended for most of their married life.

They say they did try counseling once before some years back but it sounded as if their participation was half-hearted.  Apparently the counselor made some suggestions, they tried them for awhile, then just drifted back to their old ways.

Since her mothering role is no longer needed, she has developed a hobby; she goes walking w/"the girls".  As the group got into better condition, they started to  go on hiking trips several times a year.  She is very fit, has close friendships with some of the women in the group, and is devoted to this activity.  Meanwhile, he is the kind of guy who likes to putter.  He spends time in his garage, tinkering.  He's handy, so he likes to tune up the garden and house on the weekends.  He also keeps up a bit of an exercise program but it is more for health purposes rather than as a hobby.  Neither one of them is much interested in what the other is doing and she wishes he would get out more like she does.  He wants her to be more like him, a homebody.
In their presentation to me, both acknowledge there's a problem in the marriage and that they've "grown apart". 
But, their solutions are the same:  They each want the other to change.  They each like their own activities and the way they conduct their own individual life and don't volunteer to make any changes themselves.                                                              Artist:  Elizabeth Frank

These people have part of it right; you do need to be an independent person with a developed identity of your own before you can be emotionally intimate with another.  But, what is missing is the attention to the relationship itself.  There is nothing shared, no mutual interest other than the extended family events; they never make plans to do fun things together.  They share no pleasures.  They each obtain their primary gratification in life from independent interests.  When they talk to each other, there is no listening going on and there is anger in evidence as well as defeat.
In addition, they each see the other as wrong and in need of correction but are doing no self-evaluation.  (This is the key)

Remember the post, You Can Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar?  http://therapiststhoughts.blogspot.com/2011/05/you-can-catch-more-flies-with-honey.html
It almost seems as if they could save some money and just follow the suggestions in that post, doesn't it.  Well, that would improve their happiness but, of course, their problem is more complicated than that so they do need a therapist---to see beneath the surface and to decipher the interpersonal dynamics.  So, hopefully, they will make the commitment to work on their relationship in therapy.

~However, their case as I've outlined it above, does illustrate the point, that relationships need nurturing.  Too many of us think that we can busy ourselves with all of the many responsibilities and interesting activities of life while our relationship will take care of itself.  No, not really.  Marriage is not the solution, marriage is the beginning.  Marriage means you have something in your life that is central and that you need to attend to, on-going.  It needs to be given your energy, your time, and your thought.~

What kind of relationship do you want would be a good question to begin with:  Do you want comfort?  Is a romantic relationship what you wish for?  Friendship---maybe you want a life-partner-buddy.  Do you want to plan adventures together or do you want to develop a beautiful home life?  Do you want a close confidante or more of a business-of-life partner?  Whatever you want, communicate about it with your mate.  See if you can come up with a shared vision.  And then, put some effort into manifesting that vision.  Wishing you good fortune in that endeavor!

If you are interested in reading more about relationships, click on that label which is on the landing page.  There is also a label that lists all posts that talk about communication.
Your comments are welcome.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Kim!I suppose we all know not to take our most dear ones for granted but, most of us can use a reminder, huh.

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  2. Thanks for the reminder, Paula!

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