Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"We Do Everything Together" (...Is Another Marital Myth)!

Most of us (especially girls) grow up believing the myth that a couple in love are "inseparable"--always together --happy together and there isn't time enough for all the things they want to do together. This myth impacts young marriages in a big way when one partner (usually the husband) wants to do something on his own. The wife, especially when she is a stay at home mom, looks to her husband as an outlet for grown up conversation and activity. When he wants to go out on his own whether it's for sports or just to hang out with his friends, the wife often feels like he is choosing someone or something else over spending time with her and the children, when this is not so--he simply needs some "free time". I have found that when most wives have free time their first choice is to spend it with their husband and children and if he wants to do something else...miscommunication can result in trouble.
How is this common problem solved?
1. No matter how much you love one another...free time for each is essential. In fact it is relationship sustaining and enhancing.

The words of Khalil Gibran in the classic The Prophet explain this concept beautifully:

"...but let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you...Sing and dance together and be joyous but let each of you be alone...and stand together, yet not too near together for the pillars of the temple stand apart..."

2. Individual growth is essential in keeping mutual admiration and respect growing. We all have observed marriages in which one partner seems to have positively grown and developed as a person and the other seems to have remained the same or stuck at an earlier level of development. On the otherhand, we all have observed those golden couples where each has seriously taken responsibility for his or her individual development and have supported the growth of the other as well. Two amazing human beings make one amazing couple!

3. Plan and compromise so each feels that his or needs are being met.

One young wife stated that if her husband loved her, he would give up his gym membership (he worked out about 1.5 hours a day 6 days a week.) Her husband resisted--this was a big part of his life before he met her and part of "who I am." It is ironic that some of the activities we resent our companion spending time doing are the very things that helped make them attractive to us in the first place!
The above mentioned couple made a compromise: the husband could work out 5 days a week in the morning while she slept, but weekends were reserved for joint/family activities. She joined the gym also and took a late afternoon Zumba class a couple of times a week --before dinner, which the family made a point to eat together.

4. If you are feeling resentful of your spouses activities, ask yourself these important questions:

  • Could it be that his or her alone time activities bring up the fact that you are not motivated or have yet to take steps to become involved in something that you are interested in doing?
  • Do you feel you are being left behind as your spouse grows, changes and develops for the better? ( You know you can do something about this--just do it)!
  • Are your spouse's "free time" activities healthy, appropriate, educational or simply just fun or relaxing for them (as opposed to illegal, dangerous or destructive)?
  • Is the time spent participating in the activity reasonable?
  • Does the activity ultimately contribute to your spouse's ability to be a better husband/father, wife/mother?
  • Have you set a daily and weekly time to spend an amount of time (equal to that of the individual activities) as a couple?

If the answer to these questions is "yes," then send your spouse on his or her way with your blessing... and get working on yourself. A person can give back fully only when they have something to give--individual time certainly helps keep the "cup full."

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"The Sex Starved Marriage" - What Can the High Desire Spouse Do?

In a sex starved marriage, (see post of 7/22/10), the high desire (HD) spouse is most likely to be the more frustrated of the couple. The low desire (LD) spouse has determined the frequency of sex and often uses guilt to control the HD's behavior--for an example of this, consider the following statements:

"It's just sex. "
"Why is sex so important to you?"
"If you really loved me, sex wouldn't matter."
"Quality is better than quantity."
"You're just wanting to have sex for sex's sake not because you want to be close to me."

These statements often catch the HD spouse off guard and no matter what the response, it becomes a losing argument. HD spouse will give up, feeling rejected and shamed.

The intensity of these feelings cannot be tolerated as time goes on. As a result,the HD spouse will initiate sexual encounters less and less often yet feel more and more frustrated. The LD spouse has "won" but at the expense of the needs of the HD spouse and ultimately the health of the marriage.

What can the HD spouse do?

At a neutral time, when sex is not in the offing, (at the park, in a public place, at a restaurant), the HD spouse can calmly, lovingly communicate the importance of this aspect of the marriage to his partner (see "I statements"- 5/26/10). At least the LD spouse will have the opportunity to understand his very real feelings and, it is hoped, do something about them.

Finding non sexual ways to connect an HD spouse to his LD spouse, (although he may find it more difficult because of his feelings of rejection and undesirability), may help the LD spouse be more willing and open. Because the LD spouse's primary love language is not sexual intimacy, discover just what actions help the spouse feel love--i.e., gifts, time, service, talking, etc., and give it in abundance.

Compromise is probably the most important. Once each partner understands the needs of the other, a compromise can be reached which promotes the feeling of a "win-win" situation. This in turn promotes the opportunity for even more closeness and intimacy at what can be very deep levels in all aspects of the relationship. A cycle of respect, closeness and bonding has begun.

If you find yourself at either end of the sex starved marriage--know that it can be remedied successfully and the attention given, well worth the effort.

*Note: "He" and "his" was used for simplicity's sake and not because all HD spouse are male!