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How is it that marriage partners appear in many ways of their life to have emotional attachments to others with sufficient closeness to enjoy these relationships, while at the same time becoming more detached from one another in the marriage?
What are some of the triggers that may have brought about the decline, and can marital life be restored and enriched so that it will carry the marriage for the lifetime?
Well, I’m glad you asked these questions, so what follows are some things you may want to consider.
More often than not, each partner has come into the marriage with different expectations and when these have not been met, over time, disappointments and delusions have developed. A prime example among many experienced in my counseling practice was expressed by a wife in her late twenties who was in her fifth year of marriage and had discovered that the behavior of her husband was not what she had expected: “He was so different than when we first got married. And then I got pregnant so quickly — it was unplanned. We had, until then, been so close — both emotionally and physically — and then he changed totally.” Before marriage, they had known each other for about two years, the last year of which being officially engaged.
It was discovered that the expectations were either too high, too unrealistic, maybe unachievable. They were reportedly mature adults in their twenties when the marriage began.
One wonders if after the beginning phase of the marriage — the honeymoon phase — the real partner is now able to emerge, now that the behavior during the pre-marital relationship, often known as the best behavior, becomes unnecessary.
I have diligently taught, and reportedly have also taught by example, that courting never stops. In fact, it should never stop. When that happens, the relationship becomes complacent, sort-of ‘hum-drum’, and even boring/dull.
When we have observed couples in those 20-50 year-long relationships who reportedly have a fondness, closeness, including some of the romantic things they experienced in the earlier stages, it is a sign that neither has taken each other for granted, but has continued to show the same level of love, admiration and appreciation for each other although often in different ways, yet just as meaningful as was the case in the past.
These couples seem that they can’t get enough of each other. Can you remember those days, those times, those years? Boredom has its beginning when courtship is not present.
An example of disillusionment: When a couple who had appeared for counseling due to a disintegrating marriage, was asked: “How many years have you noticed, really noticed, serious problems have been emerging?” The husband spoke first (although he may have been sorry that he did speak first) and his response was “Oh, about four to five years.” The wife responded: “About 25 years or so.” By the way, they were, at that time, in their 30th year of marriage. My first thoughts (although I wisely reserved my worded responses for later sessions, conducted individually with each) were: 1) Is it possible that he could have been asleep for most of the marriage? and 2) Is she exaggerating or overstating, possibly having a litany of complaints or dissatisfactions about almost everything he has ever done, or has not done?
It was later discovered that the stresses, demands and disappointments of life had created an emotional distance between them. They had not “connected the dots” between their relationship, which had not been growing as it should over the past several years, and had the feeling that they were drifting farther and farther apart.
When that is taking place in your relationship, although you may never consider divorce, the road of a decaying marriage is already heading in that direction. You already know that being married in the real, not fairy-tale, world includes plenty of relational and even emotional ups and downs. If your marriage is not on a continual pattern of growth, getting deeper and deeper in love with one another, that dream marriage may turn in time into much less than a dream, perhaps resembling a virtual nightmare, slowly but surely on a slippery slope into relational and emotional decay. It may come to a not-so-sudden, but sure ending (divorce). And when that happens, you may still be living in the same house, under the same roof, even sharing some basic things, but you are more strangers to each other than you know what to do about.
Unsolved/unresolved disappointments and subsequent discouragements have a potential to be setting the stage for further troubles.
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