Relationships Need Nurturing Too. Have you watered yours lately?
Samantha and Will thought that they had reached the end of the line. After six years of marriage they had drifted light years apart. Trying to have a normal conversation had become a Herculean task. “Other than the children, we have absolutely nothing in common any more. I can’t understand how this happened. It used to be so much fun being together,” Will told me.
Will and Samantha were career minded urban professionals when they met. He was a newly minted attorney at large law firm and she had just landed her first job as a journalist for a prominent newspaper. Both were ambitious and in no hurry to start a family. Their wedding was quickly thrown together so as not to interfere with their hectic work schedules.
Marriage affected them differently. Will wanted to continue their lives as if nothing had changed. Samantha, on the other hand, was surprised by her new found desire to have a child. Without any discussion or planning, it wasn’t long before she was pregnant and Samantha made the the decision to quit her job to be a full time mother. Will was not given the opportunity for input.
Will felt angry and excluded. He hadn’t imagined himself married to a full time home-maker. Both of his parents had always worked and maintained a vibrant relationship. Being the sole breadwinner is not what he signed up for. But Samantha was adamant that her being home with their daughter was in the best interests of their family.
Will worked long hours building his career and Samantha dedicated herself to motherhood. In these endeavors both were quite successful. The price they paid for their success was in failing to pay any attention to their relationship. “We are always too tired to do anything together”, Samantha said. “And I always just thought we have a good marriage, it will always be there when we need it.”
Within a couple of sessions Samantha and Will recognized that relationships don’t naturally stay good. They need to be nurtured regularly or they wither. Both admitted that their actions showed that they had placed their relationship as a low priority in their lives. If their relationship was to grow, then they would have to water, feed and give it some sunlight.
They also became aware of a history of unilateral decision-making, with no discussion on input from one another. Samantha said, “Just because I’m married doesn’t mean I’m not free to make my own decisions. Do I have to give up that also?” They realized that neither of them was fully committed to being a member of their team. A willingness to discuss thoughts and feelings and share decisions was not the same as surrendering one’s individuality.
After some negotiation, Will and Samantha decided to re-energize their relationship. They scheduled “date nights” and vacations without their daughter (who was happy to stay with grandparents). They set aside time to talk about other ways to nurture their relationship and agreed to share in decisions that would affect the family. With a little effort, their love proved quite resilient and dynamic its juiciness revived. -Jerry Duberstein, PhD
Jerry Duberstein, Ph.D. is the co-author with Mary Ellen Goggin, JD of the upcoming book Relationship Transformation: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too-A Practical Guide for Couples Who Want To Be Free and Connected. Jerry and Mary Ellen offer counseling, couples coaching in person or by telephone, tele-seminars, and private intensive intervention for couples in crisis, and transformational retreats in the pristine, peaceful Mendocino in Northern California.
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