Life According To Lenson
BEVERLY HILLS—It will soon be Valentine’s Day, America’s love day. Yet the couple in this article, like so many others, describes their struggle in keeping their love for their partner alive.
(Cases are real, but names and identifying information have been changed to protect confidentiality.)
Rhonda: “My marriage has come to resemble more of a business relationship than the loving relationship we had when we got married 14 years ago. Michael used to make my heart flutter when we first started dating. He was considerate, complimented me, and we shared the same dreams in life.
He has three boys from a previous marriage, and I had hoped that we could become a happy family together. But now, his time is spent at his all-consuming job, coaching his sons’ soccer teams two evenings a week, and with his hiking club on weekends. I’m feeling like the hired help.
I really wanted my marriage to work, especially since my parents were obviously unhappy with each other. I remember my childhood consisting of my mother busy volunteering at the church and managing a gift shop on weekends. When home from work, my father could be found drinking beer and working on his endless projects in the garage. They seemed to have little interest in having family fun with my sister and me.
I don’t want to end up like my parents. I don’t want to stay married to Michael if we aren’t in love.”
Michael: “I love Rhonda and want to make my marriage work, but she is making it very difficult. Nearly every day she reminds me of how I show her less attention than I do to my children. Despite what she says, I don’t think of her as the hired help. But she increasingly is pushing me away. In fact, last week, she started sleeping in the guest room.
When one of my kids and I are sharing a laugh, Rhonda will make a snide remark or rolls her eyes. She’s making it more difficult for me to want to spend time with her. Quite frankly, I don’t know how I’d manage her hostility on the weekends, if I didn’t have some time away with my hiking club.”
Love is the strongest and most satisfying emotion that people experience. But many couples, like Rhonda and Michael, risk losing it all for unnecessary reasons.
Rhonda came to this marriage for the wrong reasons. She expected Michael and his children to make up for all her childhood disappointments. Failing to receive what she wanted from Michael, she started making a check list of disappointments and was further stressing the relationship by being disrespectful and hostile.
Rhonda had to learn to love herself before expecting to find a truly loving relationship with Michael. It was not up to Michael to fill a void in her childhood. Once she learned to assume responsibility for her own behaviors and feelings, she felt more powerful and in control of her own life. She learned to express her wants and needs more directly to Michael. This resulted in Michael understanding her needs. He responded by establishing a better balance of time spent between work, family, and time alone with Rhonda.
Michael learned that because of his first failed marriage, he was avoiding taking risks of true emotional intimacy with Rhonda. He also saw that he was falling into the trap of getting busy with individual activities, which served as distractions from his unsatisfying marriage. He invited Rhonda to join his hiking club.
When a couple does not commit the time and attention to each other, love is threatened.
Stress and anxiety had created a wedge between Rhonda and Michael. For them, the cure was learning to take risks with being vulnerable with each other. Slowly, they learned to better trust each other by being honest in their communication and consistent in their consideration for the best interests of each other. This step led to a better foundation of emotional intimacy. They learned that true love is more than the expression of affection, words, or a box of chocolates on Valentine’s Day. Like a plant, love requires constant attention, or will wilt and die.
Michael and Rhonda recognize that love needn’t be complicated, and now have the awareness of what it takes to keep their love alive. They are appreciative of the fact that feelings are fluid, and were able not only to rekindle their love, but deepen the quality of their shared intimacy.
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