Let me start off by saying Happy New Year to you all and many blessings for 2016. As always, I did not make resolutions but continue to live life as thrown my way and make adjustments accordingly. I was motivated to attend a church service in the new year and will try to make more attempts to get back into church life – we will see how it goes.
So, I am privy to the workings of strangers’ private lives. As they seek behavioral health services, it is my job to ask various personal questions. While this is not new, in the last few months, I am more aware of how many couples underutilize the main reason for getting into a long term relationship-companionship.
Marriage is now easily disposable. People get married for various reasons but the underlying need is a desire to have a suitable companion. The problem I have been noticing for various couples, who are having minor to major marital difficulties, is they have either forgotten or did not establish solid reasons for getting married in the first place.
Here are some things I understand are the basic purposes for marriage: Companionship-to share your life with someone. Support-having someone there when needed and vice versa. Communication: Verbally sharing various aspects of one’s thoughts and experiences. Pleasure: Sex, intimacy and fun. Monogamy: The only. Cooperation: Working together to make each other’s lives easier and better. Understanding: You may differ on issues but are still able to show empathy. Trust: Closing ones eyes and fall backwards knowing your partner is there to catch you. Responsibility: 100/100. Communication: Learning and knowing how to talk to each other. Adapting and Growing: Learning to navigate the changes in life together. Commitment: It’s you and me baby.
As a lifelong bachelorette who is nearing 40, I am getting hit from all sides from married couples about my single status. However, as I look at their relationship lives, I amass even more reservations on joining their ranks. As a single, I make an effort to enjoy my life and as I look at theirs here are the recurring themes I see: Boring: They rarely make time to do fun things together. Sex and intimacy have started to dwindle significantly. Lack of cooperation between each other creates frustration, pent up anger and isolation. Inability to communicate their stressors or needs with each other. One spouse takes on more responsibilities than the other which creates stress and resentment. Flirtatious behaviors with someone not their spouse. Inability to listen and understand the other person’s needs. Third Party Interference: Everything is more important than your spouse-kids, the game, the other’s selfishness. Complaining about everything. Physical Neglect: Spouses stop taking the time to look good for each other. Loss of affection because of ongoing separation. Blaming: Its the other person’s fault. Infidelity: The misconception that starting with someone new will solve your problems.
Marriage gives couples a built in purpose to enjoy life and share that with someone who is sleeping right beside you. However, most couples have loss the insight about their purpose of marriage and ignore their ill-behaviors towards each other. I have sat through conversations in which a spouse will use sex as a weapon, one partner spends money recklessly, child care is only expected of one partner while the other occasionally ‘babysits, couples’ idea of spending time together is completing chores around the house every weekend. Date night is something they have on Valentine’s and Birthdays. Feeling sexy and being sexy is only for single people in new relationships. Communication is “I just can’t talk to him/her.”
Most singles are looking for a date to try out a new restaurant but many married couples, who have a built in date partner, have not gone out together unless it’s to Chucky Cheese or stay at home to enjoy take-out. Singles are sexually frustrated from an absence of a partner while married people have someone sleeping beside them every night and most can’t readily think of the last time they had sex much less enjoyable sex (you know…the one that does not feel like an obligation). A romantic night for a single involves fun; a romantic night for a couple involves the television. A single will feel lonely but s/he is a single, however, a spouse can feel isolated and lonely while staring across a table at their partner.
I am not naïve to expect married life to be daily fun and excitement. However, the repeated dullness and the habit of taking each other for granted tend to build over time until the marriage is “like living with a room mate” or “we are only together for the kids.” You would be surprise how many times I have heard similar statements. Relationships die over time from neglect. As I listen to the patients and to some of my friends, I start to see the early warning signs of the reasons why relationships fall apart.
As a single, I have started to ‘keep out of their business’ because I recognize that most couples do not appreciate the observations from those who are not married. What they fail to realize is that being married does not put you in a special behavioral category that only certain married people can understand. Behaviors are behaviors and it does not take a genius to see certain red flags.
I will always be baffled as to why people are so eager to be married but once they are in that situation they easily lose sight of the reason why they wanted to be married. The laziness, complacency, taking their partners for granted and neglect in putting effort into the relationship usually ends in disaster. It’s like having a million dollars in the bank but if you never use that money to buy groceries, then you will always be starving.
If anyone has ever done relationship counseling, then you will know that one question from the therapist will always be “What made you fall in love/want to be with that person?” The reason for such a question is to remind the couple about the purpose of their relationship, then to re-establish those feelings and ideas, and help them to proceed forward with those foundations at the forefront of the marriage.