Because we have this blog, I often find myself observing and analyzing people in normal situations, perhaps making a few assumptions, and then sharing it with you guys in an effort to make a point. I had another opportunity to do this last Saturday at Linda’s 35th high school reunion.
Nothing earth-shattering occurred but I did notice that probably about 90% of the attendees were there without their spouses.
Now, I didn’t go to the same high school as Linda, but over the course of our marriage I’ve become acquainted with the majority, and friends with many of her fellow graduates. So while Linda was off small-talking and reminiscing with her former classmates, I was mingling with most who were there.
One of the questions I asked of those who were there by themselves was “So where is the wife (husband)?” The majority said something to the effect that he/she had to stay home and babysit the grandkids or he/she didn’t want to come, or “I just left her butt at home.”
Upon further conversation, the person would typically express some area of discontent with their spouse that was obviously a sore spot for them.
I heard… “All he wants to do is play golf.” “She had no desire to come with me tonight.” “He never wants to do anything anymore.” “I have no clue what we’re going to do when we retire.” “He’s boring.”
6 years of denial
Psychologist, Dr. Betty Phillips says that people wait six years from the time they start having problems in their marriage before they go and talk to a counselor. No wonder it can be so difficult to restore health and vitality to a marriage.
People know they’re having trouble, they know things aren’t the way that they want them to be, but it takes them a very long time to actually do something about it. It would also seem that six years could be prime time for an affair to happen.
The marriage goes from the foreground to the background and gets put on the backburner. The couple doesn’t want to look at the problem for whatever reason and takes a firm stance called denial. “We’re fine, there’s no problem, we’re just in a rut.”
They don’t want to look at it because they’re afraid of admitting there’s a problem and they’re afraid of knowing what’s going to happen and they’re afraid of therapy. Because of these fears, they don’t take action and instead put on their blinders and go on as if everything is peachy.
I’m not for certain if the 6 years was an accurate time frame in our case, but we certainly ignored our obvious problems over a several year period earlier in our marriage.
Now, a good percentage of these couples will just continue on that way and will probably see a slow deterioration in their marriage and in their happiness, but another percentage will say, “Man, things just aren’t working for me at home and things will be fine if I just move on to another relationship.”
They have that “grass is always greener” way of thinking. So they figure an affair is no big deal because their marriage isn’t going to last anyways. Or they may see it as a big deal but they believe it’s the better path because the grass does seem pretty bright and pretty green. There’s high romance, nobody has to take out the trash, nobody’s arguing about who’s going to do the laundry or pick up the towels from the bathroom floor or get up with the crying children at night.
So they’re pretty much at the same place they were when they first met their spouse, but unfortunately they don’t remember that.
And if you’ve been reading our blog for any length of time then you realize that most affairs are not reality – the grass is not greener – and if they wound up marrying each other, the marriage will probably soon become an unhappy one as the euphoria starts to fade. Eventually, they more than likely become a statistic – one of the 75% of affair marriages that fail.
Marriage is like your teeth
So getting back to the 6-years before counseling I mentioned earlier… What if we treated our marriage like we treated our teeth? Dr. Phillips has a great analogy:
Well, just think about it. We’re told to pay daily attention to our dental health, brush and floss each night and seek professional assessment with dental checkups every six months. When a dental problem is discovered we invest immediately in corrective work, whether or not the charges are covered by insurance. Why? Our teeth are a long-term investment and we know we will be much better off if we take good care of this important resource. Sure, we can purchase replacement (“false”) teeth but we worry that they won’t care for us as well as our original permanent teeth. Get the picture now?…Marriage is an important resource for our long-term mental and physical health – but how do we take care of our marriage partnership? Not nearly as well as we take care of our teeth.
Every day you ignore your spouse is a day that your marriage starts to go down the tubes because a marriage must be built in part on fondness and admiration. Your spouse must be your best friend in a lot of ways. Sure, you can have other friends but your most personal, private, intimate friend needs to be your spouse.
So how do you build that friendship? You build that every day by spending time with that person. Doing things that you enjoy together or just “hanging out.” It doesn’t have to be all day. It doesn’t mean following each other around like puppies everywhere you go.
It does mean that we should treat our spouse as we want to be treated. We should think about our partner’s good qualities, not just the bad stuff that invade our daily lives. We need to share good times and pleasures. We need to have fun, laugh, be intimate, play hard and talk about stuff. Basically, we need to consistently be doing things that add deposits into our “love bank.”
Now, I don’t know if any of the spouses of the people at Linda’s reunion are having affairs, though it wouldn’t surprise me. And I have no idea if they are even unhappy in their marriages to the point where they would even consider an affair – or for that matter, marriage therapy. It was clear however, that their marriages have seen better, happier days.
The point is that it’s always better to stop a problem before it happens than to try and deal with it after the damage has been done. So don’t be afraid to admit you have marriage problems.
We’d like to know if you went through a period of denying any problems in your marriage. Did you eventually address them? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.