What’s going on here?
Could it be related to the way us women perceive our role in marriage? Could it be that as wives we still feel we have to sacrifice and put our own desires and whishes behind those of our husbands and children?
These days we are much more outspoken about our needs and our expectations - not just at work but in our relationships too. But many of us still feel like in order to 'have it all' we have to 'do it all' and we end up feeling exhausted, disappointed and even angry at our 'inability' to cope.
Funnily enough 'in-ability to cope’ assumes that we could have the 'ability' to balance it all in the first place. Unfortunately this is a false belief to start with. A lot of times it is simply impossible to meet all the expectations that we, along with society, place on ourselves.
How on earth are we supposed to make a healthy nutritious breakfast for our kids in the morning whilst being at work at the crack of dawn? How are we supposed to stay fit and slim without taking away from spending quality time with our partners and family? How are we supposed to be social and outgoing and drumming up funds for a great cause whilst keeping the home tidy and spotless?
The simple answer is we can't. It's impossible.
And when our husbands are adding to the demands rather than easing them it might be a tempting solution to file for divorce. Which could be one of the reasons why more women than men end up initiating the split.
But is this really the solution, or are we treating the symptoms rather than the cause?
And could the cure actually be a stronger emotional connection between husband and wife rather than a better allocation of chores?
In Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy we believe that underlying the fights around ‘who does what’ there is the fear that we no longer matter to our partner. That he/she no longer cares.
After all wouldn’t he pick up the kids after work if he truly cared? Wouldn’t she support my career ambitions if I was important to her? Wouldn’t he share in the responsibilities if he still loved me?
Unfortunately very few of us can voice these fears openly and ask for reassurance from our loved ones - or are even aware of our fears. Instead we carry them around inside of us and hope to trigger our partners into action through nagging, begging, demanding or bargaining. In return our partners feel like they can never do anything right and might start to retreat emotionally.
Dr. Sue Johnson calls this ‘the dance’ we get trapped in. And if we feel that we are starting to lose our emotional connection then we start protesting and get caught in what she calls the ‘demon dialogues’. Fights where we either try to point out the ‘bad guy’, where we get caught in seemingly never ending discussions about the same thing. And when this has been going on for too long we end up putting more and more distance (emotional or physical) between us. Diving fully into work or parenthood might suddenly look like a much safer option.
Is there a way out?
Yes, and the first step is to realize that it’s not your partner who is faulty, i.e.an ‘idiot’, ‘selfish xyz’ or just ‘cold as a stone’ but that you’re trapped in this ‘dance’ together. It’s the way you currently interact with each other that is not working for you.
And how do you do that?
Start by reading Dr. Sue Johnson's book ‘Hold Me Tight’ and doing the exercises it entails. And if that’s not enough sign up to a Hold Me Tight Couples Weekend or invest in some couples coaching.
In a time where we live further and further apart from friends and family, where we’re supposed to be independent and self-soothing, our intimate relationship becomes more and more important for our happiness and wellbeing. Maybe it’s time to invest in our relationships in 2016 and prove that marriage is definitely worth it – for men & women.
Keep loving, living and learning,