As a relationship healing therapist working with couples in New York, Connecticut and now in Florida, I have noticed a few common scenarios leading to frustration and marital conflict. Couples may spend many years cohabiting but not really connected and loving. One or both may get involved with outside liaisons, some purely emotional outlets, some online intimate friendships and eventually one or more actual physical, sexual affairs.
Usually there has been a build-up of emotional deprivation, distancing, anger, resentment and depression. When these emotions are stirring and seething within one or both partners, there is a crisis waiting to happen. These emotions need to be communicated and shared with one’s partner and both need to agree to do something positive about it. One of the best choices is to see a marital or sex therapist together. Putting the issues out on the table, even if the hostility temporarily increases, can make all the difference in whether or not a marriage survives a crisis.
Here are just a few of the types of problems I have seen firsthand with couples who originally were passionately in love with each other. The qualities that drew them together may be the same qualities that pulls them apart.
- The wife has a stable job as a nurse or teacher, bringing in a steady income but the husband has an unstable, erratic source of income, e.g. an artist, writer, athletic trainer or maybe he assists his parents with some of their real estate projects. He can sleep later in the morning and has time to hang out at the gym or at local coffee houses, restaurants or pubs. She works long hours, may have additional work to do for her job when she gets home, and she is tired at night and gets up early in the morning.
- The husband has a highly successful business, travels often and easily meets and connects with women on his many trips. His wife does not have her own source of income and is totally dependent on him, which he likes. This allows him to exploit her dependence. He likes to have his cake and eat it too. He travels, flirts, has affairs and returns to home that is managed for him. He has a built in maid, servant and sexual partner because he pays for it all.
- The husband has a local successful business which allows him to have a totally flexible schedule. He has free hours during the day to go out and create mischief. Sometimes this takes the form of attending strip clubs and gradually becoming sexually involved or compulsively connected to one or more of the exotic dancers.
- The wife has been tolerating a marriage without passion, with an emotionally distant husband who provides for a home and an adequate family life. At some point, some man, somewhere, appears, shows and interest, and an affair begins.
- A woman has been married to a man who is much older than her, 15, 20, even 25 years older. In the earlier years of their marriage they shared exciting trips, adventures and a delightful marriage. But as he is aging, he has developed physical ailments and cannot socialize or travel the way he used to. She is feeling lonely, deprived and wondering how this happened because this is not what she originally signed up for.
Marriages require attention, communication, respect, caring, nurturing and true intimacy. These qualities do not necessarily happen naturally. To survive the pitfalls and inevitable problems of being so close to another person, day in and day out, necessitates finding resources to help. Well meaning friends and family members may not be the best resources. Often, they have distorted or one-sided views that do not help when there is a crisis such as one person having an affair. The best solution is to seek a qualified, experienced therapist and to spend the time really delving into the relationship dynamics. Changing perspectives and recapturing the love that brought you together IS possible and takes a commitment to saving the marriage and enhancing the relationship.