I received a call yesterday from a 29 year-old woman who was in obvious distress. Married for seven years, she was inquiring about marriage counseling.
“What is the problem?” I asked.
“It’s hard to say exactly,” she said. “It’s just not what I want in a marriage.”
Paula seemed unusually vague with her concerns.
“How would you rate your marriage?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said slowly. “It seems like things have been mediocre for so long, I don’t know if I am expecting too much.”
“Let me ask you a few simple questions,” I said.
“Okay,” she replied.
“Can you say you are happy in your marriage?”
“Oh no,” she said quickly. “I don’t know that I’m unhappy, but I sure wouldn’t say I’m happy.”
“Are you excited to be with your husband?” I continued.
“Well, I want to be with him, but I’m not sure he wants to be with me. So, we don’t spend that much time together. When he comes home he’s often tired from work and heads for his computer. He does his thing and I’ve learned to do mine.”
“And so do you enjoy your time with him?” I persisted.
“Not the way it is right now,” she said. “He doesn’t seem excited to be with me, so I’m not very excited to be with him. I spend more of my time with our kids than I do with him.”
“Last question,” I said, “and then we’ll do some brainstorming. What do you want to be different?”
“Lots,” she said quickly. “I want to enjoy each other’s company. I want us to do the things we did when we were dating. I want to take trips with him, have friends over, go on vacations. But he tells me that I’m expecting a ‘television romance,’ and that’s not going to happen.”
“I told you that was the last question,” I said. “But, I do have one more.”
“What?” she said.
“Do you believe that about the ‘television romance?”
“No,” she said. “I’m calling because I’d like to see if you can help us. I want more from my marriage, but I do wonder if I want too much. I feel like I have this low-grade headache all the time. Our dull marriage really makes me sick sometimes.”
Paula and I continued to talk for a few more minutes before determining she and her husband definitely needed help if they were not going to slip into more serious trouble. I encouraged her to set an appointment where we could explore their marriage, hopefully with her husband, though she indicated he had no interest in marriage counseling.
Paula represents a growing number of women and men calling because they are drifting apart. Television, computers, cell phones, children, work and any number of distractions come between them. Busyness, preoccupations, addictions, all play havoc in the connection we’re all desperate for in our marriage.
Paula was doing the right thing by making the phone call. Her next step is to come in for a counseling session where we could lay out the problems, become clear about what she expected, and develop a game plan for getting what she needed. If she didn’t take action her marriage would continue to disintegrate, leading to more serious problems. She was, thankfully, catching things before more serious problems developed. She already had her work cut out for her.
Here are some thoughts I gave to her briefly over the phone:
First, rarely are we asking too much from our marriage. If anything, I believe we don’t ask enough of our mate and our marriage. Our marriage should be a rich relationship where we give precious nurturance and joy to each other. The relationship should be alive and vital, dynamic and robust.
Second, we are called to mutually give to one another. The Apostle Paul says we are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). He further elaborates his message in the Love Chapter of the Bible,1 Corinthians 13, where he says we are to sacrificially give to our mate. We are called to not focus on wrongs done by our mate, but to delight in each other.
Third, love requires giving. We are to be undistracted when it comes to our marriage. Other than serving God, we have no higher calling than to serve our mate. Our mission field must begin with making sure our marriage is the relationship God intended. Our best energies must be given to him/ her.
Fourth, we are to delight in each other. The Apostle Paul again says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10). Notice the action steps involved in this verse---loving each other with genuine affection; delighting in honoring each other. There is nothing “low-grade” about the Apostle Paul’s picture of marriage.
Finally, we must be held accountable for these changes. Since these action steps won’t come naturally, we must be held accountable for making these changes. This can involve an accountability group at church, a friend, counselor or pastor. We must agree to upgrade our marriage and create a vital, dynamic and loving relationship. Anything less will inevitably bring on a “low-grade headache” and possibly worse.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com and YourRelationshipDoctor.com. You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
If you are experiencing marriage headaches in your relationship, please consider contacting us to learn effective tools for overcoming this problem. We offer a free twenty- minute consultation to help you determine your problem and what is needed to solve it. Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.com. You can read about our guaranteed Marriage Intensive: 3 Days To A New Marriage, Guaranteed!
Publication date: July 30, 2012
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