New Year’s has arrived once again. It’s 2012, if you haven’t noticed, although many of us will still be writing 2011 for several weeks, until the idea settles in that 2011 ended a month ago. It’s usually a time for regeneration, for making resolutions, and deciding, “What am I going to do this year better than I did last year, or maybe even for the past several years?” All of you know the typical areas of concern: stop smoking, drink less, exercise more, eat less, get involved with people that you haven’t heard from or contacted for months or even years, learn more about your religion, do a good deed every day. All of which are wonderful intentions, few of which will be followed through on.
To support this notion, all you have to do is check the records at health clubs. Everyone signs up and starts training vigorously on January 1st. As a result, their parking lots are filled. By February 15th, it’s back to normal. The well-intended are no longer in attendance. In many ways, that’s the way most of us live our lives. We have good intentions, but we don’t follow through. Not only with regard to the small stuff, which may not be so small, but even where big issues are involved.
There’s one area, perhaps more so than any other part of your lives, that best reflects this pattern of behavior. It’s in your long-term relationships and marriages. It’s the people with whom you start out deeply in love, so much so that you’re willing to commit to a lifetime together. One which, in most instances, involves bringing children into the world and eventually growing gracefully old together. Sadly, that doesn’t always happen, because over 50% of marriages end in divorce. And who’s to say how many unhappy marriages there are among the remaining 50%? Far too many people wind up staying together, only tolerating each other but too frightened to leave, unwilling to face the world on their own, reluctant to admit failure and fearful of living alone. These are only a few of the reasons that so many divorced individuals searched for a future companion even before they left the partner they originally thought they loved and committed to years before.
You have to wonder, what contributes to this phenomenon? Similar to New Year’s resolutions, they started out with good intentions, loving emotions and blessings from a rabbi, priest, minister, or justice of the peace. Over the years, however, the blessings were long forgotten, the intentions diminished and the love tarnished. By that time, countless husbands no longer relish going home to wives who no longer eagerly await their arrival. They refer to one another in confidence, or to close friends as, “my old lady”, “the wimp”, “the witch with a B”, the insensitive, frigid, or disinterested, controlling spouse who either “prefers to stay home with the kids, gossip with girlfriends and watch The View”, or “Go out with the boys, drink beer, or spend the weekend watching football or putting a white ball in a little hole, rather than be with me.”
This behavior has become so commonplace that it almost appears to be an epidemic. Something is radically wrong with the institution of marriage and the people in it. They’ve become far too complacent and uninvolved, or reach a point where they no longer feel it’s worth fighting for or about. As a result, they go through all the motions, but without the emotions. They buy presents on appropriate occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas or Hanukkah, and send cards expressing loving affection on Valentine’s day, but the warmth and genuine involvement isn’t there. The excitement’s gone, conversations lag, and outward signs of civility that are typically shared with friends, work associates, or even clerks in stores, disappear. “Thank you”, “I’m glad I’m married to you”, “I really love you”, a touch, a caress, a kiss on the forehead even physical intimacy, all but disappear. Again, the question arises, why? What’s lacking? What causes this to happen and how can we circumvent it? There are countless books written on the subject, but none of them really seem to provide an answer, let alone a definitive solution.
As a result, the next series of articles I plan to write will deal with this problem. I hope to provide you with some thoughts regarding why, how and what brought you to where you are and, hopefully, help you to create a new, emotionally healthier way of life that will enable you to fulfill your original dreams and expectations. To begin, there is a previous article , “Healthy People Have Healthy Marriages”, which you need to read. It is on my website, dredreitman.com. It says that, when you marry, you always get who you are. Therefore, you have to be who you want because, based on this premise, it follows that, if you don’t like who you are, after a while you’re not going to like who you got. The result will be that you’ll spend the rest of your marriage punishing your spouse for the things you see in him or her that you can’t stand in you. The only viable solution is for you to be the person that you’d like to get.
Another way to say it is, if you and your partner are emotionally whole and healthy, your marriage will be, as well.
In the meantime, if you’re about to enter into a meaningful relationship or feel the relationship you’re in is lacking:
1) Make time to introspectively evaluate the role you play in your present relationship and ask this question, “Is my behavior what I would want from a spouse?”
2) If your answer is no, make a list of at least two significant changes you can make in your actions, your verbalizations, or even your thinking, that might improve your behavior.
3) Look forward to my future articles, which will deal with other issues you need to deal with to improve the relationship you’re in, or to ensure that the relationship you’re thinking of entering is one that will provide happiness, joy, intellectual stimulation, physical excitement and a future that you can look forward to, rather than dread.