Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
I’m a stay-at-home mother of three whose husband works a very busy, very “important” job. He is never home. We have learned to just accept that he is not part of our day-to-day lives. My husband’s brother lives near us with his family and I am always sad when we make plans to get together and he gets to be there but my husband never seems to be able to pull away from work. We do have a nice lifestyle, but even with the financial resources things don’t feel “easy.” We decided to have a third child despite the fact that things were already pretty strained, mainly because we both come from big families and always thought that was what we wanted. Now I find myself resenting him, and I know you always say that resentment is bad for a relationship. I just don’t know how to talk myself out of these feelings anymore.
– Resentment Building
First, I am hopeful that you get a lot of support from your family and friends about this very difficult situation. But I’m not going to offer the same sounding board that (I hope) they provide you. This is a very common dynamic and I want to offer some insights from your potential future selves – the selves I often see in my office for couples counseling.
Potential Future You is awash in anger. She has no other choice. She has allowed the situation to take over her life and has lost her ability to lay down her defenses and be vulnerable. (CHEAT SHEET: Vulnerability is where we connect to other people. Period.) Potential Future Him is also angry – mostly at himself, but it looks like anger toward you. The regular arguments have eroded the intimacy and now the only way you spend real time together is during battle. When I prescribe regular intimacy interventions (e.g., date night, calendar appointments for sex, intentional dialogues), you each wait for the other one to go first and then nothing happens, building resentment. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
The good news is that you are not yet Potential Future You. Instead, you are you today, recognizing that your marriage is struggling and seeking advice. The first step is to gain some insight into how this situation came about. If your mind just jumped to blaming Husband, that’s okay, but it’s not productive – nor is it entirely true. It’s not solely his fault. You must take responsibility for your role. Are you a person who always ignores her own feelings? Do you hold it all in until your frustrations metabolize into depression or physical ailments? Figure that part out. Then bring your findings to Husband. Be vulnerable. Ask for understanding, first, and then negotiate for change. Get outside guidance if you think you’re ready for it. You can learn to reconnect.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.