You can make the changes that create closeness, intimacy, and passion in your marriage.
IT HAS BEEN MORE THAN TWO YEARS since Tom and Beth have made love. Two years. As Beth grabbed her novel and headed for bed, she wondered where her relationship went. It was getting harder to hang on to what used to be, and she had no desire to keep living like this.
Her husband didn’t seem like the same man she married. They were becoming strangers.
It’s not the way she wanted things to be. But, was it really the way Tom wanted things to be? The truth is, it was frustrating and sad for both of them. They were two sad and lonely people holding on to their relationship for reasons they didn’t understand anymore. Tom somehow managed to go on day after day, but Beth was becoming more and more frustrated. She wondered why Tom didn’t care. She thought that maybe Tom didn’t love her anymore. And, she thought that maybe it didn’t matter because she honestly didn’t know if she loved him anymore either.
There are millions of wives and husbands who are emotionally in Tom and Beth‘s position.
Not all of them have advanced as far as they have. Their marriages have not become completely sexless, but they are well on the way. Love and sex go hand in hand in marriage and it doesn’t help to be patient when things are getting worse. But, like Beth and Tom, most married couples have no idea how to fix their relationship and are having serious doubts about whether it’s even possible. Beth loves her husband. She doesn’t know it, but Tom loves her too. It’s plain, though, that love is not enough to make their marriage work.
Beth and Tom have taken what psychologists and relationship coaches call a “reactive position.”
Their interactions are based on what the other person does and does not do. He doesn’t say he loves her, so she doesn’t either. She doesn’t greet him when he comes home, so he doesn’t either. He doesn’t want to talk about problems, so they don’t talk. He doesn’t want to go to bed with her, so she reads a book. He gets upset, so she is careful around him. Tom is doing what he knows how to do and Beth is doing what she knows how to do. If they don’t learn to do better, their marriage is going to come to an end.
For wives like Beth, and husbands like Tom, there is hope and help.
Husbands like Tom may be struggling with depression, emotional problems, addictions, work stress, or life disappointment. Most of these men don’t get into either marriage counseling or relationship coaching. But, they don’t want a sexless marriage any more than their wives do. They suffer silently and their wives suffer with them. Wives like Beth become martyrs until they figure out that their martyrdom is not helping anyone. By that point, they are often too burned out to work on their relationship. Divorce seems to hold the hope that they can’t get from their marriage anymore. But, there is a better way.
The solution is for one or both of them to make a change. The right change can not only prevent divorce, it can start to restore love and passion.
An unhealthy response to this sexless and passionless marriage would be for either Beth or Tom to have an affair, separate, or discuss divorce. They are unhealthy responses because with this level of distance in the relationship, the result of such actions is likely to bring about the end of their marriage. These are obvious choices and temptations–but they are not the good ones. Learning to reconnect is what they both want and need. The traditional way to do this is to go to marriage counseling, but when men don’t want to go relationship coaching is a better choice.
How would relationship coaching help people like Tom and Beth?
Relationship coaching is very different from marriage counseling. If Beth chooses to get relationship coaching for her sexless marriage, a relationship coach like myself will will gather some background information, but most of our session time will be focused on two things: 1) discovering what Tom and Carol would really enjoy in their relationship; and 2) making the right choices that will make those changes happen. One of the most important choices for Beth will be to no longer be reactive. Beth will learn with me how to get Tom to open up and get to the real issues that are killing the relationship for both of them. I will help her how to get on the same side as Tom. Because when she does that, they will start to reconnect and their feelings of love will come back. Getting that to happen as quickly as possible is one of the goals of relationship coaching.
How is this so different from marriage counseling?
Marriage counseling doesn’t work so well when only one spouse will attend counseling. A lot of the session time is used to provide comfort and support. While that is important, it often does not lead to the changes needed to rebuild the love in the relationship. Clients who come to me from counseling tell me that it helped them to feel better, but that they really didn’t learn the skills needed to lovingly and strongly take a stand for their marriage. My assumption when I coach people is that the sooner they improve their relationship, the sooner they will feel better. My clients learn to “get out of their heads” and use their eyes and ears to see what is going on, then use skills to deal with that. Real world actions are substituted for endless negative or worried thinking (“churning”). And, at least with my coaching, the emphasis is always on rebuilding the relationship–never on escaping it.