The New York Times reported Sunday, November 11, 2012 (page 18), on the emerging news story about the surprising resignation of General David Petraues, the Director of the CIA. The story, though still cloudy, was revealed after he admitted to having an affair with his biographer. The article stated that when he began his job at the CIA, he and his wife moved in to a home in Virginia and it was “”the closest thing to a normal life together that they had in years.” The article stated further, “after years in war zones, Mr. Petraues told friends, he was amazed to eat dinner most nights with his wife and to discover weekends again. He told friends “on the day his daughter was married last month, he went for a 34-mile bike ride.”
In my many years of working with couples, I have encountered similar circumstances that motivated couples to seek counseling. This story reminded me how important it is for us to not become complacent about our relationships. Today, our lives are more complex. We are distracted by media, internet and information overload. They add to our stress in the workplace. In many families, both partners work having to balance these demands with those at home. To cope with this, we develop a coping style, which if successful, becomes regular, consistent and habitual. The intimacy and security of the couple relationship often takes a hit.
Relationships change over time. The circumstances that attract us initially change significantly once we become intimate, live together, marry, have children, raise children and launch them to find ourselves alone again. Each stage presents many challenges that affect the intimacy, satisfaction and security in our relationships. It’s important for us to watch out for those times when the habits of our lives have become rigid, resisting change.
In the case of General Petraues, he and his wife, Holly, with their two grown children were seen as a model of how to make a military marriage work with long separations and overseas deployments. Mrs. Petraues was a remarkable figure herself, creating a career as an advocate for the financial education of military families and joining the Obama administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
It’s easy to imagine the separate lives these two had that helped them maintain the strength and security of their relationship raising their children over the years. They are admirable given how hard they worked to achieve this. Yet I, as a psychologist who specializes in working with couples, appreciate the toll it can take on their relationship.
1. Angelina Jolie. It's no surprise Angie has a wild side between the sheets. But the experience she had at 14 led to some darker moments for the actress. "I had started having sex with my boyfriend at 14 and the sex and the emotions didn't feel enough," she said. "In a moment of wanting to feel closer to my boyfriend, I grabbed a knife and cut him. He cut me back. We had an exchange of something and we were covered in blood, my heart was racing. Then whenever I felt trapped, I'd cut myself. I have a lot of scars. It was an age when I felt adventurous and after a few beers, things happened."