Do you ever wonder why your friends find their partner is cheating? After over 40 years of helping couples save their marriage, I want to summarize the all too common story.
Couples remember well, that wonderful “the in-love” feeling. That first moment of meeting will make them smile. Asking them what they thought of each other brings giggles.
In those moments, they felt like they could talk all night, and had known each other forever.
The story of our age, however, is that couples begin to lose touch with each other.
They do not realize it at the time. Like the frogs in cold water who never realize it’s starting to boil they don’t jump out or know how effectively to reengage.
I am writing to persuade you not to let this happen to you.
Perhaps you didn’t notice, but you were spending less and less quality time with your partner. Maybe you both got caught up in your careers, or with your children.
Sometimes your sick parents or long travel became the focus of your attention. Maybe getting lost to the screens in your lives became obsessive.
Yet you probably drifted apart because you were having less satisfaction when you were together. You didn’t notice how often you were criticizing each other. You greeted each other with disappointment rather than the warm smile that welcomed.
You talked about how the other never did anything around the house or initiated anything fun. Rather than sharing your yearning, you just complained.
So here’s the real reason you or your partner may find someone else. One of you has come to the conclusion that the other simply doesn’t care.
Let me quickly say, that this is sometimes a rationalization and sometimes a totally inaccurate portrait. But remember, the sense that your partner has, is the one that ultimately counts, even more than all of your good intentions.
You may have had many good reasons for being unresponsive to your partner’s request for some quality time. In any marriage each of you will find yourselves, tired or otherwise engaged. With dual careers and/or children, you will find this inevitable.
Here’s the thing. It’s how you turn the other down and whether or not you pay attention to the yearning underneath that leaves the impression that you don’t care.
Maybe you are too tired for sex or to go out with friends. If you spent your day with a boss berating you, you may not come home with much energy to schmooze.
Yet over time, your partner may be building a reservoir of accumulated hurt and almost unconsciously turn inward and then eventually outward to someone else.
You may find yourself wishing your partner would see the obvious that you can barely keep your eyes open.
On the other hand you can hear the underlying bid for connection and quickly be clear when you will be open to quality time in the future. Your partner does not leave with the feeling of being turned down for good.
Deep down, each of you will want to have an inner sense that the other will be there when you reach out. Your beloved may want to share the excitement of being in line now for the promotion, the pain of watching her mother die, or the sense of just wanting to play and escape boredom.
Keep your ear open to your partner’s signals that something needs to grow or change. So many times straying partners tell me that they thought they were sending all kinds of signals that were feeling ignored.
As we delved deeper, I find sometimes a person has been extremely timid in asking for attention. Or he may not know what he wants or trust that you would want to respond in the first place.
By this point, you may want to say in consternation, “So how was I supposed to know then?”
Let me tell you. Successful couples do not leave this up to chance. They ask.
From time to time, ask simple questions like: “Have you been feeling like I have been caring for you?"
“What’s the one thing that I could do that would help you realize how much I love you?”
Now you may be afraid to ask this question simply because you are afraid that your partner will want something you don’t want to give. If so that needs to be negotiated.
But take the risk. Many times you will get an unexpected response that is relatively small in the ultimate scheme of things. But if it makes your partner feel loved, don’t you really want to put some energy into doing it.
When your partner sees that you have heard and responded concretely to the request, you can believe that he or she will be less likely to turn to someone else.
To head infidelity off at the pass, set up an appointment for marriage counseling with Dr. Jim Walkup at 914 5458 8645 in the Bronxville or NYC area. Otherwise go to the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists Locator.