There’s a lot of talk lately about celebrities getting married too young. The prediction is that these marriages will fail. Are the odds any different as we age? Is age the problem or is divorce the end result of something else- relationship malnutrition? We all need different types of nourishment from a variety of relationships. Yet more and more, I see people looking to their primary partner to provide all of their nourishment. Is this too much to expect from one person?
I compare relationship malnutrition to what happens when someone feels like their life is controlled by other people (their boss, their spouse, their kids) and they turn to food or a substance to rebel and find freedom. When you expect your primary partner to provide you with all of the “relationship nutrition” and they are not able to-there is a tendency to over-react, feel like “this isn’t working,” and perhaps begin looking to someone else who can give you the whole buffet.
Early on in our marriage, my husband said “I can’t be your girlfriend.” I forget exactly what conversation I was trying to have with him, but he communicated clearly-it was not something that he could relate to or understand. I learned not to expect him to think like I do. What has been equally helpful was to realize that I can’t provide him with every form of relationship nutrition he needs, either. I no longer put pressure on myself to be everything to him. We have become comfortable with telling each other, “That is not my department.”
How can you tell if you are malnourished in the area of relationship? Try this simple exercise. Take out a piece of paper and write down all the types of relationship nutrition that feed you. Start with things like:
Leaving a Legacy
Add to the list, but be careful not to list “roles” people play like husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, parent, child, boss or coworker. You can find relationship nutrition from different people in different ways, regardless of their role.
Now list 2-3 people in your life that provide you with each relationship food. Try to put each person in only one category. How balanced is your relationship plate? If you couldn’t think of anyone for certain categories, you are malnourished. If you were tempted to write your primary partner’s name in the majority of the areas, you are malnourished. Other signs of poor relationship nutrition include blurring the lines (confusion between categories like love, intimacy and sexuality) and including “Face book” friends (people you have surface level relationship with) to try to “stretch” your meal.
You may also want to try this exercise another way. Look at how many types of nutrition you are trying to be for your primary partner. Do they have enough variety of nutrition in their lives?