The people I see in my practice are not bad people. They are generally good parents, good neighbours and good friends. They manage pretty well in most relationships except the one that matters most.
It is women, by and large, who end their marriages. Most men are not unhappy in their marriages. They are just unhappy with their wives’ unhappiness.
I believe that one of the reasons women are so unhappy in their marriages is that they want their men to be more relationally competent than most men know how to be. A wife wants her husband to know how he feels and what he wants; to be able to be vulnerable, sensitive, empathic and introspective.
The problem, however, as I see it, is that in our culture, still, boys are not being raised to know how to be intimate. Girls are still raised to focus on connection, while boys focus on achievement. Girls learn to get their sense of self-worth through connection to others, while boys learn to link self-worth with performance.
While women have changed profoundly over the last thirty years, they have not changed enough. Research shows that although women still do the lion’s share of housework, they continue to minimize this imbalance. Could this be because they still fear being abandoned for a younger, more compliant model? Divorce for women still results in an average 60% drop in their standard of living.
So, what happens is, that women either put their marriage on the line or swallow their needs and bury their resentment (along with their passion). They begin to fight less, give less, and finally feel less and eventually give up.
If you are reading this and recognize yourself here, and you choose the therapy route, here is what you can expect. As a woman, you will learn to move away from complaints to speaking your truth effectively and setting real limits. Men, you will learn to listen and be authentic. And through this process, you will reclaim both emotional connection and passion.
As a couple, you can then co-create a new vision for relationship and live it on a daily practice. Intimacy - as I have come to understand it after 25 years of doing this work, both personally and professionally - is a skill set. It is not something a couple has. It is something a couple does.