Resolving to have a better marriage in 2015? Jean Fitzpatrick’s advice for one GMP reader will help you, too.
My wife and I have been married 20 years later this month, and it feels to me that we are just marking time. We hardly do anything together anymore. I suggest things, but she usually finds something else to do. So my question is this: what can I do to make things better in our marriage.
Congratulations on your anniversary. It’s never too late to create change. Often a busy partner thinks of her spouse and his needs as one more item on her to-do list. She may be out of touch with the need for intimacy and affection, and if you express your needs, you may be coming across as “needy,” as though that were a bad thing. Actually you’re the canary in the coal mine, the first one to notice that the relationship is in trouble.
That’s why when you reach out to your wife, it’s important to highlight that you are advocating for your marriage. Tell her you’ve noticed that you two have drifted apart, you miss her, and you would like to work on reconnecting.
If you suspect she’s depressed — she has trouble sleeping, she’s tearful or negative, and her eating patterns have changed noticeably — then let her know you’re worried she seems down lately. You might suggest she talk to her doctor, clergy person or other trusted advisor.
Otherwise, bear in mind that she is likely to pursue activities with you once she does feel an emotional connection. Start creating small moments in the day when you let her know you really tune into her. Actively choosing to notice our partner and let her or him know we care is the “secret sauce” in a satisfying relationship.
If she seems tired, offer to take over one of her chores. If you know she’s frustrated with a friend or family member, ask her how things are going. Just listen without offering advice. If she seems frazzled, fix her a cup of tea. When you respond to her in these simple ways, you communicate that you get her, cherish her, have her back.
About that anniversary…I find that often couples who have been together for a while find themselves on the cusp of change. When they were first married they may have split tasks in a very gendered way, a division of labor that often became more marked if they raised a family. She may have been more interested in connecting and found him unavailable.
Twenty years in, both partners are often ready to do things differently. If his focus was work, now, as he is maybe approaching retirement, he is more eager to relate When a wife has focused on nurturing others, at this stage she is often eager to think about herself. She may withdraw for a while. They’re out of sync. But when her husband offers support and encouragement, she feels understood and nurtured. Now they can reconnect in a new way. It’s s win-win.
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Photo: Md saad Andalib/Flickr