A couple comes to my office. She reports having been emotionally hurt for years. He did not realize this is why she refused his physical advances. In fact, he did not know how to ask what was happening. She thought he knew or should know. He assumed that he was clear to her even though he did not know how to communicate his emotions. Because he did not communicate emotionally, over time, she lost passion for him. They did not directly address the obvious and this was a safety measure so neither would get more hurt. Instead, they were becoming more hurt at the lack of attention each paid to the other.
He saw she filled her time with helping others. He worked. Although he was feeling the lack of being with her, he said nothing. They were social and this being with other couples covered the pains and disappointments each felt but did not know how to get met with each other. What a sad stalemate they had created for themselves.
She began to think about others. And, then she met up with an old sweetheart on facebook. Seemingly out of the blue but it became meaningful. They developed a time to share with each other. Less time with her husband meant she had more time to think about being with this other man. And what started as a fantasy could now become a reality, if she wanted to pursue it.
Then she realized what she was doing. Was she really serious enough to move forward? She was caught up short and felt she should try to see if there was anything left in her marriage.
She made the therapy appointment, first for herself and then she came with him. They both expressed that they wanted something else with each other. This meant they were willing to try. Not everyone is willing to try. And, they expressed love for each other even though they set aside little time to spend together.
So, in therapy we set up some beginning parameters for increasing communication. They were as follows:
1.Time together daily but not in a perfunctory way.
2. Discuss feelings and the relationship at least once in the week. Normally this is not enough but they both need to get used to talking together. It is harder to do so after patterns of not talking are set in place.
3. Go out on a date weekly and go somewhere they have not gone before.
4. Communicate during the day by text, e-mail, phone. Check in with each other about feelings, thoughts, ideas.
5.Increase affection to each other verbally and physically. But, the caveat is that any communication in any form has to be honestly given and honestly received.
6. Return to therapy and use it as a safe place to talk about the harder topics.
7. Hug each other and really share how it feels to be in each other’s arms.
8. Be honest about what has been repressed, unsaid and try to bring it out.
9. Be willing to give it time to grow, change, and take a different road.
10. Discuss the disappointments and the victories.
11. Recognize the value in the relationship and what each has learned from the other.
12. Treat each other as special, and do not take each other for granted.