I was just at a seminar all last weekend dealing with intimacy and infidelity in relationships. Since these are some of the top experts and thinkers in the therapy world it was worth being cooped up in a windowless classroom during such beautiful days (oh the joys of continuing education when you are a psychologist). I’m still in the process of working through all that I heard, but two concepts stand out initially.
First is that “hearing the truth” in a committed relationship can be very painful, even apart from an infidelity. No one enjoys learning that they have upset or dissapointed their spouse. However, lies in a marriage leave long lasting scars. In our hopes to avoid conflict in the marriage, or pain in ourselves and/or the other, we can likely guarantee the eventual scar with being large and lasting. Thankfully, even with the “scars” of broken trust and lies, there is still hope. This leads to my second “take-away” from the weekend.
One particuarly thought provoking presenter, Esther Perel, was looking at statistics of marriage and concluded that over a lifetime an individual will find themselves on average in two or three committed relationships. Frequently this is delineated by divorce and changing partners. Committed relationships like marriage are not static and the longer you last the more you will have to adjust and adapt to life. Dating is not like marriage. Marriage after children is different still. After children leave home a marriage will again enter a new phase. What if, along with the way, we call it “quits” on the marriage we have had when it no longer works with the latest life phase or the most recent personal growth. Any thriving relationship will have to adjust and grow over time and why not “recycle” your existing ones? In the middle of these stretching times, it may be difficult to see the good parts that had been working until life changes made them less useful or maybe even detrimental for the future. Esther suggested, what if a couple would periodically “divorce” the relationship that no longer works and negotiate for a new future together? It may be time for a new marriage for you and, quite likely, the best candidate for that future is the one you’re with at present.
You “negotiated” for the terms of your marriage at the start and those terms are going to have to change with time. Like a “comb-over” hairstyle for a man refusing to accept his balding head, sometimes holding on to what used to work is just plain awkward, difficult and unsightly. If you want a little help “restyling” your relationship, call me for marriage counseling for your marriage makeover.