Valentine's Day HURTS For Abandoned Spouses!
Written By: Mark Smith
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I don't mean to rain on the yearly parade of all things pink, cupid-like, heart-shaped and love-filled, but the real world of relationships doesn't always look like a jewelry store commercial. Wouldn't it be wonderful if long term love relationships were just like those commercials with their great looking, wealthy husbands and wives who are still very deeply in love after decades of marriage? I especially love the one where an evidently mid forty-ish fellow shouts "I love this woman" near a European court yard fountain to his literally blushing bride of 25 years. The pigeons scatter, he presents her with a massive diamond ring and her parents emerge from the crowd as witnesses as we all cry together. While I'm certainly swept up in the love, my questions are, who the heck is watching the kids, how can they afford both the trip to Europe and the huge diamond ring and why do they still look like they are only 32 years old? My life isn't quite that way, is yours? My YMCA buddies tell me I'm getting fat, I have very little hair left, a trip to Europe is no where close to being in the budget and it is very hard work for us to keep a 25 year marriage exciting, vibrant and connected.
Valentine's Day sets up expectations of deeply romantic encounters, gazing deeply into each other's eyes and incredibly passionate love making. If you are there then fabulous : enjoy. It isn't what I see every day in my marital therapy practice though. I see a woman who is deeply depressed at even the thought of Valentine's Day. Her angry, victimy, fumbling husband just doesn't have the tools to touch or feed her starving soul. She doesn't want to hear about romantic dinners, perfect cards or the bliss of the marital bed. She wants to fast forward to Groundhog's Day ASAP. Now that is a low pressure holiday!
I see a couple who haven't made love in many years. I see a woman who has to get her emotional needs met by her friends because her husband's emotional skills and inner life are completely undeveloped. I see a beautiful but very sad young woman whose husband ignores her due to being busy cooking romantic dinners for so many others. I see normal people who spend hours anguishing while picking out an appropriately distance, polite and decidedly unromantic Valentine's card. I see a young couple who can't help but compulsively argue debate and fuss through every session. I see a needy middle aged fellow who aches for touch and connection from his alienated overly stressed wife. I see a sad, weepy, lost little girl well up in a thirty something wife of a chronic workaholic.
Unfortunately love hurts. There are far more couples out there like the ones I have described then there are like the ones in the jewelry store commercials. How is your marriage? How much magic will tomorrow's love fest conjure up at your house? If your situation is more like the ones that I described don't be discouraged : you are quite normal and there is hope. It turns out that marriage is none other than a veiled opportunity to work and grow and reenact childhood dramas. It isn't about bliss or happily ever after, but rather about hard work, maturing and becoming a healthier and better lover yourself. Do you have hope? Are you working effectively on yourself and your marriage? If your answers to those questions are no and no then I want to encourage you to consider some therapy. You need some help and direction. It isn't about dragging your spouse in to see a counselor. It is about you seriously squaring off with yourself and doing the work that You need to do. It is about gaining insight, about connecting the dots between how you were loved as a child and how you settle for being loved now and not allowing yourself to wallow in a victim's role for even a second. Our spouses are our teachers. You are in your situation for your own good and you set the whole thing up.
Here is my Valentine's wish for all of you : I wish you depth, reality, communication, insight, intimacy, feeling deeply, courage to say what you need to say, ears to hear what you need to hear and then as a result of that work, all true Valentine goodies, flowers, cards, candy, dinners, romance and heart felt love making that you can manage to squeeze out of your relationship in its current condition. I know the commercials look and sound much better than that. Well, make this Valentines Day a new beginning for working towards someday staring in your own real life heart thumping jewelry store commercial. See you next week.
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