YOU’RE NOT THE MAN/WOMAN I MARRIED!
Maggie and Tom were a couple who discovered that their love was long gone for each other because they had both changed so much over the course of marriage that they weren’t sure who the other one really was anymore. Both communicated very little with each other about personal things. They would exchange the customary greeting of “Hi, how are you” to which the other one would respond with the customary “yeah, fine. How are you?”. Any time they tried talking about anything more important than that, they just argued. So they didn’t talk about much more than that very often. But they didn’t have to. Both were very responsible, very professional and were able to plan and coordinate their children’s things with each other with little effort. In fact, their marriage was pretty low maintenance. Both had great careers, earned a lot, knew how to communicate well and were pretty self-reliant. But all this low maintenance and self-reliance left them both feeling distant from each other, alone and unhappy.
Throughout the course of therapy they had come to the conclusion that they just weren’t sure if they love this different person who sat next to them on my couch. After years of marriage, they both got busy in their careers and at first it was exciting to them to see their spouse doing new things and stretching themselves in new ways. But over time this meant that they both grew into someone the other one didn’t know very well. The one thing they had in common still was their children. They had three strong, vibrant and outgoing girls who were all teenagers now. This is what kept both of them from leaving a long time ago.
But Maggie and Tom didn’t want to waste their 25 years they had together so divorce wasn’t an option. They decided they would began talking to each other at night in an attempt to get to know each other once again. At my recommendation they began by buying Love Maps Cards from renowned couples expert John Gottman. This ‘game’ helped them find out new things about each other that they never knew before.
Once this began happening they started connecting on a new level. They started finding new things about each other they found exciting: Tom discovered that Maggie like Indian food which he never knew before and he loved it too, Maggie found out that Tom liked a different kind of music than he used to like when they were dating. They also found new annoyances they didn’t like. She didn’t like the way he organized his calendar and he didn’t like the way she always let unknown phone numbers go to her voicemail first. These things excited each other and it was almost as if they were getting to know a new person. When they made love it was like making love to someone new. After connecting in this new way and realizing they really were in love each other (even though this person wasn’t the person they originally fell in love with), they stopped coming into therapy and thanked me for the help.
As with every story on my blog, this story isn’t based on a real couple. But many couples come to me with similar complaints: He/She’s not the same anymore, they’re not the person I married!. This is a good thing. Think about it, if you’re forty do you still want your spouse to act like they’re 25 like when you first got married? People necessarily change over time. This is good. What’s most important is that you keep getting to know each other and appreciate the changes your spouse is making. And the double bonus is each time you make love you can pretend like you’re making love to someone new. So don’t get upset or blame your spouse if they’ve changed since you first married them. A better thing to do is to ask yourself: Have I changed? And if not, Why not?