It’s ten o’clock at night and you’re sitting in bed, side by side. Each of your faces are illuminated by the blue light of your smart phones. You’re chatting with friends on social media, you’re typing emails to your coworkers, you’re watching hilarious videos of cats jumping out of their skin over a motionless cucumber. You’re connecting with everyone in the world except each other.
You’ve become a passive participant of the roommate epidemic.
You’ve got no idea how you landed here. This certainly was not the intention behind tying the knot. That happy couple in the wedding picture on the bedroom dresser is completely unrecognizable. A foreign glimmer of what once was. A reminder of innocence and naïveté. It seems so long ago, so far removed from what life has become.
The two of you have settled into a routine. Each knows the role to play and the cost of veering off script. Unresolved hurts and unsettled conflict bubbles up just below the surface, stifling communication and threatening to burst the mundane bubble holding the two of you steady. Life is repetitive. Boring. Monotonous. Dreadful.
The cycle of life consists of little more than the everyday wake up, get ready, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to sleep, and repeat. Gone are the days of spontaneous trips to the Keys, double dates with friends filled with laughter, and late night discussions about all the excitement the future holds.
You can’t remember the last time you held hands, gazed into each other’s eyes, and kissed – I mean really kissed. Not the obligated peck on the lips before you turn out the lights for the night and turn your backs to each other, I mean passionately kissed one another.
Unfortunately, couples across the nation have fallen out of love and into a platonic relationship. If you’re reading this blog it’s likely that the titled resonated with you. If you’re slightly uncertain or somewhat in denial, here are a few red flags your relationship has hit a plateau.
Emotional disconnection – Lackluster pretty much sums up the pulse of relationships surviving in the roommate epidemic. Not only is passion and desire lacking, but connection overall is at an all-time low. Sure, you may still love your partner, but you’re convinced you’re no longer ‘in love’. Ouch. That’s not easy to swallow. If this is the case, you’re likely unhappy, possibly even miserable, but if you haven’t reached out for help yet, then the level of severity hasn’t risen to desperation. The consequences of allowing this disconnection to persist include bitterness, resentment, frustration, alienation, the list goes on and on. Luckily, there is hope. Couples often misunderstand the concept of marriage therapy and assume you have to have endured an affair or be on the cusp of divorce before seeking professional intervention. This is not so. Do your relationship a favor and take the plunge into couples therapy. You have no idea how happy you could be with just a few months of intentionally working on things.
No physical intimacy – Maybe you’re still having sex. But the frequency and intensity have likely waned. You might even view this once desired activity as a chore. If so, your partner knows it and the lack of enthusiasm is painfully felt. Beyond the low libido, physical contact is barely existent and possibly not even welcome. Holding hands feels awkward, kissing is brief, and any skin to skin contact is shied away from. If you grab her butt, your hand is swatted away. If he asks to cuddle, you assume he’s only got one thing on his mind. And on and on you go, negatively reinforcing all of these little behaviors until the relationship is totally drained of any and all intimacy. What happens is advances become infrequent, fear of rejection rules the mind, and you slowly slip back into the friend zone you left behind all those years ago when you took your relationship to the next level. This is a far cry from where you started back then when you couldn’t keep your hands off each other and even farther from where you could be if you acknowledged these issues exist and commit to changing the status quo in the marriage. Again, this unhealthy pattern can be overcome in therapy. Yes, we talk about sex in therapy. Sex is a huge component of marriage and one of the top reasons couples enter therapy in the first place. Though it is typically a symptom of something else, it must be addressed head on.
Shop talk only – It’s sad that one of the things that attracted you to each other is now such a rarity. In the beginning you talked constantly. You couldn’t wait for that next conversation and were giddy when the phone finally rang. Nowadays it’s who’s picking up the dry cleaning, can you take the kids to the dentist, and where are we spending Christmas Eve. Communication still exists but it looks entirely different than before. It’s strategic and business-like. It’s task oriented and time limited. You’re not telling each other jokes, sharing your dreams for the future, or planning a romantic getaway. But, like anything, it too can be changed. Maybe you can’t get back to the old ‘you’ the two of you once were, but you can be a better, more emotionally mature, more relationally educated version of that couple. You can be intentional about gaining communication skills and conflict resolution strategies so that you can once again converse in a healthy manner. You can change the dynamic so that you both feel heard, understood, and valued. Yes, you can. Regardless of the current status of your relationship, you can change it.
So, what’s the purpose in all this? Well, my intention was to bring light and conversation to a very serious problem I see in our society today. I wanted you to know I understand and you are not the only one stuck in this unsatisfying existence. And mostly, I wanted you to believe there is still hope. If you’d like to get started on the journey to change and are looking for a marriage therapist, I’d be delighted to take up that torch. Until then, I wish you the very best in finding what you’re looking for. I think you’ll be surprised to realize it lies within yourself.Jennifer