If You Want it to Last then Look After It! Or Don't Forget Yourselves
(Note: When ‘marriage’ is used in the following article it refers to a committed relationship)
For the most part when couples present to Centacare their marriage is not in such good shape. Both partners usually feel frustrated, lonely and misunderstood.
When I ask, “How did you meet? What qualities attracted you to each other? What did you do to nurture your relationship in the early days?” Often they ‘light up’ and can readily name traits in the other that hooked them and lead to them to a commitment. The future looked bright. They enjoyed each other; they would spend time together talking, giving affection and generally prioritising their union with gestures of kindness, sexual intimacy etc.
I then ask, “What priority have you given your marriage in recent years, months, weeks?” Almost without fail a response along the lines of ‘Not much’ is given.
They may go on and talk about how busy they are with the kid’s sport, school activities, work, extended family, renovating the house etc.
The challenges of life seem to make endless demands on time and energy.
One area that couples with children often mention is how much of their life and energy is spent on their children. Any one who has children themselves, or has had close connections with those who do, can testify how endless their needs can seem. No matter how diligent a parent is there is always more one can feel obliged ‘to do’, ‘to provide’ ‘to buy’ for their kids.
No one has endless energy and time reserves so decisions must be made about how the pie should be divided up so everyone’s needs (not necessarily wants) are met.
In my experience the couple relationship/marriage is sadly left as the lowest priority. It is not that couples deliberately neglect their marriage they usually just don’t stop long enough to really think through the consequences of not putting energy into it. Sometimes one partner does but the other isn’t open to listen. If this is you stop and heed your partner’s request. It is his or her way of saying “I love you and want to keep ‘us’ strong and connected”.
A marriage is a living thing and just as a plant can only be neglected for so long without keeling over so too marriages will soon show signs of neglect if they are not ‘fed’.
Many couples especially with small children, low income and without extended family for support find it especially tough. However, ‘
Where there is a will there is a way‘. I know of one married couple with little kids in this situation who found a way by each month getting the children off to bed and having takeaway home delivered. They would enjoy an evening together by candlelight, without T.V or children. They couldn’t afford much but that didn’t stop them.
Remember there are Seasons of Opportunity; you can neglect a plant for only so long before it is beyond reviving!
Saying no to the kids sometimes and leaving energy for yourselves is a healthy thing for both you and them!
For more ideas about keeping your relationship growing, getting your relationship back on track or setting limits on children so you can leave space and energy for your marriage contact Centacare. (Services in Bathurst, Dubbo, Lithgow and Orange)
By Suzanne Carson - Relationship Counsellor (Social Worker) Bathurst and Lithgow