Our lives are a web of interconnections—what happens at work can spill over and impact how you interact with your partner; what happens between you and your partner affects your capacity to parent; how you treat and care for yourself influences how you treat others, and so on.
In short, your relationship isn’t an island, immune to outside forces. What you do outside of the relationship has implications for what happens within the relationship. Let’s explore this idea further.
Relationship Advice Tip: An Unbalanced Life, An Unbalanced Relationship
Lydia was unhappy in her marriage to Dana. And after almost a decade of marriage, she seriously wondered if she had ended up with the wrong person. So she arranged to meet with a couples therapist to figure out what, if anything, could be done for her relationship. Dana was open to counseling, though he was more content with the relationship than Lydia. His motivation was to make her happy if possible.
What emerged was that Lydia didn’t have much of a life outside of the marriage (both she and Dana voiced this opinion). She worked part-time at a job she didn’t like, she was thinking about going back to school but she was ambivalent about this plan; her best (and really only) friend had recently moved away and Lydia now felt isolated. She knew she should exercise but didn’t; she knew she should get back to her art work (she was a painter) but continually stalled on this plan; she wanted to join a book club but excuses stood in her way…
Lydia remained stuck in neutral, and this stuckness spilled into her marriage.
Because of Lydia’s inertia outside of the marriage, she expected a great deal from Dana—in essence she was asking that he fill in all the missing pieces of her life. But she didn’t realize the extent of her expectations, the huge weight she was placing on Dana and the marriage to pick up the slack for what was missing in other areas of her life.
Marriage Help: A Marital Prescription for Lydia
There were no chronic breakdowns of communication to deal with; no out-of-control marital conflicts; no lack of passion or desire in the bedroom. This couple cared for one another—there was compassion and love, and even in the face of misunderstandings, they were motivated to see each other’s perspective.
So what was required?
Lydia needed more balance in her life. She needed to correct the imbalance that was straining the relationship. Though he tried, Dana simply could not fill in all the gaps—he could not be all that Lydia required. Lydia’s need for greater socialization and camaraderie (beyond what a husband could offer), and her desire to create and express herself through drawing and painting were powerful forces that could not be denied.
If not properly addressed, these issues would remain a constant itch that Lydia could not scratch. And she now realized that she was looking in the wrong place: Her husband could not fix these emotional issues for her. And this did not mean she had married the wrong person.
Sadly, too many couples misconstrue this issue. The lack of fulfillment and frustration experienced from an imbalanced life often gets displaced onto the spouse/partner—we perceive our partner as failing us, when in fact, we are failing ourselves.
Relationship Help Self-Reflection
- How would you rate the balance of your life?
- Do you have meaningful interests and pursuits outside of your relationship or marriage?
- Is it possible that you are expecting your partner to fulfill your needs in ways that are unrealistic?
Until next time!
Dr. Rich Nicastro