I recently had a phone call from a divorce mediation client of over five years ago. They had completed a Divorce Agreement with me and had signed it. However, they never had the Agreement made an order of Court. On the day she called (about another matter) she acknowledged that they were still together as husband and wife and, at their time spent at my mediation table, they had been in a “rough patch.”
Some rough patches are very predictable. Dads doing their very best to be good economic “providers” is still very much a value in our society. But that “best” can mean extraordinary overtime, late hours and numerous business trips away from home. In a home with small children, with diapers, tantrums, dirty dishes, large laundries, and pregnancies making changing bodies, even the most accomplished “before kids” Mom can feel pretty overwhelmed and alienated from her spouse. Similarly husbands can wonder where their bright, lively, and sexy wife has gone as she only wants to talk about household mishaps, blames him for not doing his share, and falls into bed exhausted every night.
Later the difficulties may center around their different ideas of how to bring up their children or the sadness and complexity and anxiety in trying to deal with a physical or mental illness of their child, or one of them.
Or, money issues, priorities of spending, unemployment or being under-employed in jobs of little satisfaction can cause enormous strain on a marriage or any coupleship.
Many times I have seen the death of a parent have a profound effect on a person’s capacity to be a true partner for a while as they reassess their own lives and confront the mortality of themselves and those close to them.
What’s to be done? How on earth does any marriage “make it”?
Some ideas of what could be helpful:
• Sense of Humor. Finding and cultivating the lightness of life and sharing it with your partner.
• Patience. Some things you just have to slog through. Understanding that nothing stays the same can keep you upright and slogging!
• A Shared Interest. Whether it’s football or politics or non-profit service or planting a garden – the more points of interest you share the better. Sometimes in longer term marriages, people discover that no matter how hard they try they really can’t join in for their partner’s passionate interest, in which case it’s important for both parties “to let go” and to respect the other’s separate interests.
• Shared Partnership Time. Never let go of separate couple time no matter the demands of family and work. Some couples call this date night or date time.
• What’s good about this? Even if it’s only 20% of the situation, focusing on the parts that are good, or at least acceptable, keeps you more likely to be open to opportunities for change. o What do you genuinely like about your spouse? o What do you genuinely respect about your spouse?
By: June Johnson
Common Ground Mediation