Tag: marriage problems
Some people wonder why married people flirt. They make the false assumption that the taking of vows suddenly turns off any playfulness or sexual attraction with anyone but a spouse. The idea with marriage is that saying “I do” usually includes the unspoken understanding”… and I won’t with anyone else!” The idea of fidelity, of “cleaving to you only” is integral and common to most marriage vows.
That kind of action is well within the power of the husband and wife – you can always control your actions. What you can’t control is your desire – that is, you can’t say “…and I won’t ever want to with anyone else!” If a woman has always been turned on by firemen, for example, the idea that saying the words “I do” will suddenly turn off that biochemical response is ludicrous.
A Release Valve
Married people who realize this may also realize that there is a lot of pressure when you try to just “turn off” what might have been an ingrained habit established over years or decades. Not that everyone needs to flirt, or that everyone flirts, but if the reason you fell in love with a girl in the first place is because she was outgoing, teasing, and playfully engaging with you and others, why would you think that would be easy to just turn off?
It is certainly possible – and newlyweds especially usually only have eyes for each other, which makes it seem easy. But once that new-relationship energy wears off, and they settle back into their everyday life, the original habits return – and having to struggle to turn them off can become very frustrating. One of the reasons why married people flirt is simply to keep that fun in their lives – so that being married doesn’t mean losing a fun and harmless part of their joy in life.
A Matter of Degree
Of course, before married people flirt, it’s probably a good idea if they work out with each other what the definition of flirting is. Some very insecure and jealous people will try to enforce a rule like “Don’t even look at another woman!” which is both unrealistic and unfair in a culture that counts on sexy female forms in just about every kind of marketing.
But it’s a good idea to talk out with your partner what you think is flirting and what isn’t. Friendly conversation? Dancing a tango? Going to coffee? Sexual innuendo? What about online chats? All of these could be considered a form of flirting, and knowing what level it becomes uncomfortable for your partner lets you both make informed decisions – whether that be modifying your own behavior or your partner working on handling insecurity and jealousy.
The 2010 Oscar winner Mo’Nique made waves when she revealed that her marriage was “open” – it included the right for each of them to have other sexual partners. That’s an extreme level of “flirting”, certainly, but it illustrates the fact that “cheating” means breaking the rules – but the people who make the rules of a marriage are the ones who are in it, no one else.
Is It Really A Good Idea?
Of course, if married people flirt with others, it’s also usually a good idea that they flirt with each other, as well. One of the biggest dangers of marriage is reaching a point where it no longer feels exciting, where you feel like you’re in a rut. Some people go so far as to fear that they’ve fallen out of love with their spouse, and that’s when rules and marriages get broken.
Often what is really happening is a transition into a new kind of relationship, that goes deeper than the hunt-and-chase of the flirtatious dating scene and into the realm of security, trust, and commitment. But dating is fun, and by making sure you and your spouse are both still flirting, teasing, and dating – even after decades of marriage, like Mo’Nique – it will help give your relationship the best of both worlds.
A woman finds that she and her husband now disagree over just about everything except Friday night curries. Mariella Frostrup says that where there’s squabbling, there’s hope.
The dilemma My husband and I have been together for 20 years. I still love him – as in I wouldn’t like any harm to come to him – but the passion has been no more than sporadic for a long time. We argue about almost everything, especially politics. At the moment he is all for Brexit while I’m more on the fence and suspect sticking with Europe is the way forward.
It’s not the only area where we’re opposites. I enjoy my book club, he enjoys fishing, I love a beach holiday, he likes a lot of activity, the only thing we seem to agree on is how much we love our two uni-bound kids and food, we both love a Friday-night curry. So now the children are only part-time residents, should I follow suit and get a new life for myself?
Mariella replies Whoa there, missus! You say there’s no passion left between you, but aren’t you forgetting that to rustle up an enthusiastic argument you need to care? The apathy of the soon-to-be-divorced is a far more terrifying sight; hanging out with couples in their dying days it’s all “Yes dear, no dear, pass me the butter dear.” It’s spooky enough to make a spectator commit to celibacy for life. As far as I’m concerned if there’s battle left in you there’s also the spark of a relationship.
I bumped into a friend at a party the other night, positively glowing and brandishing her ex-husband on her arm as her date. She’s not alone in reaching the conclusion, a decade after she divorced, that her husband’s shortcomings were also available in a variety of other suitors from the four corners of the globe, but not his kindness and parenting skills.
Coming from a divorced family and having experienced the misery it causes children I’ve long been an advocate of sticking together where you can. At times it feels like the hardest road to follow, when passion has dulled and the mere presence of your partner makes a crime of passion appear a pleasant diversion. But as you get older you realise that life whizzes by at a pace, friendships come and go and an enduring union with someone who knows you warts and all is a welcome buffer in a cruel world.
Ironically there are plenty of parallels between your domestic dilemma and the Euro debate taking place across the country, that finds you on opposing sides. In a climate where facts are thin on the ground and opinions epidemic, most voters will be making their choice with hearts rather than heads, making it my natural territory. As with any impending break-up it is difficult, as the rhetoric from both parties escalates, to sort the truth from the fiction. Sticking with the devil you know may not be the most compelling reason to remain in a marriage or as a member state, but finding a way to coexist is a vital ingredient for contentment at any level of existence.
I’ll admit I’m a natural European, born in Norway, brought up in an Ireland entirely revitalised by EC funding and then emigrating to the UK in my teens. It seems to me that the founding principles of an integrated Europe, where we’d never again endure the terrible losses experienced in two great wars, are reason enough to try to work out our differences. In a globalised world the idea of returning to being one lonely little island, neighbouring a cluster of countries committed to each other’s mutual support, seems a regressive step.
Without banging the point home too emphatically I’d say the same could be said for your marriage. Instead of heading for the door what about trying to disrupt the status quo? You claim opposing interests, but I’d describe them simply as individual pursuits that only become a point of contention if you try to force them on each other. Instead, welcome your development as individuals as a bonus to your life together, take holidays alone or with friends when you can’t find mutually acceptable locations, indulge your hobbies and when you meet in the bedroom you may find your passion revitalised.
Like all relationships there will be much that could be improved on and new issues to resolve, but if individuals, like my pal and her husband, can turn from enmity to intimacy, and couples like you from apathy to enthusiastic re-engagement, then surely our politicians, charged with behaving maturely and intelligently for the greater good, should be encouraged to do likewise. I don’t want to burden you with onerous responsibility but if you and your husband can find a way of communicating more constructively there’s hope for Europe, too.
As Gandhi once said, we must “be the change we want to see” and the qualities that will improve your relationship – including compromise, commitment and empathy – offer enhancements to wellbeing not just behind closed doors but out in the real world, too.
If it feels like the spark is fizzling, it’s time to break out of your routine.
Stop being friends on Facebook
On Facebook, that is. “It’s a terrible idea for spouses to be Facebook friends with each other,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., co-author, with Heidi Raykeil, of (best self-help title EVER!) Love in the Time of Colic: The New Parents’ Guide to Getting It On Again. “Relationships are already filled with enough banality. I want to preserve what little mystery there is, which means I don’t need to see my wife’s latest check-in with her third-grade pals on her Superwall.”
But wait! You don’t have to, like, swear off the technology entirely. Perel suggests getting a secret your-eyes-only email address just for each other — not for “pls pick up Muenster” and “remember B’s ballet stuff” — but for loving and flirtatious messages only.
Buzz-killing as it sounds, you might need to start scheduling time for intimacy — or at least committing to once a week, by hook or by crook (which, bonus, could force you to get creative). “Ruts beget ruts,” says Kerner, noting that when you go without, your body actually becomes accustomed to lower and lower levels of testosterone. On the flipside, he says, couples (not just parents) who are intimate at least once a week report better relationships and quality of life overall.
Postpone that argument
You know that fight you always have? Stop having it. Make a three-month plan for not solving problems, suggests couples therapist Sharyn Wolf, author of This Old Spouse: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Restoring, Renovating, and Rebuilding Your Relationship. The money fight, the recycling fight, whatever: you’ll have it on May 15, time TBA. Until then, not a word. “See what you’d be doing if you weren’t having that fight,” says Wolf. “Sometimes it uncovers something else that was really bothering you; sometimes it gives you so much energy you take on something new. And sometimes you realize maybe it wasn’t such a huge deal after all.”
Use “we” when you fight — and in general
You’ve probably heard this one, but they just checked again and found that spouses who use pronouns like “we,” “our,” and “us” when describing points of disagreement are better able to resolve conflicts than those who use “I,” “me,” and “you.”
These fibs seem minor, but they signify a deeper sense of insecurity and can hurt a marriage.
“These jeans were only $30!” “No, I don’t care that your feet are on the coffee table.” White lies don’t doom a marriage, right? “We don’t want to upset, annoy or scare our spouse, so it’s easier to lie,” says biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer of Chemistry.com and Match.com. But fibbing is a slippery slope. “When you lie continually, you won’t be able to keep your lies straight. Your husband will find out you’re lying, and then there’s no trust.” And a marriage like that isn’t one you want to be in. Here, experts explain common lies women tell, how they can harm the relationship and what you can do instead of stretching the truth. Photo by Thinkstock.
“No, that doesn’t bother me at all.”
The honeymoon phase causes newlyweds to insist things that really bug them don’t-and the annoyance can persist for years. If you’re afraid of rocking the boat, you may hold grievances in until you’re bubbling with anger. “Spouses blow off little things, avoiding having to talk about feelings and resolve issues,” says Goldstein. “But it’s a major issue. I just dealt with this in practice and it ended in divorce.”
A little recurring thing is a big deal. “With Twitter, Facebook and social media, there’s so much room to act out what isn’t getting resolved in marriage, confiding in another person,” says Goldstein. Avoid that and be honest with your spouse. Try: “This may sound silly, but it annoys me when you put your feet on the coffee table. You leave smudges. Could you please use the footstool?” It may take some time (and reminders) to tweak his habit, but he’ll get there-without you holding a grudge against him.
“These new shoes? They were on sale.”
“I bought electronic toothbrushes from my dentist,” says Anna* from Fairfield, CT. “They were $70 a piece and I said they were $50 a piece. I know my husband would’ve said our regular toothbrushes were fine if the price was too high.” Dr. Brosh says lies about purchases stem from the “power differential in the relationship, often modeled by parents growing up. The man controls the money, and the wife thinks she needs permission to purchase something.”
Agree to discuss buys over a certain amount with each other, and feel free to keep mum when the total is under that (knowing that he’ll do the same). If your husband asks about a particular item, tell the truth. Past generations of men may have held the purse strings, but that doesn’t mean your hubby does or wants to; he may just be curious.
“I never talk about our personal life with my friends.”
Some women tell their girlfriends about relationship problems, knowing their guys would be upset if they found out. “It’s important for spouses to feel like their marriage is a secret, sacred space,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Carin Goldstein, creator of Be the Smart Wife. Taking private information to a friend means you’re running from a problem to avoid confrontation.
Venting about your husband’s messy closet is one thing, but don’t take serious issues public. “If you’re constantly asking a friend how to solve a problem in your marriage, then you’re going to the wrong source,” says Goldstein. “You’re stunting your relationship by trying to fix the issue with another person.”
“I had only one glass of wine at dinner.”
Your husband may have told you he doesn’t like how you act when you drink too much. “Maybe you flirt with other men or yell, which makes your husband critical of you,” explains Andra Brosh, PhD. So now you hide how many glasses of wine you’ve had so he’s not on the lookout for bad behavior.
The problem grows when you start layering lies. “You might stop telling your partner where you’re going out or make up stories about why you drank, which erodes trust even more.” Instead of covering up your drinking habits, address your husband’s concerns and work on solutions for valid issues together.
“I’ve never seen Jim outside of work.”
If you think your husband can’t handle your friendship with another man, you may think telling him about your relationship would create tension. “Partners lie about meeting up with friends of the opposite sex because they believe they won’t get caught-and they’d prefer not to open a can of worms,” says Dr. Brosh.
But if you say you don’t see a male friend and then do, innocent interactions can feel like betrayal if your husband finds out. “Tell your spouse you don’t want to jeopardize your marriage for a friendship with your coworker, but you’d like to understand what bothers him about the relationship,” says Dr. Brosh. “Work on what’s triggering the jealousy. When two people feel a sense of safety in the relationship, having an opposite-sex friendship becomes less of an issue.”
“Of course you’re great in bed. I’m totally satisfied.”
Whether it’s singing his praises or faking an orgasm, lying about between-the-sheets fulfillment happens a lot. “Wives don’t want to feel responsible for their husband’s shame,” says Goldstein.
Dealing with dissatisfaction this way actually deepens the issue. “If a need’s not being met, the problem will get bigger,” says Goldstein. So nip it in the bud. “First, ask yourself why you can’t orgasm. Figure out what works for your body, and then say, ‘I love it when you do this. Let’s keep doing that.'” Positive reinforcement encourages your husband to continue doing the things you like in bed, which ultimately satisfies you both. Bonus: You build his confidence and spare his feelings.
“I wasn’t with Katie; I was only with Jennifer and Susan.”
If one of your friends continually butts heads with your husband, you may feel like spending time with her means aligning with her. “So she’ll tell him she went to lunch with someone else,” says Dr. Fisher.
“No one wants to defend her choice of friends,” says Dr. Brosh. “But you may resent your partner for ‘making you lie.'” The solution: Have a conversation with your spouse about Katie’s role in your life. Your husband may better understand the importance of your friendship-and like her a little better too.
“I didn’t forget to go to the bank. I got busy and figured I’d go later.”
You may not realize you tell the tiniest lies, but it probably comes from a sense you have to give a more legitimate excuse than the real reason, like simply spacing out. “Lying about little things is an avoidance of feeling shame,” says Dr. Brosh.
Small fibs signify a deeper issue of insecurity. “If your partner tends to be condescending, lying might be a direct response to that,” explains Dr. Brosh. If you notice a pattern of senseless lies, be upfront with your husband so he can have a broader view of the situation and help you work through it.