couples therapy
imago therapy

Getting through tough times

from publication series OUR RELATIONSHIPS    May 2012

Well, it’s spring, and my husband and I have just gone through a hard few days. He’s a baseball fanatic — player, fan, and fantasy participant — and it’s time for me to accept, again, that for the next several months, I will be sharing him with his other passion.

As the season begins, I’ve heard public figures I highly regard — all men, it seems — talking about how delighted they are to be watching their favorite sport again and how much baseball means to them on a deeply emotional level.

The rational part of me, therefore, knows my husband’s not totally out of line to want to watch all of the games of the opening week, and that’s exactly what he did for three straight days.

But, it’s vacation; neither of us is working this week. When the first day of the vacation arrived, my fantasy of how it should be spent was obviously totally different than his.

I wanted to jump into time together; he wanted to transition slowly into that togetherness by relaxing into himself, and watching baseball. I made every effort to handle my disappointment and annoyance in a mature, contained way, but I definitely wasn’t perfect. He acknowledged that he wasn’t happy with how overly hooked in he was getting, and was also sorry that he wasn’t handling it better.

It’s now a few days later and we are, yet again, reflecting on how these differences are pretty much normal and unavoidable with us, but still regularly catch us by surprise.

Each of us has our own vision of how to get to this place of togetherness we both want: his is to slowly transition after some time of winding down and doing his own thing; mine is to jump on the bandwagon as soon as possible.

I guess we’ll always be talking about how to overcome these differences in a way that feels comfortable and fair to both of us.

Yet, even though it’s nothing new, the fact that the conversation about this balance has resumed again feels good.

We all know that even with love, commitment, and the best of intentions, the path of couplehood is not smooth. But it is a surprise that even when it’s the same old patterns repeating, and history has shown that we’ll be alright again, the rational part of us cannot always prevent the emotional pain we feel when things go off track.

The hardest part is staying with those feelings without overreacting until some time passes, and things are back to normal.

Nobody wants to feel the pain that goes along with a really good and deep connection falling apart for a while, but it seems to go with the turf.

It’s a reminder of the vulnerability we all have when we are in a truly committed relationship, and that pain can go so deep, we can even understand why some people just choose to never even risk getting into the game.

What am I learning from this mini-breakdown after many years and many repeats? I don’t really know the whole answer.

I do know that one basic ingredient that helped ease the angst was the fact that we were sharing the loss of each other, and we were committed to working to reconnect.

But, ultimately, I seem to be learning again how important it is to communicate our expectations.

If we had, we could have lovingly agreed on how to care for each other’s needs and also for our own.

During one of those baseball evenings, I took the opportunity to go hear some local music in a place that I rarely get to.

It felt great to be there, but it would have felt so much better if we had talked in advance and planned that, on this evening, we would lovingly give each other the chance to do our own thing.

Without this loving feeling, there was probably a little guilt and self-righteousness on both sides.

So, I realize that the most helpful component is that talk in advance about what each of us is wanting and needing that will help get us through these difficult transitions and differences.

Nobody is doing anything wrong here, so even if we start off in totally different places, at the very least, we’ll know what to expect and will plan accordingly.

Chances are, we’ll even be able to negotiate some small accommodations that will make the different goals more acceptable.

It can feel risky to state our needs, but it’s so much better to know what each feels, than to wind up hurt and disconnected.

>> read the previous article in the publication series OUR RELATIONSHIPS
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