Dear Therapist..."My Marriage is Stuck in a Rut: Can Relationships Ever Change?"
I am a 40-year-old professional, married and tired of doing all the work in my relationship (future planning, decisions taking, holiday booking). Nonetheless, I love my husband and I also feel loved .
In the relation with my partner (also professional, 40-year-old), it feels like I am the one to go that extra mile for achieving something while he contents himself with little. He (extra calm) and I (anxious) are poles apart – one could say – and this is supposed to help our relationship. However, I feel like I am giving a bit too much. With time I am starting to feel tired of the situation and this can lead to arguments. I can't even remember if it was different at the beginning as we met very young.
My question: is my husband too relaxed in our relationship because I am too involved trying to solve everything and taking initiative (precisely because he doesn't do it). If so, how can I motivate him to do more or is too late after 15 years of relationship?
Dear hard worker,
What you’re describing eloquently is the inequality in the division of labour. This is a problem so many couples encounter at different moments. In response to your asking if it’s too late to motivate your husband, it absolutely isn’t— people and relationships can grow and repair at any stage, when there’s genuine understanding and shared responsibility. But it will require some work from both of you to make improvements. You’ve said you love each other. That’s golden.
Does your husband truly understand your perspective? Often, these issues get expressed via criticisms, which unfortunately tend not to be heard or fully acknowledged. Criticisms are veiled desires. You seem to desire that your husband meet you half way. But wanting this isn’t enough to make it simply happen. He may need to understand what halfway looks like for you, and halfway may look and feel different for both of you. I would suggest having an open discussion, where you both genuinely listen to each other’s perspective.
It’s possible that he thinks he’s contributing in his own way and, as you point out, your opposite styles might mean that you express yourselves differently. When you say he’s calm and you’re anxious, these contrasting traits may have suited your dynamic in the early days of your relationship. Often, what initially attracts us, becomes problematic later on, and this may be the case. When things work optimally, he can steady you and you can rev him.
You’re wanting to recalibrate. I suggest approaching this issue the way you might in the work place: review and revise your roles and responsibilities. Doing this intermittently at work can be transformative for solving problems and mitigating resentments and feelings of unfairness. And the same applies in relationships. You can be explicit about what works and what would help. Allow for reparation and genuinely listen to his viewpoint if he can explain where he’s coming from. Acceptance is important in relationships, so pick your battles, prioritise, and let little things go. Revising your roles and responsibilities may require a little negotiating, and any good negotiation requires compromise and most essentially, a good collaboration.
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