This is my second month writing the stories of couples who come through my doors. As I stated in my first article, not every story will be a success story. But I hope each one is one that you can learn from. I hope to bring to light the struggles of many couples so others might realize they are not alone.
This story is not the story of one couple, but a story that I have seen repeated one too many times. (Names are fictional).
Joe and Mary have been married for 18 years. They have two children who are now 13 and 16 years old. Joe is a hard worker and dedicates himself to his career. He believes that by providing well for his family, he is doing his job as a husband and father. He puts in 60 to 80 hours a week and has for the last 20 years. He has done quite well in his career and provides a nice lifestyle for his wife and kids.
Mary has been a dedicated wife and mother and has poured herself into taking care of her family. But there has always been something missing. She feels disconnected from Joe. Over the years, their intimacy has suffered a slow and steady death. For the first 10 years or so, she excused it by telling herself that Joe works so hard and he is a good husband and father, so she let it go. Every once in a while she would bring up how she was feeling. She would tell Joe of her needs. She would explain that she needs more attention, more affection, wishes they did more things together as a couple and as a family. Joe would try for a couple weeks and then things would go back to the way they were. Sometimes he would get angry and accuse her of not appreciating how hard he works for this family, is that not enough for her?
Mary would feel guilty and go back to quietly accepting that her marriage is unfulfilling.
Now at the 18th year, after this same frustration recycling itself over and over again, Mary has had enough. She has begun to feel ignored and resentful. Her needs never being met and Joe never really hearing her, she tells Joe she wants a divorce.
Joe's response is one laden with fear and panic. He loves his wife and does not want to lose her or his family. He tells her he will do anything to make it work. He apologizes for all the years of neglect and promises he will change his ways. The threat of divorce is a wake up call and he now realizes and acknowledges that he has put too much of himself into his work and not enough into his marriage. He is now willing to go to counseling, even though for years she begged him to go and he refused.
Her response is, it's too late. She comes to counseling out of pity and guilt because she feels terrible that it has come to this. She feels sad about ending the marriage but she has tried and tried for so many years, she slowly gave up. She blames herself for ending the marriage, although she didn't get to this place alone, it's still her that's making the choice. She's afraid the children and her family will blame her.
Counseling does not work because she has already checked out of the marriage. She is emotionally worn and has nothing left to give to make it work.
I tell this story because I see it often. We live in a culture where, often, men are groomed to work hard, make a lot of money, this is the definition of success. Men often get detached from their own emotions during the years of their upbringing, which makes it difficult for them to learn to connect intimately in their relationships.
This is a call to action for men to realize their family needs more from them besides a paycheck. Providing for a family doesn't stop at money. That may be part of it, but it needs to be balanced with providing emotionally as well. Your wife, your children, they need your presence. You are important to them and need to be engaged in their world. Needs in a marriage not only need to be expressed, they need a response. An ongoing response of love, time, committment and attention.