(PART TWO OF THE RELATIONSHIP ZONES)
Is there an unspoken feeling of contention festering between you and your husband that involves a lack of intimacy? If so, this may be due to your steady decline of sexual activity, but other issues in the marriage can crop up and remain unresolved as well. These unaddressed conflicts can often create an undercurrent of dissatisfaction flowing through your relationship. Unfortunately, if you do not make an effort to remedy these problems in a significant way, your relationship can wind up in The Danger Zone.
The Danger Zone is an unsettling stage in your relationship when you and your husband have reached complete frustration with each other concerning intimacy issues, plus a multitude of other miscommunications and misunderstandings. Because individual issues have not been resolved as they occurred through open communication and compromise, a buildup of resentment and blame develops toward one another and your relationship becomes permeated with a foggy haze of dissension hanging in the air.
The following scenario is a typical Danger Zone argument. It is one of the many types of fights that can occur if your relationship lands in this breeding ground of stubbornness, blame, and overall discontent.
‘Seriously? It’s almost nine and you’re just getting home from work now? WOW! Great timing, now that I’ve done EVERYTHING myself! I’ve picked up the kids from school, cooked them dinner, cleaned the kitchen, took them to their sports practices ALONE, gave them baths, read them each a story, and tucked them into bed…BY MYSELF! I am so sick of you making excuses! You’re so caught up in your work responsibilities, and you leave me alone with these kids all the time, even at night! I need a break once in a while, and you’re never here! What? I only deserve a break when I close my eyes at night to sleep??? You’re not even a part of this family anymore! I feel like I’m a single mother doing everything on my own. Do you stay at work on purpose so you don’t have to be bothered fulfilling your roles as husband and father? I am so tired of making excuses for you to your children as to why you are never here. What exactly is the point of you being here, anyway? YOU ARE NEVER HERE, you neglectful and inconsiderate bastard! You have a wife and kids that obviously mean nothing to you! Way to go…I’m sure you’re going to win the husband and father of the year award!’
‘Really? Is that what you think? I’m out WORKING late because I am the provider of this family! I have to work to take care of my responsibilities, but you obviously don’t want to see that little detail! All you want to do is find any fault with me you can and pick me apart until you’ve completely emasculated me! Yes, I am working a lot because I have to in order to pay all these bills! But that works out just fine for me because I am completely invisible to you, anyway! I don’t even exist to you anymore except as a paycheck! All you do is bitch and complain about everything! You don’t touch me anymore or even look at me for that matter, and you stopped having sex with me eons ago! Why on earth do you want me here? To treat me like I’m one of the kids? Or to be your verbal punching bag? Or better yet, to ignore me the way you always do? You even treat the dog better than you treat me! I get NO respect around here and definitely no appreciation! At least when I’m at work I get those things from my coworkers! You’ve even succeeded in turning my own kids against me! You just take me for granted and treat me like I’m completely insignificant, and I am SICK OF IT!’
What this husband and wife are really trying to say to each other has become so convoluted because of their sheer buildup of frustration with each other. The conversation, if you can call it that, has evolved into a warped version of their true feelings. They simply cannot communicate constructively because they are far beyond the point of healthy communication. They are at their wit’s end. Understandable, heartfelt emotions have been corrupted by anger, which in turn polluted the tone of their dialogue. Let’s erase the overtones of frustration, so we can read between the lines of this argument.
What the wife is trying to say:
‘When you’re gone for so long every day I feel lonely, and I feel like I don’t have a partner either for myself or to help raise our children. You are my husband and the father of our children. That’s very special to us. We love you and we miss you. We don’t like it when you’re not around. I feel like your job has become more important to you than your family is. I feel like our children are missing out on wonderful childhood experiences and memories with their father. I’m so alone, and I don’t know how to express to you anymore how absolutely horrible that feels. And yes, I’ve lost the desire to have sex with you because it would almost feel as though I was lying with a stranger. We have grown so far apart as a couple, and now it’s only getting worse. I’m so frustrated, and don’t know how to move forward.’
What the husband is trying to say:
‘I work so much not because I want to, but because I have to. It is my responsibility to provide for this family and the only way to do that is to work hard so I can give you and the children a comfortable lifestyle. I do miss you and the kids. I do want to be a part of their lives and yours. But the truth is, I feel completely invisible to you since we’ve had kids. I miss the way you used to come up and hug me from behind all the time, and the way you used to be playful and act all sexy towards me and make an effort to excite me. It really bothers me you don’t even touch me or seem to have any sexual desire for me anymore. I feel like I am no longer a man in your eyes, but just another one of your kids. I feel unappreciated for what I am trying to do for this family and that really hurts me. Clearly our bond has broken, and I don’t have a clue how to repair it. I am so frustrated by all of this, so when I have the opportunity to work longer hours I do it, because I am simply at a loss of how to fix all of these problems that don’t seem to have a beginning or an end. I hide behind my work because I feel completely helpless about what to do with our situation.’
This couple simply doesn’t know where to even begin to remedy the problem because it’s not just one problem anymore. It has become a mountain of problems they’ve slowly gotten buried under. When a relationship winds up in The Danger Zone, it can feel completely overwhelming and utterly hopeless that you’ll ever see eye to eye or even be able to communicate amicably again. Healthy dialogue requires not only calm reflection and emotional intelligence, but brutal self-honesty and courage. And that’s a very tall order for anyone.
If you have found your relationship in this place, it is important to acknowledge it and begin taking steps to break down this communication barrier by doing the following:
Take responsibility for your contribution to the problems. Stay far, far away from pointing the finger at one another for the problems in the marriage. Doing this only keeps you in the vicious cycle of the blame-game.
Be open-minded and try to see each other’s perspective. It isn’t always easy to put the shoe on the other foot, however, it is a completely eye-opening experience if you do. Try to view things from his side, and vice-versa.
Really listen to each other. While in a state of anger or stubbornness, what is said and what is meant are rarely in alignment. Read between the lines of what the other person is trying to convey, like in the second example set above.
If you recognize your relationship is in fact in The Danger Zone and neither one of you do anything to remedy this, things can progressively slide further down a precarious slope toward even bigger issues. We will circle back and discuss these bigger issues in the very near future, but we will first be discussing this next critically important topic…
In the next post, we will discuss the all-important language of