Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Dislocated Marriage

It's no secret that more and more marriages are ending in divorce.  It's often quoted that you have a 50% chance of making it these days.  It's difficult to get statistics on this but the government does say that from the census it is evident that there are roughly twice the number of marriages as divorces in a year.  Any way you say it or look at it though, the numbers are too high!

Divorce changes everything!  It changes you, your partner and your children.  It makes you into different people.  Many people say that divorce makes them happier but I wouldn't say that that's true.  I do think initially, when you are living in a miserable and damaged marriage, then remove yourself from that situation there is a feeling of relief.  I would liken it to a dislocated arm.  I, thankfully, have never had this happen to me but my husband has had issues with dislocation and I am familiar with the effect.  When an appendage is out of joint it causes immense pain and it limits your movement.  I think a damaged marriage is like this.  It causes a lot of pain and it limits your everyday life by becoming all consuming.  You're emotions are so caught up in problems at home it always with you, right there in the back of your head, drawing your attention to the negative every time there is a pause in activity.  The arm needs to be set.  Many times people think of divorce as the only method of "setting" a dislocated marriage.  Many people say that when an arm or leg is set it is intensely painful and then immediately, the instant it is back in joint there is an immense feeling of relief.  In many marriages today divorce is the option used for getting that relief and setting the relationship. 

The problem is, just setting a limb doesn't mean that it is totally fixed and as good as it was before.  My husband has had his knee dislocated and the effects of that are lasting.  His knee is not as strong as it was, it becomes more prone to dislocation in the future, arthritis can set in and his knee hurts if he does to much walking or kneels down to much.  It will never be the same.  It's the same with divorce.  You can remove yourself from the relationship but the emotional damage will still effect you, you are more prone to future divorce, your personality is changed and the relationship can still cause pain.

With any injury, you give it the best chance of recovery by taking care of things the right way.  I think divorce is like setting the shoulder, expecting it to fix everything and then moving on like normal.  I would compare the rehabilitation of a marriage to the proper rehabilitation process.  Divorce is more like set it and forget it.   

When I looked up rehabilitation for a shoulder dislocation and found that it goes in 2 phases.  The first is wearing a sling and being careful not to irritate the injured aria by moving it in certain way.  I would compare this to finding support for your marriage.  People that might have been through some similar things to you and improved their situation can be a fantastic resource.  They can point you to materials that can help resolve some of the main issues you have and encourage you to work through the problems.  Reading books on the topics that are of the most concern to your situation are another method of support.  Avoiding further injury would be like taking a rest from some of the most soar spots of your marriage.  For instance, if sex is a soar spot it might be a good time to agree to a bit of a time of abstinence so that no one feels pressured and that you don't cause greater damage due to something that is a sensitive to one or both partners. 

Phase 2 is physiotherapy and exercise.  This I would compare to counseling and talking through the problems and issues our marriage is faced with.  Just like with physical physiotherapy there will be a lot of pain involved!  It hurts to try and build back muscle and function in a limb that has been dislocated but in the long run the recovery is much more complete and the function of the limb is as close to normal as possible.  It's the same with a marriage.  If you don't take a good look at the problems in a marriage and avoid the pain of digging into them and sorting out a workable solution for both of you the marriage will never be the same.  It will never be as supportive and loving as it could be if you both confront your fears and annoyances and find a way to work together. 

I think we could all agree that the solution for a dislocated shoulder is not to just stop using that arm for the rest of your life.  In the same way the solution for a dislocated marriage is not to simply avoid the emotional baggage you and your spouse have.  The best chance you both have for being whole and healed people is to delve into the issues you are experiencing and actually do the work of resolving those problems.  Yes, divorce will remove some of the pain but it will hobble you emotionally in the process.  If you want to be able to have healthy and fulfilling relationships in the future you will have to do the emotional work at some point.  To me it just makes sense to fix it right the first time around. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Let's Talk About Sex

I stumbled across a very interesting video on the Internet today.  I found it amazingly fitting for this blog and what I have gone through.  If you also have a sexual disconnect in your marriage I would really recommend watching it. 

One line I really liked is "Sex is not an aphrodisiac."  The video was wonderful for pointing out the position of the opposite partner.  I have found that the more I understand where my husband is coming from and what is going on in his head, the better I can sort out the discrepancy between our desire. 
"Healthy relationships are based on mutual caretaking"
I think that this words perfectly, exactly what I have been trying to get at!  If you want your marriage to be thriving and filled with love you need to take care of your spouse and you need them to take care of you.  My job in my marriage is to make sure I meet the needs of my husband, and I'm not just talking sexually.  The problem is, my focus in on the things that I want and need.  I have a tendency to give him what I want because I make a (untrue) assumption that we both want the same things.  Yes, there is a benefit to treating people in the manner in which we would like to be treated but that doesn't mean they put the same value on those actions as we do.  If I take care of my husband then he will be more willing to take care of me too.  Not that I should only do nice things for him just for the possibility of getting kindness in return.  Sometimes he will need more care than I will and other times it will be the other way around.

As you know, my husband and I have experienced a sexual disconnect for a lot of our marriage and I have been blessed by the resolution of a lot of those problems.  Yes, we did a lot of work to get there and they didn't just go away on their own but we have come a long way. 

I hope you enjoy this video and that it is helpful to you too.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Sex Schedule

Have you and your spouse ever had a schedule for when you'd have sex?  Do you like the idea of planning for intimacy or does that seem like it would remove the spontinaity and romance?

For myself, the answer to these questions is yes, even though they seem contradictory.  My husband and I have had a set day for sex in the past and tried to stick to it or make up for it if the day was missed.  When we first decided to schedule our romps in the bedroom I was both reluctant and determined.  I worried that having a set time that my husband would be required to get physical with me might make me feel like more of an obligation than a partner.  I didn't want him to see me as a task on his to do (no pun intended) list instead of an object of desire.

I was also determined that it was a good course for us to take.  We have had many issues with neither one of us wanting to initiate sex so we would sometimes have long stretches of abstinence simply because neither one of us wanted to make the first move.  I was hopeful that having a day set in advance would alleviate the pressure on us and help us to make love more frequently. 

So we chatted about how often we would like to be intimate and decided on once a week.  This might seem like not very much to some and like a lot to others but at the time we were very sporadic and I think we were only doing it about once a month, if that.  We also had very mismatched libidos so once a week was a good compromise at the time.  We decided on Saturday nights.  With small kids and not a lot of extra money it was a day where we could be sure work wouldn't interfere and we could make it into a type of date night. 

I must confess, I felt a little bit weird about it at first.  I did worry that my husband was going along with it simply out of obligation rather than desire but it did tend to work alright for him (we had some problems with erectile dysfunction) so I figured it couldn't be all bad.  I soon discovered that this system worked well for us on a few levels.  It did remove the need for one of us to initiate and removed the possibility of rejection (one of the main deterrents of initiating).  It broke our cycle of abstinence and made sure we were connecting a lot more regularly.  Also, knowing the day and time that we would be intimate allowed us to build up some anticipation throughout the week.  We could prepare ourselves mentally and it gave us something to look forward to.  It definitely meant we were doing it a lot more often, so I started to resent him a little less and was a little less grumpy. 

After a while of this though it started to become a little contrived.  I started to feel like we could ONLY have sex on those days.  The possibility of a spontaneous weekday romp was nonexistent.  We became very routine and a little bit dull.  I started to have more and more trouble feeling wanted by him and my enjoyment decreased.  There were other factors happening at this same time.  I had started a friendship with a man who was quite complimentary and flirtatious so I began to resent my husbands treatment of me.  Eventually I lost my ability to climax with him. 

Years have passed since that point and we have done a lot of work, both together and separately, to improve our relationship.  I'm not sure how many relationships have gotten so close to the brink of destruction and come back but I am very glad that we did.  Today we have a really good relationship.  We are more open and honest with one another and we are intimate about twice a week.  We no longer schedule sex although we do still loosely stick to our Saturday night appointment. My husband is getting more and more comfortable with initiating.  Even our libidos are closer to matching.  For me, getting a better quality of connection has made each encounter more satisfying so I don't feel compelled to get it quite so often.  For my husband, it used to take about 45 min for him to be able to climax.  That was a big time investment, especially when there is young children and busy schedules.  Now that he has gotten more comfortable with how he works and we have practiced more the time investment is significantly less.  Practice really is helpful when it comes to understanding our own bodies and what works for us.   

We still definitely have our struggles and we are still working on issues of initiation and routine.  Though we no longer schedule our sex it was a great method of getting us out of a slump, restoring a little confidence and gaining a bit of experience.  I don't know that I would want to keep things like that forever but it wasn't nearly as clinical and forced as I thought it would be. 

In marriages the "job" of initiating sex usually goes to the one that has the higher libido but that leads to that person being turned down and rejected quite often.  This can be very hard to deal with and will often cause the initiator to stop.  Once they stop making themselves vulnerable in this way you will most likely see a slump in the frequency of sex.  This might seem like a good thing to the person with the lower libido but in reality it is only driving a wedge between you.  If the person with the lower libido is not comfortable initiating (like in my situation) then maybe a period of scheduled sex is just what your marriage needs to take the pressure off and help you to reconnect and learn some new skills. 

Though I'm happy to be a bit more spontaneous today, I do really appreciate the freedom and experience we gained from out time of scheduled sex.  It's possible you could benefit from something like this too.  After all, practice makes perfect.  (Well, maybe not perfect but certainly a lot better!)