The couple in my office, a while back, leaned in to listen to me thinking that perhaps, I was about to reveal some long-held secret about life that perhaps only shrinks know. I struggled to empathize with them and explain a few things.
A couple of kids after getting together, demanding jobs and other life obligations had them in a bind. As usual, my intuition bell rang, and in the words of one of my favourite professors from way back Dr. Anne Lawson, when something crosses your mind, say it.
And so it went: the ideal relationship is one where the couple don’t rush to get into childbearing or even to get married. Having time together is highly important in building a base between the two. The reason, as was told, had to do with the fact that once career and children come in (and in our Kenyan culture, other things like in-laws and the like), the relationship becomes a partnership and much less of a romantic romp together.
More than a romp
In fact, there is much less of that. This partnership is one whose terms will probably not be revised until the kids are grown and then they are left alone again as a couple.
Dating, communication, sex and what-have-you, have their place in the early life of the relationship. That is when the foundation is being set. This, in the most practical of terms, is because the future cannot be predicted and certain kinds of patterns and ways of relating have to have been set up in place before hand. It is somewhat true that original spark will change, maybe even become duller. If they couple is lucky, the spark will be replaced by deeper forms of satisfaction like parenthood, career achievements and so on.
The curious thing about many relationship challenges is how much couples stress over issues yet the problem is mutual and can easily be solved by cooperation. The woman might want more love, time, affection and the man might want more sex while acknowledging quality time is important meaning that they (sort of) have the same goal. The problem them would be how to harmoniously reach that goal.
Sometimes, looking at what causes the distance, if we can call it that, matters more than tackling the problem. In the case of a couple whose spark is fading, the interruptions, the children, the lack of privacy can be blamed for this loss of connection. But couples cannot and should not look for the solution with each individual taking matters into his or her own hands. That would just be hard work instead of smart work. The solution lies perhaps mostly in the approach.
Connect with yourself
Three main areas of concern in relationships are money, sex and intimacy. Partners need to have their individuality as well because “two joined as one flesh” is a brave utterance at some stage in the beginning but doesn’t really address the practicalities of day to day life difficulties.
The solution is not that simple. To get back to feeling connected with your spouse, you have to feel connected with yourself. This is something that is located within each individual and that you will not achieve by reaching out to your spouse. Each person needs to “have a life” and then be willing to bring part or all of this “life” to their effort to the make the relationship work. It takes work and effort and a willingness for the two to keep reaching out to each other.
Who said relationships were going to be easy? Rewarding, fulfilling, satisfying...for sure. Easy was a story that starts with “Once upon a time...”