I’ve just plopped myself in a big old comfy chair. Dinner is cooking. And I feel like a cuddly old Grandma who is about to open a dusty book from the shelf – and tell you a story.
Listen up, kids. I’m about to tell you an age-old tale – from generations ago to now. It is a tale I hear every day. Well – just about every day. And the only thing that changes are the names.
Here’s a little ditty, ’bout Jack and Diane, two American kids married in the heartland. They came to have a bit of a talk about their relationship. They’ve been married a while and Diane suggested that they see a relationship coach to chat a bit. Jack was happy to go = if Diane wanted it. No skin off his teeth.
Diane is a woman in her late 30’s/early 40’s. She’s attractive. It’s obvious she’s intelligent and also fairly introverted. I notice she has a book in her bag with dog-eared pages. I’m going to guess she reads to relax. She mentions that she likes some crafts, art, meditation, and crystals.
After a while, I find out that she got married straight out of University and quickly had kids. She stayed home to look after them but they’re all fairly independent now so she has a lot of time to think. She loves to keep her mind busy learning new things and has a really strong ideal to never stop learning and appreciating new things.
For the last few years, she’s had an admin job to give her something to do – but it’s just not really cutting it for her. She’s bored. It’s her time to shine now – and she wants to make a mark on the world.
Then it’s Jack’s turn to tell me about himself. He’s a little bit older than Diane. And – to be honest – a little bit less attractive. He’s also intelligent and very logic-driven. He’s not particularly creative and loves a good engineering documentary – think Engineering Catastrophes – and the History Channel.
Jack earns a very good wage, would never cheat, is good with money, loves their kids – and most of his friends would describe him as a “really good guy”.
He states that he’s not really a big risk-taker. He’s stable and predictable and reliable. He loves exercising and has a routine that helps his stress.
He avoids changing things up too much but If he could change one thing about their marriage it would be their sex life. But – he can deal with it even if it doesn’t change. That’s what happens – yes?
So – what’s the problem?
Diane is lonely. Diane is not miserable but she sure as heck is not happy. And, even though she’s tried to talk to Jack about this a couple of times – he swears that today is the first time he’s heard of it.
I’m guessing that in the next 10 or so minutes I’ll hear Diane say “I love him but I’m not in love with him.”
She doesn’t want to ruin the kid’s lives by leaving him – after all – he’s Mr Good Guy – the neighbors might think she is crazy for leaving him.
Diane wonders if maybe she just expects too much – or maybe SHE has a problem. She feels a little crazy because she has everything that “should” make her happy. But she’s not. She’s desperately unhappy – and she tries to hide it with an extra glass of wine….or shopping…or eating….or exercising….you get my drift.
She complains that they have no emotional connection. He says “Of course, we have a connection – we have a life together. Kids together. Friends. A great life. ” He offers to pay for any hobby she wants to try – secretly hoping that if she’s happier she might want to jump into bed with him more often. Or maybe she’s got her period?? Is that why she seems to regularly say she feels unhappy? (Yep – they say that to me during a session)
Nothing Diane says seems to get through to Jack.
Until – she threatens divorce – and here they are. Jack is now listening but Diane is resentful that this is what it took to get him to this point.
There’s lots of reasons why this dynamic occurs – maybe she even liked him being stable and solid at the start of the relationship. Maybe he was the opposite of her chaotic childhood. Maybe there are attachment issues. Quite possibly there are a lot of matters that have never even been discussed at all and they both settled into patterns.
But this dynamic – a desperately lonely and unhappy woman and a man who is actually quite happy with things the way they are. I see it all the time.
Are we going to get an “And they lived happily ever after?”
Actually, we can.
With work and vulnerability, communication and complete honesty about what they both need and want. Both people will need to look at themselves – and learn some new skills. But it absolutely can be sorted.
And – the biggest deciding factor for the marriage becoming happy again – the fact that they sought help.
Almost without fail – if a woman in this position doesn’t seek counselling with her husband then, once the kids leave home – she’ll be outta there. And he’ll be left absolutely devastated, stunned and confused about wtf just happened.
I’ve got a feeling there might be a little bit of Jack and Diane in the majority of marriages because I spend a lot of time unravelling these situations and putting things back together so everyone’s needs are being taken into account. The marriages aren’t in obvious crisis but they’re not happy.
Having said that…
If you’ve been struggling with your relationships…
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I can’t wait to be your wingman.