Teresa and Carl, both in their late-forties, met at work a year after Teresa’s divorce. In no way did she feel ready to fall in love or to enter another relationship so soon after her marriage ended. However, Teresa finally gave in and agreed to go on a date with Carl because he was so charming and persistent.
From that point on, they were a committed couple who spent most weekends together and they were married within six months. Things went smoothly during their courtship and early marriage until Carl was let go from his job as a reporter at a local newspaper a year after they wed.
The timing could not have been worse for this remarried couple who were raising two teenagers. The tension began to mount in their household and Teresa’s two children, Kara, 15, and Thomas, 12, began arguing with Carl more and feeling upset that their mother was so stressed out.
Then four months after Carl was laid off, Teresa was diagnosed with and autoimmune disease called Alopecia, which causes hair loss, chronic pain and fatigue.
Teresa reflects: “My girlfriends all say that Carl takes me for granted. I work so hard and he’s been laid off for a year and doesn’t even do 50 percent of the housework. My disease leaves me feeling drained and unattractive. He’s a good husband but our intimacy is starting to suffer because I’m working more hours at my sales job to make extra commission. I’m not sure Carl still loves me.”
Carl reports: “Teresa is always tired and cranky from dealing with pain and the pressure of having to work hard and be the breadwinner – especially since my unemployment checks stopped coming. I love her but feel very criticized by her.”
Teresa and Carl’s feelings toward each other had become predominately negative and they were not giving each other the benefit of the doubt. Due to months of dealing with financial stress and illness, the positive feelings that they experienced early on in their relationship had evaporated and they were questioning each other’s intentions. In other words, when Teresa took off their rose-colored glasses, they were blindsided and confronted with major stressors – making it difficult to build a culture of good feelings in their home and relationship.
According to Dr. John Gottman, one of the powerful ways to restore positive feelings toward your partner is to take responsibility for your mindset. In other words, do not let the blame monster invade your home and stop pointing out each other’s flaws. When problems arise, seek understanding first. Following this, you must begin responding to your partner’s bids for connection by practicing emotional attunement.
For example, when Teresa comes home feeling exhausted and seems to want to talk, Carl could offer her a glass of water or cup of coffee and suggest that they sit for a while before cooking dinner. If they focus on finding each other doing something right, they’ll start off the evening on a positive note rather than engaging in criticisms, put downs, or sarcastic comments. Further, if Carl compliments Teresa for continuing to work at a stressful job while taking care of their two children, it will help her deal with a difficult day more calmly.
5 Ways to increase communication, love and, intimacy:
- Be sure you first understand, and then seek to be understood. Respond to what your partner is really saying in the moment. Be attuned to their experience, more than your own.
- Freely communicate your admiration and fondness for your partner
- Offer loving affection to your partner daily
- Catch your partner doing something “right” and compliment him or her for it
- Practice offering mutual gratitude on a regular basis
In conclusion, both partners need to heal when rifts and misunderstandings occur. This healing can occur non-verbally, often by just holding each other (rather than withdrawing). The act of holding can reawaken early experiences of comfort from infancy. Language did not lead to comfort then. Rather, being held closely by a caring person produced the comfort you needed to feel secure. Couples need to learn to bond in non-sexual (as well as sexual) ways so they can return to feeling safe and loved.
Over time, if couples devote themselves to expressing more positive ways of showing love and affection, the tension in their relationship stands a good chance of decreasing. There are not any easy solutions to dealing with marital difficulties. However, by taking responsibility for your part in the problems, and making a commitment to love your partner more fully through words and gestures, you will be doing your part in restoring communication and love to your marriage.
Find Terry on Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website. Her new book The Remarriage Manual: How to Make Everything Work Better the Second Time Around was published by Sounds True on February 18, 2020.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry