Last night, after helping my son with a science project, tucking my children into bed, writing for this blog, posting to Instagram, sending in the Box Top count for my child’s school, organizing a photoshoot for the CF Cycle for Life committee, putting away the rest of the dinner dishes, retweeting Gottman Institute, packing my children’s lunches, answering my work email, pinning a new book on infidelity, reviewing my work schedule, putting our puppy is in his kennel after having wiped up two puddles of pee (potty training puppies takes how long??), brushing my teeth, and washing my face, I finally climbed into my very cozy bed, only to discover in my bed lay an angry man, a very angry man. I deal with clients all the time who talk about how they feel unappreciated or not a priority. My husband was one of “those” last night. Because we are (I say this with pride) an imperfect couple, the conversation didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked it to go. There was defensiveness (me), blame (both of us), lack of taking responsibility (me), criticism (him), and victim posturing (me). And I am the “expert” with couples! Ugh!
With all of my “expertise” I do know a few things for sure: If you don’t have a happy marriage, trust me, you will not have a happy family. My husband often jokes “happy wife, happy life”. Let’s face it, we are all busy people. There are things we have to do or at least think we have to do. Kids, work, exercise, watch This Is Us, errands, housework, self care, committees, volunteering, oh yeah and that husband thing. We have to figure out how to prioritize all of the things we juggle daily while also making sure that we make time for our spouses. If this seems to be a consistent issue in your relationship, look deeper at yourself and figure out what your barriers are to deeper intimacy with your partner.
Are you making everyone else a priority because you are avoiding your spouse? Are you avoiding because you can’t stand the thought of spending time alone with your spouse? Are there deep wounds in the relationship that have not been healed but rather swept under the rug? Dive deep into the “why” and seek to understand it yourself. (Stay tuned for more posts on the “why”). Then look for healthy ways you can share your concern. If they are too deep, consider reaching out to others that can help mediate this between the two of you. Don’t hope, wish or will it away. Deal with it. I have waaaaay too many couples walking through my door with resentment lists longer than both of Santa’s lists combined.
If the barrier is not avoidance, look at your own life and how much you have on your plate and the whys around that. Are you codependent, unable to say no to anyone and everyone who asks you for help, then find yourself spread so thinly you have nothing left to give? Do you worry what others will think if you don’t have the image of Supermom/Superwoman? Do you get a “high” from helping others and that feeling is too much to give up? Have you ever thought about how your partner may need you too?
What to do?
Now your turn. Think of ways that you can let some unnecessary things go. Are you over-committed in work or volunteer activities? How could you have better time management so that you can focus more on creating the marriage you want to create? Do you need to ask your spouse for more help with household or child responsibilities? Get accountability. Tell your spouse you’d like to work on your marriage being more front and center and elicit their aid in working together to make that your new way of being. Set a date night and stick to it. Don’t come up with excuses like it’s too expensive or you don’t have a babysitter, think outside the box and make it happen (have chocolate covered strawberries in bed, turn off the TV and learn something new about your partner). I often encourage couples to make a date before or after marital therapy sessions.
Feeling like the last priority is an awful thing. If you are often the distant or too-busy culprit, make amends, not excuses. Try better next time and keep trying until you get connection. If you are on the receiving end of not feeling like a priority in your relationship, in a calm and collected way let your partner know how you feel. Overreacting, criticizing and blaming will elicit more toxicity in a relationship versus connection. Attempt to discuss how you feel and work to find ways collaboratively to find connection. Notice how your overall health and happiness level elevates when you and your partner are more connected. You will find your happy marriage when you find your priorities.
- Find ways to prioritize your relationship. Look deep into barriers you have at doing that.
- Drop some unnecessary tasks, stop over-committing and see what an impact making your spouse feel important can have on your relationship.