For most of my clients, everything looks perfectly good from the outside.
Men and women, women and women, men and men…all are devoted to their family, they work hard and show up for birthday parties and soccer games. They remember anniversaries (at least most of the time), and they are typically supportive of one another.
And, under that, the relationship includes deep, unspoken pain. The pain that comes with not being seen, not feeling heard, not being cherished, not being admired, or desired.
Sally was 48 and Gary was 47 when I met them a few years ago. They have two children, Natalie was in 10th grade and Jasmine in 8th grade.
In their home, they had happy family photos of all four of them, of each child, and groupings of various sorts. (Though with my eye, I noted that in all the recent family photos Sally and Gary had their arms around the girls and far less often around one another.) Sally is an attorney and Gary owns a medical supply company.
They both work hard.
Nevertheless, they were able to arrange things so that Mon-Thursday Sally was home when the girls got home from school and needed to be driven to ballet, choir, soccer or swim team, and Gary was home early on Fridays so he could take them to their extra dance class now that they were both on pointe.
By all appearances, they looked like a happy family, with Sally and Gary enjoying a happy marriage.
And, in many ways they were.
They didn’t argue about finances. They rarely argued about anything. And when they had a disagreement or different inclinations, most of the time they did what Sally wanted.
They used to spend some time negotiating things, but in recent years there seemed to be a lot less negotiating, and a lot more moving into whatever Sally wanted. She sometimes wondered about that and wondered if that really worked for Gary.
But it was a fleeting concern because she also knew that what she wanted would be best for everyone in the family, so it made sense to her that they did what she wanted.
Every now and then Gary had an idea which was awesome, but mostly she knew better what to do. He seemed to have recognized that and didn’t put much effort into resisting anything that mattered to her.
Gary was the decision-maker in his company and had a lot of challenges there, and had learned to become an effective leader, taking good care of his team, and being in a position to provide well for his family.
So he never saw the point in pushing anything when Sally wanted to do things, and he felt that it all worked out well for everyone. With busy full lives and such a satisfactory relationship, Sally and Gary sometimes felt smug and proud that they had such a strong marriage.
After all, they had friends who had gone through divorces—some toxic, nasty, and really hurtful and some seemingly more collaborative, but either way, there was such loss of dreams, of the family, of a future built with their partner in life.
So, yes, sometimes they were smug and glad to get along so well.
However, when I met them, they weren’t feeling smug; they were feeling very tender.
And hesitant to talk about their difficulties.
Unsure if they even needed my help. I listened, recognizing this familiar situation.
The situation where everything seems like it should be great.
But…it is not.
They hadn’t had sex in 6 months, and they couldn’t remember when last they made love—losing themselves in one another and feeling more alive because of it.
They had shed any flirtatiousness and had transitioned into being roommates and hadn’t even noticed when it happened. So here they were, yearning for more connection with one another, and feeling hopeless, with no idea what to do about it.
Sally had read a few books and tried to implement some suggestions. The results were disappointing: it never worked out in her life the way it did in the books.
She wondered if she was no longer attractive to him. And what emerged is that Gary was totally attracted to her, but trapped with feelings of inadequacy, unable to figure out how to make his woman happy—in bed and out.
This is a very tender moment in a relationship—the time when everything looks like it’s great and a couple is ready to…
Acknowledge to themselves that it isn’t, acknowledge it to themselves, and also take a step to do something about it.
And, what I tell every single couple, is that there truly is SO MUCH to be done.
Intimacy (emotional and otherwise) is absolutely a learnable skill and I teach it every single day.
If this resonates with you, know you are not alone and in fact, the majority of couples are in this kind of situation.
In Service to Your Transformation,