In previous blog entries we have written a lot about romantic partners who have reached the point of dissatisfaction in their romantic relationships that they find themselves considering the need for professional help, or selecting self-help titles such as “Awakening To Your Soul Mate: A decision to be IN Love ©.” By this point they have probably known for some time that something is wrong in the relationship. It is generally safe to assume that something is amiss in your romantic relationship if your thoughts, feelings, and desires leave you longing for a more satisfactory romantic connection.
Many partners will first become conscious of their own dissatisfaction by their choice of self-help books. Others will journal about their longing for a better romance and feel alarmed when reading their own dissatisfied thoughts written out on paper. The alarm that is raised in them by what they have written may stimulate efforts to renew the bond, or renew the excitement, by planning a trip or scheduling a date night.
The same couple is likely to find however, that date night commitments all too frequently lose their fervor, and the memories of the romantic vacation have faded within a month of their return to the reality of career, home, and family. They return to the demands of parenting or career challenges and find themselves once again on the treadmill of life.
Once again, something will cause one or the other of them to drift off in private thoughts. A peak into those solitary thoughts may find one of the dissatisfied partners scheming – this time possibly about a new and far more exciting romance than the unfulfilling one he or she currently finds himself or herself in. The partner that once reacted with alarm after reading his or her journal entry of dissatisfaction might now react with complete terror once they recognize that they are actually toying with the idea of developing outside relationships besides their current fractured one.
But the terror will subside. While the dreaming partner may react to his or her own private thoughts with alarm at first, the mind is well equipped at building quite an extensive system of rationalization. The hurting partner may eventually minimize his or her concern and silent their internal alarm until the wanderlust for romantic fantasy is satisfied – or worse — surfaces again with greater force.
Many partners in struggling romances are unhappy and look for personal fulfillment and excitement. Some men and women may be finding their new excitement in what has come to be known as a “work spouse.” There may be nothing sexual or overtly romantic that happens between work spouses for sometime – or ever – but the risk of infidelity looms large for the partners that look for emotional mates at work or in their community service work.
Even if the “work marriage” does not result in an overt betrayal, there is still great potential for harm. If meaningful communication and emotional intimacy is so very easy to accomplish with a colleague or social contact, then why would one continue to work so hard on opening up to one’s spouse or romantic partner?
What can be done to prevent this sequence of events from occurring in your own romance?
Begin by acknowledging the early warning signs in your hurting relationship. Some partners struggle with permission to acknowledge the loss that they feel when they are emotionally distant from a romantic partner. Such partners are likely to keep denying their needs until a betrayal occurs or a romance dies. Others are fearful of saying the words “my spouse and I are in trouble” because they are worried that the acknowledgment of romantic problems will be admitting failure.
Other people will be bombarded by negative self-talk when they try to bring their concerns up to others who can help, because they will feel ashamed of being dissatisfied. The negative self-talk will say “but you have so many things in your life to be grateful for!” or the negative self-talk may say “not only are you wrong for feeling romantically unsatisfied, but you have only yourself to blame!”
It is all right to have great expectations for your relationship with your romantic partner. Those who might claim that your discomfort is coming from your unreasonable expectations and are quick to tell you that you want too much from your romance are probably in a relationship that you would find unattractive. Or perhaps they have spent years in their own unfulfilling relationship. Do not settle for less than honesty, openness, mutual support, respectful and loving treatment, intimate communication, being able to count on your partner – if these are in fact the attributes you are looking for in your relationship…
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on their soon to be published couples book from Leadem Counseling titled: Awakening To Your Soul Mate: A decision to be IN Love (Leadem & Leadem, 2013)
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From Psych Central's website:
Harmless Flirtation | Couples in Recovery (July 3, 2013)
Last reviewed: 25 Jun 2013