The Recipe for Reconnection: Friendship in Marriage

A post by Dan Umprhess

reconnect in marriage with friendshipIn my work as a Marriage Coach, I talk every week with people who have heard from their spouse some variation of “I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore. I want a divorce.”  

I am not writing to address the pain and shock of hearing these words.  I’ve been there myself and I understand the trauma those words can bring.  

May I suggest that the “I love you, but…” phrase can actually represent an opportunity to reconnect?

I always talk to my coaching clients about this idea:

“Yes, we do need a divorce.  We need to divorce our old marriage, not each other.”  

Marriages often get lost in the journey of life.  

Young couples get so engaged in parenting that they lose their connection as a couple.  

Men trust in the old model of marriage that tells them it is enough to be the provider and patriarch of the family, causing them to fail to understand the foundation of marriage is intimacy (and I don’t mean sex).  

Women often put all their energy and focus into raising the children.  It sounds noble but putting the kids before the marriage is only hurting everyone involved.  The best gift we can give our kids is a great marriage.

These are some of the reasons I hear weekly to justify divorce:

  • Couples reach a crisis in life when they come to believe that time is running out and they haven’t found fulfillment in life or in their marriage, and so they need to divorce to seek happiness.  
  • Couples lose emotional connection with each other and seek to meet that need outside of the marriage.
  • Men get complacent in “Companionship Marriages,” and they don’t realize their wives are starving for emotional connection until they make the shocking announcement they are leaving.

These are, in my opinion, not reasons to end a marriage.  They are obvious indications that the marital relationship needs to be repaired.  

Marriage repair begins with reconnection.  

The couple who has drifted apart and must come back together with the mutual goal of “divorcing the old marriage” and building a new relationship based upon relational health and the use of new relational skills.  

I believe marriage rebuilding often begins with friendship.

I have talked to hundreds of couples over my professional life, and I’ve observed many of the happiest couples began as friends.  

I’ve often heard, “We began as friends with no thought of being a couple.  As our friendship grew, we became closer.  We became best friends. Then the day came when we looked at each other with the surprise of finding that we had romantic feelings for each other.”  

These are some of the marriages that I believe have the highest probability of surviving the trials of marital life.  

I think this can be the key to saving troubled marriages.

What is the foundation of early friendship?

It’s mutual interests and the enjoyment of each other’s company.  

We enjoy our conversations and we have some laughs together.  

We are equals in the friendship.  

We do not attempt to exert control over each other.  

We do not smother each other or require our friend to give us all of their time and attention.  

We have parts of our lives that are independent from each other.  

We are not dependent upon each other for self-esteem or meaning in our life.  

We choose to spend time together because we enjoy it.

The recipe for re-connection in marriage

Are you your partner’s best friend?  

Are you the person they can come to with their fears, hurts, successes, dreams, hopes, opinions and beliefs, with confidence they will be safe in the sharing of these intimate things?  

Do you listen and accept without judgement and without telling them how to fix their problems?  

Are you an emotionally safe friend?

We can take broken marriages and put them back together in a form that is so much better than the marriage that preceded the announcement that “It’s over!”

Is it possible that your marriage needs to start over with friendship?  

If your spouse is telling you the marriage is over; your best hope for saving the marriage may be to enter the Friend Zone.  Go back to being your partner’s friend and work on the goal of “dating your wife/husband” This is a hard transition to make for most people.  

Contact us online or give us a call today at (972) 441-4432 to help you reconnect with your spouse and bring friendship back to your marriage.

 

How to Balance Logic and Emotions [For the Men]

logic over emotions for men in marriage

Logic often does not mix well with emotions.

How a husband can step up his game and better understand and respond to his wife

The Logic Trap

Gentlemen, I’m sure this is not news to you if you have been married any length of time.  If you are like most men I see, you start to feel completely bewildered and helpless when your wife is communicating from an emotional place and you just cannot join her in that space.

The problem is that we are wired by our general nature and upbringing to flee into the realm of logic when confronted by the emotions that come our way from our wives.  

Very few of us have come from a family where we observed our fathers being comfortable with emotions.  Our father’s understanding of what it meant to “be a man” was to provide well for the family, be successful in the career, work hard and fix problems.

As a result of having this example for role models, very few of us are prepared for being emotionally present or even able to deal with feelings.

When we encounter emotions from our wives, we flee into our comfort zone: we get logical.  This can be toxic to our marriages.

Logic: A Man’s Comfort Zone

When we encounter our emotionally upset wife, we usually feel attacked.  Our default setting is to move into the realm of logic where we can defend, refute, explain and debate.  This is our comfort zone.  

Our spouses are not blameless in this matter.  

They have not typically observed role models who were skilled in communicating effectively, either.  

Their reliance upon highly emotional communication can be very hard for us to hear. (Read more about that here.)

We default into this setting without even being aware of what we are doing. The result is that our wives feel that we have dismissed, minimized and even ridiculed their feelings.  We did not listen and “get it.” We debated and fought the “fight to be right.”  This is not the recipe for emotional intimacy.  

As men, we can stick with our logical stance and fight to prove our points or defend ourselves, but in winning the fight, we lose the war and potentially our marriage.

Your wife has chosen you to be the one man on the planet with whom she can be emotionally safe and honest.  

We are the one person our wives expect to “get how they feel.”

We are the one person they have chosen who is expected to understand, accept, validate and protect them.  

We cannot fail in this responsibility.  

We have to remember:  “Do I want to be right or do I want to be married?”

A key component of marriage is emotional intimacy

I have worked as a marriage coach with several men who describe themselves to me as emotionally handicapped.  

One told me “I’m an emotional three-year-old.  Help me!”  

I believe this is an area where husbands struggle the most.

Emotional Intimacy is one of the five levels of intimacy we learn from reading The New Rules of Marriage by Terrence Real. (For a conversation about the five rules of intimacy, read my post on how the rules of marriage have changed.)

I’ve made the mistake myself.  It’s easy to do.  Here are a couple of examples of how guys respond and how to fix the lack of emotional intimacy.

An Example from Joe and Amanda

Joe’s wife Amanda came to him with her feelings of loss, hurt and pain regarding her miscarriage.  

He replied, “That was nine years ago! You can’t still be upset about that!”

Kaboom!!  

He stepped on the Logic Landmine and was sent to the marital emergency room for treatment of his injury.  

The injury is serious but hopefully not fatal to the relationship.  

Joe was able to recover by coming back to her to say, “I am so sorry to have minimized your feelings of loss and hurt about the miscarriage.  I wish I had been able to hear your pain and to be there for you to share those feelings.  

I’m sorry, and I’m working on being the one you can share your feelings with and know that they will be cherished.  I’m not good at this but I want to be the one you can talk to about how you feel.”  

A Personal Example

My wife shared her feelings with me regarding the fact that she had not been blessed with the experience of giving birth.  I responded, “You knew that wasn’t going to be possible when we married.   How can you be upset about that?”

Kaboom.  My wife was hurt by my insensitivity to her loss.  

The look on her face made it very clear to me that I’d blown it.  It was time to shut off my “logic mode” and get connected with her on the level of emotions.  

I was able to hear her loss and acknowledge it, though it made little sense to me.  My perspective was not the point.  She felt a real sense of loss, and I needed to “get it.”   I hope you guys can be smarter than I was.

Here is a video that I think perfectly describes the dilemma we are faced when dealing with our wives’ feelings. It’s funny, but don’t miss the point.  Your wife’s feelings matter more than the facts.

 

Want help developing emotional intimacy?

With a little coaching and insight, I believe that husbands can change.

I’ve seen it many times, including in my own marriage.  

If you find yourself struggling with this issue, please let us help.  You can contact us here.