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.

 

I Love You But I’m Not IN Love With You: Getting Friend Zoned In Your Marriage

I love you not in love with you 2

I love you, but I’m not IN love with you.

I doubt there is a marriage counselor anywhere who hasn’t heard the “I love you but…” statement more times than they could count.

Some days I think it is epidemic.

In my practice, I find more women come in with this complaint than men, but there have been several men as well.  It saddens me because I can tell from their body language they care for each other.  They are sitting close or facing each other.  The one who says it doesn’t want to hurt his/her spouse so this person is reluctant to explain why.  The spouse is often devastated and can’t seem to get any answers to the questions of why or how or when.

It is really important to see each spouse alone so I can actually find out what is going on.  The “I love you but…” spouse usually isn’t going to be openly honest until I can speak to them individually.

I’d like to tell you there is a quick and easy fix for this situation but it is a tough one to deal with–for both partners and often for the counselor as well.

It all boils down to one thing.

I will tell you that I have found in my experience it usually comes down to this: passion.

Now that sounds simple enough.  But there are many factors that influence desire and most people aren’t aware of them.

Some of you are very practical in your approach to love and marriage.  You made a commitment and as long as there isn’t a lot of pain or abuse, you will see that commitment to the end.

You may not have even considered asking yourself whether you are happy or fulfilled.  But some of you are deep feelers.  You need to feel emotionally connected in a very intimate way and when that is lacking, you question whether or not the marriage is working.

Practical people often find themselves linked with feelers and that is the perfect mix for trouble in the bedroom.

If you or your spouse is feeling the “I love you but…” phenomenon, you need to figure out the root of the problem.

Here are just a few possible scenarios for you to consider as a place to start.

1. Lack of emotional intimacy.

That is why we preach so heavily at EWL for couples to get in the habit of spending time together talking and connecting.  I simply cannot emphasize the importance enough.

The problem with this one is that the partner who is inattentive, unobservant or unavailable is usually not aware they are leaving their spouse feeling rejected and alone.  It’s hard to explain to your spouse when you feel you are a low priority.

You may say you feel lonely or unappreciated.  You may express your feelings as complaints for more quality time.  This may change your spouse’s behavior for a short period of time, but it likely won’t bring about permanent results.  This can leave you feeling hopeless.  The friendship dies.

Eventually, you will stop having romantic feelings for your spouse.  Too much of this and desire for your mate will be gone completely.  By the time some of these couples come to counseling, passion has been missing for so long they are convinced they will never be able to find that desire again or they aren’t sure they want to try.

Check out this article for a more detailed explanation of just how this can happen in a marriage.

2  When one of partner is not a good lover

This is usually a simple fix, but one no one wants to talk about it.  I love working with these couples because it is usually a fairly easy fix, all things considered.

There are some wonderful books and resources available to help you become an expert in the art of lovemaking.  Too many people remain silent because they are embarrassed or afraid to hurt their partner’s ego.

Face it!  Most of us aren’t taught how to be good lovers.  But trust me, it is worth the effort to learn!  A few sessions with the right therapist can completely rock your world in this regard.

3.  Pornography is another romance killer.

Viewing porn is not harmless and it is never healthy.

Some couples have been encouraged to view porn together to spice things up.  It may give the desired results for a brief period of time, but I’ve never seen it be a healthy activity for any marriage.  I’ve only seen it damage relationships.

Porn can kill a man’s desire for his wife.  Some women are so devastated when they find their husbands have viewed porn, they actually consider divorce.  It is addictive and like any addiction, it will require more exposure to more graphic images to get the desired results.

This isn’t only a warning for men.  Women view porn as well.  Romance novels (what I call female porn) can create a delusional desire for something that cannot exist in the real world.  My advice…stay away from either one.

4.  Losing respect for your spouse can kill your sex drive quite efficiently.

Women lose respect for men who are conflict-avoidant.  Some men are not cut out for confrontation.  They would rather remain silent than cause a problem.

But if these men are married to strong, independent women, it can be a problem that affects bedroom activity.  A woman may view a conflict-avoidant husband as weak and this is so “not sexy”.  If this your situation, don’t feel hopeless!  There are many ways to change this dynamic.

5.  Confusing limerence with lasting love.

Limerence is the thrill of a new relationship.  Passion peaks to an all time high.  You are obsessed with spending time together and you daydream or fantasize when you are apart.  Limerence is better than any drug and it feels really good.  But when it is confused with love…look out.  You cannot sustain limerence with anyone.  The expiration date on those intense passions is anywhere from 6 months to 3 years with the average being 18 months.  It is Fool’s Gold.

The Troublesome Part about “I Love You But…”

The troublesome part about this phrase is that passion isn’t sustainable without ceasing in any relationship.  Over time, we all go through peaks and valleys with respect to our desire.  A marriage consists of “I love you” and “I’m in love with you” but often not together.

Honestly, if I had to choose between a passionate relationship and living with my best friend…I’d choose my best friend every time.  After being married almost 25 years, I can tell I have weathered many threats to passion in my own marriage.  The key to surviving is staying put, evaluating the threat and working to remove it.  Over and over again.

We are pro-marriage!

At Engage With Love, we believe marriage is a sacred covenant.  We are saving marriages!  If you feel your marriage could use a new perspective, contact us.  We would love to work with you.