Dear Dr. Faizal,
I love my husband of 2 years. When we first started dating 4 years ago, he would go everywhere with me. But recently his attitude has changed. He’s less likely to do the things I want or need to do, like go to the temple or grocery shopping. He wants me to do these alone. He always uses work as an excuse, saying he’s tired or stressed. But, hey, I work too and I’m tired and stressed too. Still, I go to places with him, like to meet his friends. Our marriage was supposed to be a partnership and I thought he understood that too. It just seems he doesn’t care anymore.
– Demoted to Wife
Dear Demoted to Wife,
Ah, dating – the time in our life where we would do almost anything to impress the person of our interest. We go to places together, do things together and just be with each other.
Over time, pragmatism sets in. Those places we used to go to seem less important, less practical to go together when one of us can get the job done, thereby freeing the other partner to do other more practical ‘things.’
Keep in mind, though, that while a practical approach works well in other aspects of life like education where you only spend time studying what will be on the final exam, and employment where you must do overtime assigned by your boss to save your job, practicality does not always fair as well in the romantic realm. In fact, practicality sometimes imprisons a couple of unmet needs by the partners.
So how can you escape the walls of practical boredom, liberate yourself from feelings of not being cared about, and rebuild your partnership? You both need to make each other’s needs known to each other. Sit your husband down one night when you both are relaxed and share with him about how you miss the way your life was when you were dating, how you miss the excitement of doing things together, how you miss him. I’ve worked with many married couples and can say with certainty that he misses you too and would like to reconnect.
Reconnection can be done in stages. Step one: Take two pieces of paper (one for each of you) and write down “My Top Five Needs in this Marriage” at the top. Now each of you writes down in note form (you will discuss and elaborate on these later), and in order of importance, what your needs are. For most couples, their needs are typically what they miss from the past. For example, one of your needs could then be, “I’d like you to go grocery shopping with me on Sundays from 10 am to noon” (being specific in your requests produces better results). Now when you discuss this need with your husband (Step two), you could add an incentive for him by completing your thought, “…and after our shopping, why don’t we have lunch with your friends?” Such type of negotiation would lead to your needs being better received.
The key is for both of you to voice your needs, and as you try to meet each other’s needs as a couple – each day, each week, each year – your marriage will always rejoice in and be enhanced by the feelings of dating.