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Ask Ate Anna by Linda PlenertKeep your relationship on track

by Linda Plenert

Dear Ate Anna,

My husband and I have been married for eight years. I used to think that I had a happy marriage. Lately I have been feeling that my husband and I are like roommates rather than husband and wife – if you know what I mean. What has happened? – Elizabeth

Dear Elizabeth,

Every couple in a long term relationship, whether married or not, will have times when they wonder, “Is this all there is?” If you can figure out what may be causing that feeling, you have a better chance of making the changes that will get your relationship back on track.

Elizabeth, part of the problem may be the expectations you have of your relationship. In the past, a wife had certain roles or jobs that she was expected to do as a good wife. A husband had his own set of responsibilities. Today, these roles are not as clear, which creates their own stress. In addition, people have higher expectations of marriage or a long-term relationship and how it will meet their emotional needs.

If we feel that our expectations are not being met, we may wonder if there is something wrong with either our relationship or our partner. Firstly, we should look at our hopes and dreams. Are they realistic? From where do expectations about a satisfying relationship come? Magazines? Reality TV? Unfortunately, these are not always reliable sources of information about meaningful relationships.

Many couples find that even if they have discussed important issues beforehand, marriage or living together long term is different than they thought it would be. Couples gain success in their relationship by “hanging in there” and learning how to tackle problems and manoeuvre through the complex issues of everyday life. It may seem easier to just blame the other person and end the relationship. However, success in a relationship requires some commitment to continuing that relationship, as long as it does not involve an endless cycle of arguing about the same problems or abusive behaviour.

Effective communication helps people problem-solve the common relationship conflicts about money, sex, household chores, in-laws, and lack of time. Today, couples have the added challenges of technology. You can’t communicate effectively while you or your partner is checking their iPhone, watching TV, or reading the latest gossip online.

Busy schedules can also be a real roadblock to dealing with important relationship issues. It might be necessary to make an actual appointment with each other. Put the cell phones on silent and let voicemail pick up your calls. It might be helpful to get away from home to have this conversation – perhaps just going to a coffee shop so that children and chores etc. are not a distraction.

Even partners who love each other very much sometimes experience difficulties in their sexual relationship. This is also an area where unrealistic expectations can cause frustration. Adding to this situation is the fact that both men and women are badly lacking in sex education and sexual self-awareness. This is unfortunate because sex is an important part of a relationship and it brings a couple closer together. Sex is not just about making babies. Sex releases hormones that help our bodies both physically and mentally, and sustains the chemistry between partners in a satisfying way.

It is a fantasy that good sex “just happens” – especially over the lifespan of a long-term marriage or relationship. Differences in sexual desire and what is or is not sexy and enjoyable are good topics for conversation. Most people have grown up with the message that talking about sex is taboo so it can be difficult to talk about ourselves in this way. But it can also help to build intimacy in a relationship – emotional intimacy as well as physical intimacy.

In fact, the emotional intimacy that comes from working together on resolving a relationship issue can lead to a better connection between partners. Elizabeth, relationship issues are complex. But a satisfying relationship is worth the time and effort it takes to keep it strong.

Take care,
Ate Anna

Ate Anna welcomes your questions and comments. Please write to: Ate Anna, Suite 200- 226 Osborne St. N., Winnipeg, MB R3C 1V4 or e-mail: info@serc.mb.ca. Please visit us at www.serc.mb.ca.


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