ste·reo·type: transitive verb \ˈster-ē-ə-ˌtīp, ˈstir-\ - a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.
I have a friend who writes a column for a small local paper in Georgia. As he frequently does, Dr. Stathas absolutely nailed it with a column he wrote last month (here is the link to the full article on his website – Why Men and Women So Often Just Miss Each Other).
In this article, Dr. Stathas outlines what he has seen over the years as a successful family and marriage therapist. He provides “stereotypes” for how couples act and what is going on in their lives during each decade from their 20s through their 60s. I see these same “stereotypes” play out over and over again with couples with whom I speak. It’s uncanny the similarities which exist.
Stereotypes can be both helpful and hurtful. View these through the lens of helpful and see if they can provide some insight and perspective in your relationship. This is how Dt. Stathas describes married men and women in their 40s and 50s (note, I encourage you to click on the link above and read what he says about the other stages of marriage too!):
“Man advances career. He is gone more often for work and socializing with the guys. Woman, with the kids in school or out on their own, goes back to the work place or gets more involved in women endeavors. Further distancing exists of the couple from each other. Sex life diminishes, sometimes drastically. He spends more time with the guys, and maybe the girls, as he seeks a woman connection…”
Oh. My. Gosh. I’m not a marriage therapist, but I, too, see this over and over again. This is such a familiar refrain. And, what happens next is they either divorce or they become roommates.
In the case of divorce, I frequently hear, “We’ve drifted apart … I’m not in love with him/her anymore … Our marriage isn’t big enough for three of us … We have different interests … I’m tired of always giving and getting nothing in return … I would rather be alone than be unappreciated.”
In the case of becoming a roommate marriage I hear, “We like each other just fine (most of the time) … He’s a good guy/dad … She’s a good woman/mom … We haven’t been intimate in months (years?) … We have no interest in getting divorced because of our kids/friends/finances … We’ll just stick to the status quo.”
If you ask me, both scenarios are depressing. Is either “fixable?” Absolutely! Will it take a lot of hard work, honest conversations, mutual vulnerability, and perhaps a good dose of forgiveness? Of course. And, will it be worth it? My guess is that it will.
Where do you start? The first thing is to acknowledge there is an issue, and honestly believe that you can do and want to do something about it. The second thing is to make changes. That’s Change Theory 101. You can’t say you want something to be different, yet continue to do things the same way. Status quo does not equal change. Third, you may want to see a marriage and family therapist to help you understand and deal with the history and the emotions, and can guide you towards a better future.
Look at your relationship. Are you heading for divorce or roommate status? Is that future OK with you? If not, what can you do about it right now?
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.