Conflict and emotion go hand in hand. It is normal for couples to have difference and conflict.
¦ It’s been two years since I’ve had sex with my husband.
We had a big argument about his elderly mother, who wanted to move in with us. I didn’t want this to happen and put my foot down.
She is now living in a nursing home and I visit her every week. My husband and I are civil with each other, but the affection and love have gone. We are both in our late 50s.
>> This stand-off didn’t come out of the blue. I am sure there were other issues through the years that you and your husband did not discuss and resolve. And when communication is poor the relationship gets neglected.
Conflict ought to be addressed in the early stages before resentment builds up. Conflict and emotion go hand in hand. It is normal for couples to have difference and conflict.
If you try to resolve rows with battles, both partners feel attacked and traumatised.
Though your mother-in-law is now living in a nursing home, tension and anger still hangs in the air. It has become a problem and you can’t dialogue about it but the emotions are still there.
“The conflict becomes gridlocked, and gridlocked conflict eventually leads to emotional disengagement,” writes relationship expert John Gottman.
This can be an ongoing problem that doesn’t go away. In the case where a couple can manage the issue in their relationship it doesn’t mean that it has to be resolved. We all live with difference. You have become distant from each other and this is a very lonely place.
I wonder if either of you have ever tried to really understand each other’s viewpoints? When the time is right, ask to hear his thoughts and invite him to listen to yours. You won’t agree but it is important to respect each other’s position.
It is his mother and his thoughts and feelings go deep. You are probably feeling that his mother is more important than you. But, your marriage is not new and you have a shared history. It is a pity if you can’t find a way to get back together.
We know that it is the past that shapes us. It is in our families that we begin learning how to think and behave. We develop life rules. We begin our relationships thinking that the one we love will follow ‘my rules’. But, then the differences appear and the new relationship takes its own development and there can be disagreements.
In his family an unwritten rule might be that a son or daughter minds mother in their home.
A starting point might be to find out about each other’s rules or script, and how they have changed through the years. Underlying the pain, is the need to feel valued, secure and to have some sense of control.
You don’t need me to tell you that your relationship is in trouble but it is beyond the confines of this article to help at the depth that is needed.
Your marriage is important and worth fighting for. I would urge you to work with a relationship counsellor to find a healthy way forward.
Marie Daly is a psychosexual therapist with Relationships Ireland; visit www.relationshipsirleland.com.
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