There are very few long-term relationships that run smoothly. Separations and divorces are everywhere we look. And the reasons are nearly always the same. But it can work out differently, if we’re prepared to think differently. Elizabeth Banks shows us how....
Tom has left me”. When my friend Kate told me this I nearly fainted. If there was a marriage that I thought indestructible, then it was Kate and Tom’s. It sounds like a cliché but they seemed like the perfect couple, and not once had Kate expressed any concerns over the state of her marriage. But one day he had simply gone. Just like that. Except it wasn’t. As Kate and I found out later, Tom had planned his exit for over a year and had even found himself another apartment. Kate came home one evening to find he had moved out. I just couldn’t work it out and started thinking about my own marriage. Could something like that happen to me too?
Kate and Tom’s break-up happened three years ago, but I have since spoken to him and many other men who have left their wives or girlfriends and have found out that in all cases there are impressive parallels. And what’s more, I have met Tom’s new girlfriend, who I didn’t find particularly attractive, Kate was a lot prettier and slimmer. But obviously Tom’s new girlfriend had something about her, and what she told me was a real eye-opener for me.
A problem that occurred in all of these relationships was this: women nag too much. Whether it’s the classic “stop leaving your clothes lying around”, or him drinking too many beers on an evening out, there are usually a few things that women like to nag their man about. Most men were in agreement — that they feel overwhelmed with their partner’s moaning. Women however see things completely differently. They claimed that their moaning had nothing to do with love, they just wanted their homes to be tidy. And don’t forget, moaning and whinging is not sexy ladies — you don’t want to turn into his mum! Think about it, if your boyfriend nagged you as much as you do him, would you like it? Probably not.
Take for instance my friend Lucy. She had been together with Mark for two years and everything was fine except for one little problem. His mess. Laundry everywhere, discarded dirty socks scattered around the apartment like sweet wrappers. And the worse thing, he would drop his dirty pyjama trousers on the bathroom floor before showering, rather than picking them up and putting them in the laundry. After Mark had pointed out that Lucy’s nagging was starting to bother him, Lucy decided to bite her tongue. Perhaps the pyjamas would find their way to the laundry basket, if she just kept quiet, she thought. She decided to grin and bear it and give the pyjamas a week. And lo and behold, within three days they had moved. Lucy was amazed, until she saw Mark wearing the dirty PJs in bed that night. It wasn’t quite what she had in mind. But she kept quiet and it paid off. Within a week the socks started finding their way to the laundry and the dirty PJs, well you guessed it, they ended up there too!
Men deal with stress differently than women. When women are stressed, they want to be with their partners. But for men it’s different. When they are stressed, they don’t want to see anyone. He’d rather mope around or go down the pub or play on his computer. If he says he “needs to sort his head out”, he can only do that if he doesn’t have to talk about it or even communicate at all. When your man decides for just a moment to withdraw, do you catch yourself thinking “Why’s he withdrawing from me? Is there another woman? Why does he want to go out alone and not be with me?” Stop, because this is just adding to his stress. It can really confuse women than men relax better on their own than with them. But why should he relax in the way that we do? Let men have their space when they want it, and when they feel better they’ll seek our company again.
You’re having a dry spell that’s been going on for a while and you feel out of touch with each other, literally. Things can go stale sexually in a long-term relationship. Try to make sure you have at least a couple of nights a week where you don’t spend time together. To keep things fresh you need to put some distance between you both. Remember how excited you felt when he would come over and how you would rip each other’s clothes off as soon as he walked through the door, or he would tease you with suggestive text messages on his way over, as you anticipated his arrival? You need to recreate these feelings of sexual tension now that things have settled into a routine. Take sex outside of the bedroom, shake things up a bit, spring-clean your sex-life — it is a necessity in a long-term relationship. But whatever you do, don’t start putting the blame of a boring sex-life onto him, as there is nothing that will dampen his ardour more than you complaining about his libido. Take things into your own hands and think creatively!
After all these talks and experiences people had shared with me, I decided to change things in my relationship with my husband. One evening when he was about to go out, instead of pouting and asking, “Do you have to go out again?”, I reached up and gave him a kiss and said, “Have fun tonight, honey”. The first time I did this he looked taken aback and left the house rather confused. That evening I received several text messages from him, he thanked me and even said he missed me. Later he came home quite drunk and stank like an ashtray. But instead of moaning at him, I simply undressed him, got under the shower and asked him to join me. That night we showered together for the first time in about ten years. And then afterwards we had a lot of fun in bed too. I finally felt wanted and desired again. It was a good start, and you know what, as with my friend Lucy, he has started clearing up his socks too. Don’t believe me? Then try it!
That has become my mantra. Just five simple words. “You cannot change a person”. Put it out of your mind, it will not work. You can try to force him to do things to avoid causing stress (with you), but his character and his soul will stay the same. So give up trying to change him, you wouldn’t want him to try and change you, would you? You chose him as he is and you need to accept him, faults and all. And if you can’t put up with them, it’s time to leave.
You are probably thinking I am advising you turn into a submissive mouse of a girlfriend, who never stands up for themselves. Correct. But even here I have a simple trick — be honest and express your opinions and wishes, but let him decide what he does with them. A man who feels loved and understood is grateful no end. I learnt a lot about my own marriage through Sarah and Tom’s experience. I am no longer the mother and he no longer the child. He is my husband and he sees me as a desirable woman again. It worked for me and I hope it works for you too. Why not try it? Good luck!
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