Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Six months into their relationship, Simone a 35-year-old part time bank teller,found her patience was wearing thin. When if ever would 39-year-old reporter Miguel feel comfortable enough to propose marriage? She wanted to make sure she wasn’t dating a guy who would string her along and then quit. She thought she had done so by asking him directly and having got the answer she wanted, assumed it was just a matter of time.
Simone’s goal was to be a married woman
But there was no marriage proposal in sight. Miguel spent more and more time away from Simone, and when he was around he was tired, played on his phone or went out with old friends. Yet when asked, he reiterated that he did want to marry but there were fears he had to overcome.
Insecurity and stress enveloped Simone as her wish faded away
She became more anxious when he didn’t seem to want to include her in his social life. He said she’d be bored and he’d catch up with her later. She waited for him to choose her, wondering how to get past his worries and fear and anchor a place in his heart. It was exhausting because each time she threw down the anchor, he would move and her anchor ended up rootless.
Miguel’s goal was to be free of having to take care of and support women
Being with Simone wasn’t much fun anymore. Miguel found her lacking interest in current affairs, making it difficult to have a normal conversation. All she wanted to talk about was her family stuff and delve into his. He felt as if he were her therapist when she asked him to keep things secret. It bothered him when she called to check in while he was away and wanted to know everything about it when he returned. He felt choked and hated the idea that she lived her life around his schedule!
What started off as being a relationship full of potential and hope for a comfortable journey through life together, now became a game of cat-and-mouse – full of:
How come they came to this impasse?
Both had different goals that were never made explicit. They had problems communicating their true desires.
Simone’s goal was to get married and feel normal, and secure. It wasn’t to get and love Miguel.
His goal was to have a relationship that made him feel safe and free to be himself without feeling guilty, strangled or accountable for his choices. It wasn’t to love and cherish Simone first, last and always.
Communication Problems About Being Honest Got In the Way
Simone wanted the institution of marriage, the status, the normality and relief of not having to keep looking for a good person to settle with. She wanted a partner to be focused on her, making her feel special and treasured, someone he was proud to show off.
Miguel wanted marriage as his safety net, where he could unwind and relax, knowing that his partner would let him run free but be there as and when he needed connection.
Underneath all the layers of their relationship, Miguel wanted a free style relationship more than he wanted Simone. She wanted an experience based on traditional marriage norms, more than she wanted Miguel.
If they had just wanted each other, they would have enjoyed being together as and when because that was the thrill. But that wasn’t the driving force behind their goals, and so the relationship became unstable.
How did things work out for Simone and Miguel?
Simone persuaded Miguel to attend couples therapy. She hoped that the safety in the therapist office would encourage Miguel to express his fears openly so that she could prove that they were unfounded and so make it impossible for him to put off marriage any longer.
She told him that she was happy with him in the couples session, but in her individual session she complained about his lack of responsiveness and misunderstanding of her quips. She complained about members of his family and his generosity towards them.
He told her that she was a fabulous person in couples session, but in his individual session he complained about her spending habits, her dependency on him for social life, and his inability to “breathe” since he had started going with her.
Neither of them told each other the truth about their relationship goals. Because the goals were so different, they experienced each other in negative ways, but didn’t want to blow things up by being honest- until the act of being in therapy helped them feel safe enough to be frank and confront what they were too afraid to face before. If they continue being authentic and upfront there is hope that they can consider whether they want a relationship, and if so what shape it would take.
Lesson: dig deep to see if you want a particular person, or you want a particular relationship and this person may fit the bill. The first reason works and marriage will come naturally. The second reason won’t work and marriage is unlikely to happen, or if it does it will be fraught with conflict and lack of intimacy. Go to therapy for premarital counseling and begin the frank and open dialogue that will stand you in good stead.
AUTHOR OF ‘Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationships.”
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2015
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Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond.