Evolving Relationships: How Your Marriage Will Change Over Time
I am married almost 10 years now. We have 3 children and we both have full time jobs. I am not sure if I’m making too much of things but in general I feel like things have changed. It’s nothing I can put my finger on. Sometimes I feel like we’re both so busy. Between the kids and work we don’t have enough time together. I think about how when we were dating we would call each other 10 times a day and go out all the time. It’s just not like that anymore. On the other hand we don’t fight or anything bad. We have sex about once a week now which I know isn’t bad. But it’s not as much as when we were first together. But that was before we had kids. I can’t even explain what I’m thinking. I love him and I know he loves me and I want to be with him. So I don’t even know what I want to change. Or not to change? Am I expecting too much from my marriage at this point? Am I doing something wrong?
As vague as that was I think I understand what’s going on with you.
One of the issues people have is an unrealistic expectation that the relationship isn’t going to change over time. Of course it’s going to change. Just like you are going to change, and so is your partner.
Physiological changes happen to your brain. Your hormones change. Biological changes of all kinds occur as you age. They affect everything, from how well you perceive forever and consequences, to how you feel about past decisions and what you see for yourself in the future.
On top of that you have psychological changes. Unavoidably, the things you experience in life shape you as a person. Going through the loss of a loved one, financial hardship or windfall, feeling betrayed by a friend, falling in love, experiencing a new country or discovering your calling, are just a some of the things you may now include in your frame of reference on life.
Try to think about this example. Say you’re someone who loves music. You’ve always loved music, learned instruments, loved going to concerts, love buying new record albums, loved playing out with your band.
Things change over time. You audition for a job as a musician and you don’t get it. Then you don’t get another one, or another one. You start to realize though you love to play, you just aren’t as gifted or talented as a lot of other people. Maybe you DJ for your college radio station or you spin at some parties, but that doesn’t pay very well. You discover you have a knack for drawing, which goes along with your appreciation of design, and old buildings. You wind up working at an architecture firm. You still love music, but other things are going on in your life too. Music has taken a certain place in your life. You don’t go to every small club concert anymore because you want to get up on time for work, or you want to spend time with some friends who aren’t going to every concert anymore either. However, your firm has box seats to the huge civic center, and you get to use them when certain huge concerts come through the city.
You still like those old bands you listen to. But new bands have come out that you like too. And maybe you used to like dance music, but not so much anymore. And you always disliked country, but now you don't mind it.
You stopped buying record albums. You bought tapes, then Cd's for a while. Then you started buying downloads of single songs, and listening to Pandora.
None of these things mean you don’t love music anymore. It’s just that your relationship with music has grown and gone through changes. Some were disappointments, some were celebrations. Some are due to the way you've grown and matured. Some are a matter of circumstance, or means, or availability. Some are just ...changes.
Your relationship with your partner grows and goes through changes over time too. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For example maybe your career takes off, or you have children. There may be a shift in daily tasking priorities. All those developments in your body and mind reshape the way you go about things.
Maybe when you first fell in love you spent every night together. Maybe ten years later that has changed. Maybe now you spend one night a week together just the two of you, a couple nights doing kid things with the family, a couple nights on your own working late, going to the gym, shopping, playing cards, or doing happy hour with your friends. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Maybe when you first got together gift giving was a big significant deal. Maybe now 20 years later you have less disposable income and have to be more conservative and careful with gifts. Or maybe your cash flow is much better now than it used to be, so that’s effected the gift giving thing. Or maybe you’re both pretty content to buy yourselves the things you want and you’re really more about the cards now. None of these things is a problem..
Maybe now that your parents are older you need and want to spend more of your time with them. Maybe you don’t go out as often anymore because you just don’t want to; maybe you work hard and you’re idea of a great night is putting on your comfy slippers and watching some TV. Maybe you two used to plan big crazy vacations, but now with the mortgage and jobs and other commitments you just don’t have the time or money. And maybe you don’t want to anyway; maybe you’ve already visited most of those cool vacation spots you’d wanted to see, and now travelling makes you nervous. Maybe you’re much more into spending the time and money on redoing a part of the house you love so much. These are all perfectly normal occurrences.
Sure, many people would like to work less hours and have more time to play. But life happens, and sometimes you have to roll with it. As long as you and your partner communicate and try to work together on things, it’s just part of an evolving relationship.
There is however a problem if you’re feeling unsatisfied. If the relationship is no longer working like a partnership than you have some work to do.
You may have to work on yourself. Maybe the problem is that you’ve got an unrealistic expectation of things never changing. You can’t expect life not to happen, you can’t think things will always be exactly as they were in 2002 for example. Maybe you don’t know how to be yourself anymore and you depend too heavily on your partner. That’s not healthy for you, and is a sure way to drive your partner away.
Maybe you have rolled with the punches and you have your own life but you aren’t happy with how things are going. That’s OK. You need to talk about it with your partner. Without accusing, attacking, or battling, you can ask your partner for some time to talk about things. Maybe over a nice dinner you could explain how your feeling and try to suggest some things that would make you feel better. It could be something as simple as addressing his time with the guys. Maybe he has 2 nights a week out and you’d like to share one of those with him. Or, maybe you’re doing too much of the house cleaning and childcare and you need a break. Suggest some ideas like that night he goes bowling ask if you could meet up afterwards and join them for a few beers at the lanes. Or, that you hire a babysitter for a coupe of hours in the morning so you have some time to yourself.
Be sure to listen. Maybe he doesn’t even like bowling but his new supervisor at work is an avid bowler. Maybe he’s really only doing this to impress the boss. Maybe he had no idea you needed some “you” time. Maybe he was asked by his parents if they could help out more with the kids but he declined saying you had it all under control. Maybe now that you’re verbalizing what you’re feeling, he realizes that he should have checked with you. Maybe there’s a whole side of things you just hadn’t thought of. Maybe he is handling a family member’s death badly, maybe he’s feeling his age, afraid of being fired, or going through something that has thrown a wrench in the works. He may need to be reminded it’s safe for him to talk to you about these things.
Of course yes, it’s possible that there’s a real problem. Maybe he really has lost interest. Maybe you didn’t know what you were getting into with parenthood. Maybe something big bad and awful is going on. But I’m not getting that feeling. I think if you had a bad feeling you would have said so instead of vaguely describing how something just feels different. Don’t assume the worst just yet. I strongly suggest you go through the thought-lines of normalcy first. Re-examine the things that have evolved and assess them for what they are. And try really communicating. See how the view is after that.