Marne and Ed's Marriage
Marne and Ed have been married for seven years and have two children, ages five and three. While they still sleep together, they have not had sex for the past eighteen months. Ed complains that Marne cares only about the children and her sister who lives nearby. “They can do no wrong as far as she’s concerned,” says Ed, “but with me nothing is ever good enough. She’s just never satisfied; it’s as simple as that. She’s a perfectionist, and everything has to be her way or it’s wrong. She never has a good word to say.That’s hard to live with. It makes life a constant battle. I’m no angel, but I can’t be wrong all the time.”
“More and more I just want to be left alone,” Ed says. “When she starts picking I just walk away. I have the den all to myself, and I’d rather hang out there than listen to her complaints. I do a lot for her, but nothing comes back to me, so I say screw it and go my own way.”
Marne, of course, has her own view of the marriage. “Ed and I have always had a rough time together. Then the kids came into the picture, and things just got worse and worse after that. Ed has no idea how a woman wants to be treated. He only sees what he’s not getting. I have a hard time accepting that. He’s a good provider and a good father. As a husband it’s a different story.”
Marne continues: “He’s difficult because he takes everything personally, and he’s very sensitive. Ed’s always been that way. He has two brothers he doesn’t talk to because of this. He’s always feeling hurt about one thing or another. He blows up at the slightest thing I say. It’s always his feelings that count the most, and mine are just not that important to him. If we try to discuss things he just starts yelling, and I can’t take that. It’s not good. These days we’re like oil and water. It didn’t use to be that way, but that’s what it’s come to. We’re both stubborn and hate to give in. We need to find a way out of this hole we’ve dug.”
These two examples illustrate what we said earlier; roommate relationships vary. Some couples have more positive feelings and behaviors going on between them than others. But more importantly, both examples show that roommate partners have stopped being intimately open and available to one another. They have fallen into being together from a distance. In some cases this distance is due to being overwhelmed by the demands of daily life. In other cases the distance is more about bad feelings (hurts and angers) than anything else.
Is living together from a distance what you expected from your relationship? Probably not; when you are married or living together in a committed relationship, being emotionally and sexually distant is extremely stressful. The tension this kind of dysfunctional arrangement produces drains your body and your mind. You become irritable and impatient. Your ability to function effectively, all across the board, decreases dramatically. And you’re not alone. Children, from toddlers to teenagers, have fewer established coping mechanisms, and so they immediately absorb this tension. Living as roommates leaves everyone stressed, exhausted, and hungry for love.
Being hungry for love can turn out to be a good thing for you and your relationship, because it has the possibility of drawing you together. At difficult moments it is this desire to love and be loved that can shape how you act toward your partner. The desire to be and stay close must become more important than your ego’s need to resist change, to get your way, or to hang on to resentments from the past.