Anthropologist Margaret Mead has famously said that a woman needs three husbands:
The first is for youthful sex.
The second is to have and rear children.
And the third is for joyful companionship later in life.
So, do women really need three husbands (and men three wives!) over a lifetime or is one marriageable to flex and shift to meet the changing needs of a long life?
Mead later said that in fact, yes, one relationship may suffice but it seems obvious that the couples would need to have the capacity to learn, grow, and change along with their changing relationship desires and personal needs.
Unfortunately, most couples expect that their marriage will naturally shift from youthful sex to stable family life to joyful companionship. And for the majority of couples, the shift is not natural. It requires some focused attention, some training, and some stretching for both people to create the relationship that they want during the time in their lives that they want it. (If you are wondering why you should bother doing the work, here are 7 reasons.)
The question, “Is it time to call this marriage quits?” is a complex one.
It is useful, however, to start be orienting yourself to the following:
1. What stage of life are you in?
Are you in the youthful sex stage? Rearing children stage? Or the joyful companion stage? Or maybe you are in a combination.
2. What are you wanting from your relationship?
Very specifically, get clear about what the purpose of your relationship is for you at this period of your life. How have you communicated this is a way that your partner would understand and be able to hear (i.e. without attacking, blaming, or criticizing)?
3. What are you wanting to contribute in your relationship?
How do you want to show up right now in this iteration of your life with your partner? Notice if you feel resentful about showing up, contributing, or giving in any way. Resentment often covers anger (sometimes years of anger) that has gone underground and when unprocessed comes our crooked (like contempt, withholding love, blame).
4. What have you done to get an uncomfortable relationship?
Almost everyone who comes into couples therapy would prefer that their partner do the “heavy lifting” in the relationship but that is simply unfair. Examining where you have been open to the uncomfortable process of changing yourself is an important place to begin. This often takes an unbiased and trained third party to help mirror places in yourself that you cannot see.
5. Do you want to leave because you would rather not do the work of growth?
An honest and tough question. The answer may be yes and that is fine but getting clear about where your commitment lies will help you along the path of deciding what to do next.
Relationships give our lives richness and vibrancy.
They can also bring us to our knees with frustration, sadness, rejection, abandonment, boredom, and anger. The pathway through your relationship is not always a clear one which is why having a guide can be so vital in helping you unpack all of the different and sometimes conflicting parts of yourself so that you might have a clearer road ahead. Learning how to say yes to the hard stuff and setting a boundary around the toxic stuff takes time and concerted effort.
Call (720) 457-3342 today and let one of our licensed therapists help you get from where you are to where you want to be. Call now, we are standing by to help!