Erosion Over Time

In the past few months I have seen an inordinate number of couples who are experiencing marital stress, conflict, and anxiety within their marriages and families that look well put together on the surface.  Regardless whether it is the wife or the husband who contacts me, the reason for counseling is that the wife has decided she’s just “done.”

Neglecting The Warning Signs

None of these occurred overnight.  No, they’re each a product of neglecting the marriage – and each other – over time.  And as a result of overlooking the warning signs, the marriage is now in crisis.

I find that there are multiple characteristics that all of these marriage relationships share in common:

Husband:

  • He has a Melancholy or Choleric temperament that defines his inborn nature.
  • He sees life through the lens of a series of tasks to be performed well.
  • He works a lot of hours and has a lot of savings, investments, or material wealth to show for it.
  • He is very frugal, yet splurges on nice things to show his wife/family how much he loves them and works hard for them.
  • He believes that doing things for others is the way to show love.
  • He has very little awareness or skill at communicating at an emotional level.
  • He is quick to get angry as a means of protecting his competence.
  • His anger creates an environment where all other family members have fear if they were to speak openly.
  • Will justify his work ethic, time away from home, and anger as necessary to provide all that the wife and children expect.
  • He begins to feel unappreciated.

Wife:

  • She has a Sanguine or Supine temperament that defines her inborn nature.
  • She sees life through relationships, approval, and acceptance.
  • She enjoys being married to a man that works hard and “can do anything.”
  • She comes to appreciate the financial stability he provides.
  • She comes to enjoy the good gifts he purchases for her and the family.
  • She eventually gets to the point where she craves emotional connection with her husband rather than material things.
  • She begins to feel that he is emotionally unavailable, always working on something.
  • She is cautious to verbalize what she needs due to fear of his justification, blaming, anger, or temper.
  • She begins to feel unloved.

Road erodes over timeWhat’s Happening Here?

There is a high probability that two people will be attracted to someone with a different overall temperament nature than themselves.  This is especially true with first marriages and young marriages.  However, older men and women, as well as individuals who have been previously married, tend to search for someone who understands them more so than someone who complements them.

In the scenarios I listed above, here are some of the dynamics that evolve in this relationship over the course of years:

  • He is drawn to her because of her beauty, outgoing nature, and ability to give and receive affection.  This is because a man with this temperament type is very accomplishment oriented.  And the ultimate sign of accomplishment is to have a beautiful, content woman on his arm.
  • She is drawn to him because he represents stability, hard work, common sense, and consistency.  This is because women with the Sanguine or Supine temperament recognized their lack of these traits, and find security in having a man who personifies them.  This makes the woman feel very safe as they go through life.  Whereas the man public displays his beautiful woman on his arm, the woman displays the material gifts her husband has showered her with as his best means of showing his love.
  • Children enter the picture, and the couple become more involved with them than they do each other.  The husband feels driven to work hard to earn the money to provide all of the things the ideal family needs (e.g. nice house, reliable vehicles, vacations, saving for kids college, saving for retirement), and in some cases to be the kind of father he didn’t have when he was growing up  The wife becomes fixated on raising children who measure up to the ideal she has carried in her mind for years, whether a duplicate of her childhood or the total opposite.  In some ways this may be more of a fantasy than reality.
  • Years pass and the children have either become active, independent teenagers, or in some cases have grown up and moved on to college, work, or just life.  This leaves the husband and wife as the primary dichotomous relationship again, probably for the first time in close to twenty years.  And they struggle to remember what they have in common.  The wife has put on a few pounds and is tired from having raised the kids and managed the household.  She just wants to be nurtured and appreciated.  The husband is stressed, busy, and hyper-responsible for countless endeavors outside the house.  He wants to be respected and appreciated for all of his hard work over the years.

In my next posting I will go into detail as to how a couple can prevent this scenario in their lives, as well as recommendations for what they can do now to save and revitalize marriage.

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