Come on…you know you want to read on, but you are a bit afraid that your spouse will see you and ask, “What do you think is wrong with us?” So with that in mind I will “allow” you to channel your inner 8 year old, grab a flashlight and sneak under the sheets to read today’s post. Or, I guess you could be like Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle when she goes into the closet to hear Jonas talk about his lonely and grieving father played by Tom Hanks.
Either way…you do what you need to do because the Pink Elephant in your marriage is sniffing you and your issues out like a hot bag of peanuts on Opening Day. And, if I might ask, what is your interest in today’s post? Have you recently gone to sleep wondering why it is that you and your spouse can’t talk about the things that really matter in your marriage? Is it that you have been avoiding a topic for so long that you fear the dire consequences if it ever saw the light of day?
Has your love changed for better or worse? Have you gone in circles with your spouse without really bringing up the topic? Avoidance behaviors are learned early on in life and honed throughout to provide us with sample-sized packets of oxygen in a world full of smog. A quick breath and back to real life. Right? Does it have to be that way? Didn’t you and your spouse share everything with each other during the dating phase? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t—what matters is that the Pink Elephant rarely lies dormant for too long. As human beings we are bred to speak out, act out, live out, and shout out our thoughts and feelings. Now, many of us struggle to communicate the elephant in the room and as a result we play silly games with ourselves and our spouses.
We bring up issues that other couples are having in hopes that our spouse will then examine our relationship under the same lens. We get books, read books, and place books in strategic places hoping that SOMEONE in the family will see our silent cries for help. For years I wondered what the heck was going on with cherries! My mother had Erma Bombeck’s best-selling book, “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I Doing in the Pits?” I knew my parents struggled to communicate…I just didn’t know what cherries had to do with it and why it sat on our bookshelf. My mother is not alone by any stretch of the imagination. Human beings love to lay a crumb trail to be saved or to lay a trap for their relationships. I will leave it up to you to decide whether or not you have been laying traps or maps for you marriage.
For so many couples the issues are real and devastatingly personal. For many individuals the issues we avoid are often found in the following areas:
- Sexual Intimacy
- Family Finances
- Individual Health for Vanity and Longevity (Weight Gain/Drinking etc.)
Whether we avoid talking about our mother-in-law, how many children we really want to have, how to spend our incomes, or how many times a week we expect to be intimate is ultimately irrelevant to the larger issue in the relationship…which is..Why do we feel slighted or ignored by our loved ones?
Why is it that she can’t notice how hard I am working for the family? Why is it that he always assumes that we are going to be intimate when I just want a hug? Why can’t she protect me from her mother’s meddling? Am I not important? Do you not love me? Are you picking them over me?
We have all been there during moments of vulnerability. We both want to feel as if our spouse can read our minds and act accordingly, and do so in terms of love and mutual growth and not spiteful retribution. We want to go to bed each night feeling thought of and cared for by our partners. And, for men out there that say otherwise they are just fooling themselves and their spouses. Men and women do not want to feel judged or ridiculed for their attempts to navigate life—they want a partner that catches them when they stumble and alerts them when they are about to.What we do not want is to approach life in fear. We should not approach our marriages with an, “I told you so” attitude. We should not our marriages assuming we know or can predict the manner in which our partner will respond. It may be funny for Dilbert, but not for our day-to-day interactions…especially with our loved one.
So…what to do…when to do it….and what can you expect when you try to communicate? The answers to these questions are fundamental and yet require a healthy dose of originality from you. Talking about the pink elephant in the room will not be easy, but it sure will be fruitful for decisions made down the road. Remember this…when you can come to a point in your life and marriage where you can let the chips fall where they may…well, you will feel a sense of personal empowerment. So…without further adieu here are the basic steps to communicating those issues that gnaw at you more than you care to acknowledge…
- Choose a time that both parties are at their most relaxed and non-defensive state. Do not attempt to discuss sensitive and possibly shaming issues when emotions are running high.
- Begin with a statement about all of the things you love about your spouse, your continued commitment to loving them and the marriage and YOUR desire for continued growth for yourself first…the relationship second.
- Provide an acknowledgment of your role in the issue and any back-story as to why you believe your sensitivity levels are possibly higher than expected.
- Talk about how you think your behavior or avoidance has impacted the marriage and your partner and ask them if they have been feeling or suspecting the same issues.
- And finally…share with them your ultimate fear. Tell them the root fear you have if they reject your feelings (example: When we aren’t intimate I think that you don’t find me appealing and will ultimately look elsewhere).
These are but a few strategies with which to approach your partner. If your partner scoffs at your attempt…let it be on them. Maybe they need time just as you did to muster up the courage to speak in the first place. Don’t take an initial “No” as a long-term deterrent. If, after repeated attempts you get the same song-and-dance then you have the information to make decisions accordingly. Let’s be realistic here…the pink elephant may be very large and significant to the success or failure of your marriage—all you can do is be honest about your role, your commitment to the relationship and partner, and hope for a shared renewal of the values that brought you both together. If your partner continues to tease you with attempts and/or changes before resorting back to the original…then you can at least feel confident in the effort you gave the relationship. Some succeed and others choose to move on. Here’s hoping that you allow yourself and your partner the time to know the household pet you have been avoiding for so long.
All the Best!