A Tale Of Two Houses

The other day I met a friend for breakfast and as we were being seated, so was a married couple right in my line of sight. As I enjoyed the company of my friend, I couldn’t help but notice the couple. They were probably in their late 40’s or early 50’s and it was just the two of them together. As I glanced at this couple, I noticed very clearly that they weren’t talking to each other but were both playing with their cell phones; punching the screens and such.

Sitting together but looking down at their phones. This behavior went on for an awkwardly long time. Finally, the couple’s food arrived and small talk ensued. I heard the husband comment on how good the bread was and the wife nodded yes in agreement. As the breakfast progressed, they chuckled a few times together but mostly just ate in silence and took a few additional glances at their cell phones. As I sat and took in what I was seeing, it got me to thinking. How many couples go out for a meal and find themselves with little to talk about and how does this happen to a couple? I would argue that it happens slowly overtime while people aren’t noticing; at least some of the people.

After counseling with couples for many years, I have noticed a repeating pattern. I believe that there are two types of spouses and the difference between them depends on whether a spouse notices the lack of emotional attachment that exists within the marriage and desires for more.

Many couples live in the same house but really there are two different experiences of married life happening within the home; one is content with the status quo and the other is not.

For example: Spouse A can enjoy a marriage that isn’t fully emotionally bonded. The married life probably includes raising children, going on vacations, building the family financial portfolio, wearing wedding rings, having couple friends and basically what I call the “business of marriage.”  The relationship between the partners is friendly perhaps and could be described as comfortable. If you ask Spouse A if they are happily married, they will honestly answer yes.

However, Spouse B desires for something deeper than Spouse A. Spouse B enjoys all the above mentioned parts of marriage, but would like it to include an authentic emotional connection.  If you ask Spouse B is they are happily married, they will be able to articulate exactly what is missing in the relationship. They are noticing the poison in the water before Spouse A is aware of it.  However, Spouse B’s concerns are often ignored and therefore lasting change within the marriage sadly doesn’t occur. Why would it? Spouse A might be unmotivated to change since life is pretty good from his/her perspective.

The natural inclination is to believe that men are usually Spouse A and women are Spouse B. Not so fast there! I have seen more husbands in counseling who are Spouse B then wives. Telling the truth!

If I had been able to ask the couple sitting across from me at breakfast how they got to the point in their marriage that they would rather play on their cell phones then talk to each other, I would bet money that one would be a Spouse A and other would be a Spouse B who gave up and stopped fighting for connectedness with their spouse. So they sit and aside from a few pleasant exchanges they basically ignore each other and people like me notice it.

This emptiness needs to be avoided; it’s bad for the soul. In order to do so, we have to be honest with ourselves and ponder the question of whether we are authentically happily married. If the answer is no, we need to talk to our spouse about what is missing in the relationship. If the two people can’t fix things themselves, they need to see a counselor. Deadness in a marriage will not repair itself and it only grows worse with the passing of time.

If you can honestly say that you are happily married, then go ask your spouse about how he/she feels about being in the marriage. Really listen to what your spouse tells you and if they are a Spouse B, fix things before it’s too late. Years and years of unconnectedness is very difficult to repair, so getting headed in the right direction today is essential.

Marriage and long-term relationships take work but it does NOT have to deteriorate to two almost-strangers doing life together in close proximity. Many couples enjoy lasting bonds throughout the years. It is possible. Don’t believe the lie that all couples end up disconnected. Get busy fixing things before all bonds are lost and the relationship is irreparable.