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LOVE BUSTERSOvercoming Habits That Destroy Romantic Love
By WILLARD F. HARLEY, JR.
Fleming H. RevellCopyright © 2002 Willard F. Harley, Jr.
All right reserved.
Karen couldn't even remember what it was like being in love with Jim. Whenever he was home, her stomach knotted up and she often felt sick. When they talked, which wasn't very often, she was usually defensive. Vacationing together was unthinkable-if she wanted to relax, he had to be far away. Could she survive this marriage long enough for her children to grow up? It was looking increasingly hopeless to her.
When I talked with Karen for the first time, she wanted a separation from Jim, one that would help her survive a few more years of their marriage. Their youngest daughter, Lisa, was thirteen. For Lisa's sake, Karen wanted to wait five or six years before divorcing Jim.
You may not be feeling as desperate as Karen felt that day but perhaps you know what she was going through-the fighting, the sarcasm, the disrespect, and ... the loneliness. But marriage is supposed to be different, isn't it? It should be a caring relationship, where a husband and wife treat each other with kindness and consideration, not with rudeness and anger.
Karen had expected her marriage to be that way-caring and thoughtful. And while she was dating Jim, she had no reason to expect anything else. He talked to her almost every day, focusing his attention on what he could do to help her, and he eagerly helped her whenever she had a problem; he changed his plans whenever they conflicted with hers; and he was rarely argumentative, usually willing to see things from her perspective. Again and again Jim proved to Karen that caring for her was his highest priority-and that made her feel very secure.
Jim had never known a woman as attractive to him as Karen, and-miracle of miracles-she liked him! She was not only beautiful, but she also showered him with affection and admiration. This was the woman he wanted for life; she seemed perfect in every way. Within a year they were married.
It wasn't long after the wedding that Jim felt the financial pressure of becoming a family man. Karen was pregnant and wanted to work fewer hours after their child arrived. Jim figured his income had to increase to make up the difference, so he decided to work longer hours.
With more of his time and energy spent at work, Jim's ability to meet Karen's emotional needs eroded. During her pregnancy, when she needed his emotional support more than ever, he now expected her to work things out on her own. Instead of factoring her needs into his plans, he seemed to cut her adrift. At least that's how Karen felt about the way he neglected her.
But from Jim's perspective, his thoughtlessness made sense. After all, he thought, we're both intelligent adults. She can take the car to the garage just as easily as I can. Why should she expect me to drop everything at work to do something she can do for herself. Am I her slave? Is she a princess?
At first, Karen was deeply troubled by his change of attitude, though she tried not to show it. She made a valiant effort to accommodate his new approach to their relationship, troubleshooting around the home, rearranging her schedule to fit his, but when she was alone, she cried. Why had he changed so much? Is it because I'm pregnant? Does he find me unattractive?
By the time little Andrea arrived, Karen's conviction that Jim cared for her had been seriously damaged. He had not only failed to support her during pregnancy, but he made matters worse by having little to do with Andrea after her birth. He was so focused on becoming a success at work that he had become a failure at home. Karen felt utterly abandoned. Maybe, she thought, he no longer loves me.
As the chemistry of their relationship deteriorated, her care for him deteriorated with it. In response to Jim's neglect of her, Karen began to neglect him. She no longer asked him how his day went. She did not show him much affection or admiration anymore. And she wasn't very enthusiastic about making love either.
Karen's Loss of Sexual Interest
Jim didn't pay much attention to the fact that Karen had stopped being affectionate or that she wasn't as admiring. But he sure noticed her loss of sexual interest. When they were first married, she had looked forward to making love to Jim, but now it was something she tried to avoid. Whenever they made love, she felt used.
One day Jim got up the courage to ask her what was going on. "Karen, what's happening to you? Why aren't you interested in making love anymore?"
"I'm sorry, Jim," she replied. "I just haven't been in the mood lately. I don't know why."
There were a host of common excuses that she could have used. After a child's birth the mother is usually exhausted much of the time, and sex requires energy. She could have used that as an excuse. Or, she could have focused attention on the fact that Andrea took away their privacy. But deep down, she knew that her loss of sexual interest had something to do with her feeling of being neglected by Jim. But she didn't think there would be any point in discussing it. He was excited about his career, they needed his financial support, and he kept telling her that he was giving her as much of his time as he could afford. What was there to discuss? Why even mention his neglect?
"What do you think it would take to get you in the mood?" It was difficult for Jim to raise the subject. He felt like he was begging.
But Karen wasn't making it easy for him, either. "I don't know," she answered. "I've never given it much thought."
The truth was that Jim had stopped doing the things that made Karen fall in love with him. He was not as supportive, not as accommodating, and worst of all, he spent very little time alone with her. Her emotional needs were not being met anymore. Consequently, she was not as motivated to meet any of his needs. Sex, it turned out, was something she felt like doing only when she knew that Jim loved and cared for her. Now she was feeling emotionally neglected, so what had formerly been effortless became very difficult.
While Jim and Karen were dating, they often expressed their feeling of love for each other. That's because those feelings were so strong, they could hardly avoid mentioning it. But when Karen's passion for Jim began to erode, she did not warn him. In fact, she kept telling him she loved him, when deep down she knew her feelings were changing. Her married friends told her that loss of passion in marriage was something she had to expect. After all, they said, passion was for newlyweds, not for couples who become parents. So Karen focused her attention away from Jim and toward Andrea. Her daughter became her highest priority in life.
From the beginning of their marriage, Jim and Karen had rarely discussed problems with their relationship. When one offended the other, it was usually shrugged off. But now they had a problem they could not shrug off so easily-or at least Jim could not shrug off. He didn't want to go through life with a sexually reluctant wife and he didn't know how to fix the problem.
If Jim had understood what was bothering Karen, he could have solved their problem rather easily. He had simply failed to meet her emotional needs and that had taken its toll on his sexual attractiveness. His career had become his highest priority instead of Karen. If he had gone back to doing what had drawn her to him in the beginning, cheerfully helping her whenever she had a problem, accommodating her in his schedule, and now that Andrea had joined them, taking an active role in the care of their new daughter, presto, the sexual problem would be solved! (See chapters 16 and 17 for that solution to Jim's problem.)
But Jim didn't understand how important it was to make Karen his highest priority. And his frustration introduced a new and destructive chapter in their marriage. He had a choice. He could solve his sexual problem with care and understanding or he could try to force the issue. Regretfully, he chose the latter.
The Road to Marital Disaster
One night, after Jim and Karen had gone to bed, he reached over to kiss her goodnight. Thinking he was trying to initiate love making, she pushed him away. Jim's feelings of resentment had been building for some time and her rejection pushed him over the edge. He was furious. Throwing her out of bed, he called her names and lectured her for half an hour about her bad attitude. All his resentment poured out in a moment of unrestrained rage.
Karen huddled in a corner, afraid he would hit her. She didn't dare say a word. Eventually he settled down.
When it was over, Jim felt much better. He had finally said what he had felt for such a long time. But Karen was a basket case. He started to apologize for losing his temper but then stopped himself. I'm glad I had the courage to say what I felt, he thought. Now we're getting somewhere!
They were getting somewhere all right but not where Jim thought. They were now on the road to marital disaster.
Jim put his arm around Karen, telling her how much he loved her. Still in the corner, she didn't dare push him away now. All she could do was cry. As he became more amorous, she let him do anything he wanted-eventually they made love. Jim felt it was one of their best sexual experiences ever. Karen felt raped.
Many women would have gone straight to an attorney the next day to end the marriage, but Karen believed she had married Jim for life. So after she had time to reflect on the nightmare she had experienced, she made some decisions that she thought would help her survive.
First, she would never be found cowering in a corner again. Next time he lost his temper, she would fight fire with fire-let him know what a creep she thought he had become.
Second, because Jim got what he wanted by forcing his will on her, she would get what she wanted by forcing her will on him. In the past, when she needed something from him and he refused, she would do it herself. Now she would not accept no for an answer. She would demand what she wanted.
Third, she would learn to emotionally distance herself from Jim. He did not hit her that fateful night but he hurt her deeply-emotionally. She would remain married to him but never again become so emotionally vulnerable. She had already been doing almost everything without him, but she had remained emotionally bonded to him in the hope that some day they would return to the passion they once had for each other. But now she was convinced that her only hope for survival was to create a life of her own that was completely separate from his, physically and emotionally.
Karen made one huge concession, however. What made him so angry was his unmet need for sex, so anytime he wanted sex, she would oblige him. She felt it was her duty as long as they were married. She would even try to enjoy it but she knew she would never again feel sexually attracted to Jim. So she would pretend he was a fantasy lover.
At first, Jim thought his prayers had been answered. Whenever he wanted sex, he got it. And Karen seemed more passionate. For the first week they made love every night.
But the rest of their relationship was going downhill fast. Whenever Karen demanded help from Jim, even when he did what she wanted, it didn't really meet her emotional needs because she gave him no credit. He didn't help her because he cared for her, she reasoned. He helped her because she made him do it. Besides, she didn't even want him to do anything that would meet her most important emotional needs, because that would make her too emotionally vulnerable.
Instead, Karen began to demand that Jim give her more freedom to do whatever she pleased. She demanded more money to spend on herself and she spent almost all of her leisure time with her friends. Andrea was still Karen's highest priority, but she began to think that she had forgotten to care for herself all these years. So her own personal interests came in a very close second to those of Andrea. Jim's interests, of course, were near the bottom of the list.
Karen developed a weekly schedule that did not include Jim. She encouraged him to leave for work early and come home late. If he planned to be home for the weekend, she would plan to do something with her friends. She did not even deposit her own check into their joint account. The money she earned went into her own separate account and she made Jim pay as many of the bills as she could.
Despite all this distancing behavior, she stayed true to her decision to give Jim the sex he wanted-at least at first.
Though Jim now had no sexual complaints, he was still frustrated much of the time. He was particularly upset with Karen's failure to let him know where she was going or what she had been doing. Whenever he asked, she told him it was none of his business. When he argued with her about her secrecy, she would scream at him to leave her alone. Then she would threaten to leave him. That was usually effective in backing him off.
Jim might have been willing to suffer through the bad marriage for the rest of his life if Karen had made love to him every night, but, as it turns out, her commitment didn't last very long. At first, she allowed herself to say no once in a while, but within a few months she was saying no almost all the time.
Actually, her commitment was poorly conceived. None of us can force ourselves to do something that's unpleasant indefinitely. Sooner or later we all find excuses to avoid it. There's hardly a woman anywhere who can consistently make love to a husband she dislikes. And Karen was getting to hate hers. Eventually, Karen couldn't force herself to make love to Jim at all. Her stomach knotted up at the very thought of it.
The brief reprieve that had been brought on by frequent lovemaking came to an end. Jim and Karen were left with their independent lifestyles, demands, anger, disrespect, and dishonesty. No marriage can last very long with those weights dragging it down.
By the time they made their first appointment with me, they were not meeting any of each other's emotional needs. But what's worse, they were deliberately hurting each other. They could hardly remember what it was like being in love.
Stop the Train! Let Me Off!
Jim and Karen's experience is all too common in today's marriages. What starts out as a caring and thoughtful relationship often disintegrates into thoughtlessness. As a husband and wife stop meeting each other's needs and start hurting each other, their love turns into hate.
Some couples try to suffer through it for the sake of their children or their religious convictions. But most often, they decide that they are on the wrong train and they must get off-they file for divorce.
Excerpted from LOVE BUSTERS by WILLARD F. HARLEY, JR. Copyright © 2002 by Willard F. Harley, Jr.. Excerpted by permission.
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