“No one is angrier than someone doing the “right thing” and secretly wishing for something else.” – James Hollis
Jill and Barry are going to cross their 16th wedding anniversary soon. But she doesn’t anticipate it will be a happy occasion. The marriage has been struggling for years and the resentments she’s carrying are only getting heavier.
Marriage was nothing like what Jill imagined it would be:
- She thought they would share responsibilities equally.
- They would want similar things.
- She thought that he would care about what she needed (and meet those needs).
It seemed like his needs were always getting met, but that her needs were never a priority.
- He would go for a long bike ride in the evenings, rather than spending time together.
- He’d be able to work late at the office and not have to think about “Do we have anything that I could put together for dinner?”
- He was easily able to watch the game on TV or hang with his buddies without the guilt of everything that isn’t getting done.
She would often think to herself:
When is it my turn?
Do I get to pursue my interests?
When do I just get to put my feet up and relax?
That’s where her resentments began.
The was a silent contract Jill had made with Barry (but never told him about…hence silent).
It essentially stated that once married, we as a couple/family would take precedence over each of us as individuals.
The silent contract for Jill said something like:
“I, as the mother and wife, will ultimately prioritize the needs of the family over my own individual needs. This is how you will feel my love. You, the husband and father, should acknowledge that sacrifice and make similar accommodations in your own life. When that doesn’t happen, I will try to change your behavior with some form of talking, yelling, or attempts to control. If and when that doesn’t work, I will carry resentments, withhold my love and affection, and give you the silent treatment as punishment. Because that’s what my Mom always did to my Dad and they’re still married. It is at that point that you should realize what it is I need and make the necessary accommodations.”
“Oh and one more thing. I want to be able to talk to you about anything and I want to feel heard, supported, and cherished by you.”
I’m exaggerating a bit for effect, but think of it like this:
It is only in our long-term marriages that we have to navigate this delicate balance of being BOTH and individual AND part of a couple.
- When we were single, being an individual was easy.
- Women are taught to put others’ needs before their own. So we’re all too happy to demonstrate our love through self-sacrifice once we marry and have kids.
- Men are not taught that their needs are unimportant and resist giving up that sense of freedom.
Generally speaking, women need to maintain more of their individuality after marrying and men need to lean into being a partner inside something larger than themselves.
The health of relationships is typically found – not in the extremes – but somewhere in the middle.
It is absolutely possible to maintain a healthy sense of self AND be part of a thriving, loving partnership.
To do so, we have to become more conscious about our own needs and our silent contracts of what we expect in the relationship.
It’s okay to have some expectations of one another, but those that we carry have to be shared before we assume agreement.
If you’re ready to end the constant struggle and really get clear about whether or not you can fix the issues inside your marriage, I invite you to schedule a complimentary Truth & Clarity session to see if there’s a fit for us to work together.