A quick lesson in marriage/relationships

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I have a friend I work with sometimes who recently got separated; it looks like him and his wife will eventually get divorced.

They were together for eight-nine years, and married for four. I am not sure the time necessarily makes a difference, since these situations aren’t great whether it’s 20 years in the game or five. Probably what does make a difference is that they didn’t have kids. You can obviously make arguments on both sides of that equation. Some say a breakup without kids is for the best, because obviously kids won’t be affected. But then there’s the whole side about “staying together just for the kids.” You see studies sometimes where the “second kid turned 18” (i.e. goes to college) divorce rate is 13 percent higher than the normal American divorce rate. That’s the power of children — but also the dark side. They keep you in things you shouldn’t be in for the good of them.

I think it’s interesting when people break up. Not in a good way, but having been through breakups myself, I always wonder how others feel in that moment. (Aside from, well, “crappy.”) I asked my friend for a couple of lessons from his marriage/relationship and the answers were interesting, so I thought I’d share. This has literally nothing to do with overnight nurses, but young kids are a total game-changer for relationships — so there’s some time there.

Don’t forget the other person: I do think this happens in relationships a lot, especially because work is more stressful and time-consuming for a lot of people. If you throw kids on top of that, and then the necessity of “me” time, it feels like it can get pretty easy to forget the other person is there. A lot of people call this “Oh, we became just roommates.” But this isn’t a sex thing at all. It’s about real value and respect. My friend said: “Eventually on my side I just wasn’t providing that, and then she wasn’t, and it went in a circle.” I’ve heard that from other people too.

Make time and adjust: Just because two people get together or married doesn’t mean they like all the same things, or want to always be in the same places, etc. That’s somewhat of the “me” time above, but it’s also that sometimes you have to bend to the other person — and expect that in return. Maybe someone wants to hike, and someone likes to read, or someone likes happy hours, or whatever. It shouldn’t be all of one thing by any means, but you need to adjust for each other.

Sex is important: If this part isn’t there, you need to work on why it isn’t there and how to fix it. If you read any article about male/female psychology published in the last 50 years, one of the biggest themes is always that (and this isn’t necessarily a good thing) men show their emotional connection to others through sex, typically. Women do not. That dichotomy drives a lot of problems in relationships, but regardless, people need to make time for sex.

Communicate and work on problems: This is hard for everyone. Even though we’re consumed with negative thoughts all day, people are often uncomfortable discussing them — even with a partner. Relationships don’t work when communication goes out the window. (It’s the same in jobs, or in raising kids, or in anything else.) You absolutely have to communicate.

Be honest: This can erode as other aspects erode. Be honest and trust each other. Once that bedrock is gone, the whole thing is gone too probably.

None of the above is rocket science. There is an entire industry around marriage/relationship advice and a lot of it will say these things too. This is just one blog post. But I do think it’s important to remember these elements as you’re going about the messy business of creating a life and building a family.

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