Jaime and Shar have been good friends since grade school. Maids of honor at each other’s weddings, both feel lucky to be in stable marriages. They know Jaime is more content in her marriage than Shar. But they don’t appreciate how big an advantage this gives Jaime, in all areas of her life.
Some marriages are stronger than others
When Jaime comes home from a stressful day at work, she’s relieved and appreciative as she anticipates being with her partner. A hug, an arm around her shoulder, and a chat to catch up and share the day’s major ups and downs are all she needs to de-stress.
Her views of herself as good enough, capable, and valuable to the world are strengthened by the warm welcoming in her partner’s eyes. With renewed energy, and with a strong sense of working as a team, Jaime and her spouse go about the evening with relative ease. They handle the kids’ problems and needs with confidence and humor.
With some energy left as the kids settle down, Jaime engages in a creative project. She has a meaningful, phone conversation with a friend. Jaime and her spouse connect again at the end of the day in the bedroom with warmth and intimacy.
When Shar comes home from a stressful day at work, she feels hope to connect with her partner. She also has some dread there will be distance instead of feelings of closeness between them. Shar is tense, gearing up as she enters the home, vigilant to cues all is not well.
Picking up on cues of distance in her partner, Shar ignores her own needs and tries to avoid putting any demands on the relationship. She resolves to take care of herself and the kids, and to get through the evening. Her feelings of being important and worthy of care are diminished.
Shar becomes overwhelmed at a particularly challenging moment, and snaps at the kids. When the kids go to bed, she relaxes with some wine and checks out for the rest of the evening. She and her partner are polite as they do their own thing. While they’re happy to avoid a fight, they’re aware of the tension between them. Shar hopes not to face pressure to have sex as they get ready for bed.
Relationship strength affects all areas of well-being
The difference in Jaime and Shar’s physiological states, day after day, have significant consequences for their well-being. One physiological state represents safety, connection, and well-being; the other represents danger, isolation, and threat.
Our nervous systems operate very differently in these two states. One is a state of nurturing, calmness, and flourishing. The other is a state of stress and survival. It’s no wonder that Jaime finds herself faring better than her friend physically, mentally, socially, and financially.
Work together to develop a good relationship
We all deserve to be in a relationship like Jaime’s. If you are in a relationship more like Shar’s, it is important to work with your partner to grow your relationship. Doing so will benefit both of you, your children, and your community.
You don’t need to know how to develop your relationship to have one like Jaime’s. All you need is to find a trained couple therapist that you and your spouse both like.
If you’re in a relationship more like Shar’s than Jaime’s, what do you and your partner need to take the first step?