Saturday, August 1, 2009

How to save my Troubled Marriage??

When Alicia first met Tim, she found him outgoing, charming, and easy to talk to. She thought he was very witty and funny, always the life of the party with everyone gathered around him. Yes, he flirted a lot, but while he was talking, he’d turn to wink at her, take her hand, or put his arm around her shoulder as he continued talking.

But sometime in the two years following their marriage, Alicia started feeling differently about Tim’s extraverted side. It seemed to her that he was flirting too much and too blatantly while she sat on the sidelines, feeling left out. Most of the time, Tim didn’t even introduce Alicia as his wife, which made her feel he was either ashamed of her or trying to “pull a fast one.”

Anytime Alicia tried to tell him that she was feeling hurt by his flirting, he told her she was over-reacting.
Not knowing whether she was truly reading too much into his behavior, she always backed off.

As Tim’s excessive flirting continued, Alicia became increasingly more hurt, resentful, and withdrawn. The emotional climate in the marriage cooled considerably and the marriage became less satisfying to both of them. Neither one knew what to do.

Flirting on the part of a spouse causes marriage problems for numerous couples. And it can at times be difficult to distinguish between a spouse with an extraverted personality who just naturally likes to joke and kid around, versus the partner who is continually “on the make.” Over time, the difference usually becomes more obvious because the partner “on the make” often gives himself or herself away at some point.

Why Do Spouses Flirt with Others?
Flirting behavior has varying causes. If you have known your partner for a long time and have never had any reason to believe he or she has cheated on you, then you are probably married to an extravert who has a flirty personality. There’s no intention of going any further or getting sexually involved with someone else. This can still be annoying and frustrating, but at least you basically know what you’re dealing with.

Spouses can also engage in flirting to meet their own emotional needs such as feeling liked, being popular, or being thought of as funny or entertaining. Excessive flirting can be a sign of someone who is trying too hard to attract and keep attention focused on himself or herself because they are needy emotionally.

A wife may, for example, flirt to reassure herself that she is still sexy or attractive to other men. She may be anxious about getting older and losing her appeal. A man may do the same because he is distressed by the effects of aging and losing his hair. So the flirting makes him feel more virile and that he hasn’t “lost it.”

Flirting can also be a passive-aggressive way of getting even with a partner. The spouse may have felt rejected sexually and emotionally, so the flirting can be a message to the partner to shape up or risk losing the marriage. It can also be an attempt to get the spouse’s attention, hoping to make him or her jealous and bring about an increase in the marital passion.

Excessive flirting can even simply be a way to deliver the message, “Aren’t I cute? Aren’t you lucky to be with me? I hope you appreciate that I could be with someone else, but I’m with you.” This would be an example of a spouse with some basic insecurities wanting to impress the partner and get validation that they are attractive and a “good catch.”

Flirting can also be motivated by wanting to deliberately hurt and punish the spouse for something he or she did. This is a very destructive type of aggressive flirting which can create many marriage problems. There is a high probability that a spouse who is in this category will engage in sexual relations with others as a part of carrying out the punishment he or she believes the partner deserves.

You will need the help of a competent, experienced counselor to determine the best course of action for you to take if your spouse is in this category.
And, of course, consistent excessive flirting can be a sign of someone with a sexual addiction who is constantly on the prowl looking for his or her next sexual contact and conquest. A spouse in this category needs professional help from an addictions counselor, but the help won’t be effective unless the person wants to be helped.

It’s important to remember that the addictive behavior isn’t about you at all—it has nothing to do with your looks, your ability to satisfy your spouse, or whether you’re a “good wife” or “good husband.” You didn’t cause the addiction.
Unless your spouse falls into one of the last two categories discussed above (the “punisher” or the “sexual addict”), one of the steps you can take is to write a letter outlining your feelings.

In the case of Alicia and Tim mentioned in the opening paragraphs, Alicia could tell Tim how much the fact that he doesn’t introduce her to others as his wife hurts her feelings. She could ask for him to include her in the conversations, to put his arm around her, to hold her hand, or to turn and smile at her occasionally. That way she is telling him some things he could do to lessen her anxiety and distress.

Another thing Alicia could do is to become more assertive about speaking up, becoming a part of the conversation when Tim is flirting, and letting people know that she’s Tim’s wife. If Tim says, “This is Alicia” when introducing her, Alicia could say, “Nice to meet you. I’m Tim’s wife.” Note that I’m not advocating that Alicia follow Tim around or try to “catch” him in flirting behavior—that’s a recipe for disaster.

But I am suggesting that when she is already present, she can casually drop into conversation that she and Tim are married, such as “It’s fun to have such a witty husband! Tim has always been able to make me laugh.”
Don’t get into an argument about whether you are over-reacting to your spouse’s flirting. Say upfront that you realize the two of you have differing perceptions and you’re not accusing him of doing anything wrong.

You just know that if you don’t share your feelings and feel heard you may have resentments and hurt feelings that build up and eventually harm the marriage. You want to feel your spouse has really listened to your concerns, your spouse cares about your feelings, and that your spouse is willing to try some new behaviors that will provide you the reassurance you need.

You could also suggest the two of you see a counselor if the letter writing and talking don’t accomplish what you want. If your spouse is still convinced the only thing that needs to change is for you to be more accepting of the flirting behavior, then counseling could help. When suggesting counseling, you might need to focus on wanting to get advice from the counselor to help you make the changes you need to. If you focus on wanting to get your spouse to a counselor so he or she will change, your attempts will probably fall flat.

The bottom line is that spouses who love each other and are in a healthy marriage will want to listen to their partner, take their feelings into consideration, and take steps to improve communication and intimacy. Showing consistent disrespect and disregard for a partner’s feelings and perceptions indicates there are serious marriage problems lurking beneath the excessive flirting behavior—and it’s time to seek professional help.

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