**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a client, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.
Calm relationships are not always what they seem. The absence of discord can signify an unspoken yet powerful, dysfunctional dynamic between two people.
"Harry" knew he wanted to build a life with his wife "Linda" early on in their courtship. "We complemented each other," he recalled.
They were both ambitious and hard-working. Linda was a teacher with her mind set on becoming a principal someday, and Harry was a pediatrician. Each of them loved their work and was dedicated to their respective careers.
"It wasn't our work schedules, as much as our laser focus that got in the way,” Harry said regretfully. "We would be in the same room but miles apart."
The pair struggled to make time for their relationship and emotional needs. With the added stress of everyday life and the constant hum of busyness, the relationship began to unravel.
"Linda noticed it first and tried to talk to me about it," Harry said. "But I brushed her off, which was a habit of mine."
After several attempts to shift things in the relationship, Linda buried herself in her work. "I think she thought I would come around sooner or later."
The years passed quickly, and they each climbed in their careers, but their marriage suffered.
"We didn't fight, mostly because we barely talked," he said. "Looking back, I can see all the effort she put into scheduling vacations, buying lingerie, and stuff like that. But it fell on deaf ears. I'm sure she felt like she was spinning her wheels."
The veil didn't lift from Harry's eyes until the divorce papers were served. "By the time I got home that afternoon, she'd already moved out."
Harry was floored. He'd been so busy he hadn't noticed the signs of a disintegrating marriage. But he wasn't ready to throw in the towel.
In a last-ditch effort, he filed for delay of the divorce proceedings while he worked on winning her back. He reached out to her, apologized for his lack of attention, and promised to do whatever it took to improve things.
"I finally saw all the signs," Harry said. "But it wasn't until it was almost too late that I realized what was important to me."
When silence screams
It's a common assumption that failing relationships are often rife with drama and fighting – and while, in many cases, this is true, it's not always the case. When couples are stuck in a pattern of unexpressed frustrations, the resulting silence can be louder than any argument.
The communication breakdown can be easy to miss, especially when you're both so focused on your own goals. But if left unchecked, it can lead to deep-set resentments and, ultimately, the end of a relationship.
"People who communicate well are able to clearly express themselves and their needs and understand the expectations that others have set for them. But this isn’t a skill that always comes naturally and it can take time and practice to truly master." —Marissa Moore, PsychCentral
"I thought that not fighting was good," Harry admitted. "But I realize now that it was a sign of something much deeper and more damaging."
Quiet quitting is nothing new in relationships, but we must recognize when it's happening and take corrective action.
Unresolved issues fester and grow in silence. To keep a healthy relationship, couples must be willing to take the time to talk about their feelings, needs, and expectations. A little effort can go a long way.
Prioritizing each other
Career aspirations are admirable, but it's important to remember that a relationship is more than ambition and accolades.
"I should have put Linda first,” Harry said. “My career wasn't worth the cost of our relationship."
It's easy to get swept up by climbing the ladder, but if you don't make time for each other, those outside achievements will eventually be meaningless.
"Prioritizing is about being intentional. You can start prioritizing your spouse by becoming a better listener and showing an interest in their activities while being mindful to include them in yours." — Hope Gillette, PsychCentral
Now that Harry and Linda are invested in prioritizing their relationship and each other, they have a newfound appreciation for the moments they spend together.
"We don't take each other for granted anymore," Harry said. "It's like there's a kind of magic in our relationship now."
Have you ever felt disconnected in your relationship? What did you do to repair it? Share your stories in the comments.
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