Fixing a Marriage Does Not Necessarily Fix the Sex

I once knew a woman who had been going with her husband to marriage counseling for about a year when she admitted to me how disappointed she was that, while she and her husband were rarely arguing anymore, she didn’t feel like they were really connecting physically and emotionally. After all of the take-home assignments and communication exercises they’d been given, she and her husband were getting along more smoothly and working together towards their family goals. She said that her husband seemed happier and even their children seemed happier, but she was still sadly discontent. “What’s wrong with me?” she wanted to know.

When her mother-in-law applauded their “success” at counseling and commented about how lucky her daughter-in-law must feel to have such a great husband who was willing to “go the extra mile” for her, she said it took every ounce of her strength not to burst into tears. She wanted to correct her mother-in-law with, “Your son is a great roommate but I need a husband.” She felt like a fraud. I asked if she’d talked to the therapist about the intimacy disconnect she was still feeling and she held up her hands as if to stop me and said, “Believe me, I’ve tried. The only answer I keep getting is ‘the physical will follow.'”  But, it wasn’t. And she was miserable, blaming herself for being so unhappy despite the progress they’d made. I asked if they’d considered seeing a sex therapist and she laughed, “We don’t need a therapist for sex. We already know how to have sex.”

I’d like to be able to share a happy ending of this story, but the truth is, there wasn’t one. About a year later I heard from the woman again. She confided, “maybe we didn’t know how to have sex after all.”  She told me that her husband ended up moving in with another woman before their divorce was even final. I told her that his actions spoke more strongly of his character than of her, but she was adamant that their sex life — or lack of one — was the final curtain of the divorce. “He couldn’t get past seeing me as a mom,” she insisted. “And neither one of us could be really happy with a sexless marriage.”

 

 

Life is Messy

Life is messy. We all know it. It is inconsistent and contradictory. It can be smooth sailing one minute and topsy turvy the next. The only constant we can rely on in this world is change. Change often brings conflict and stress. That is why it is so important that when two unique souls come together in a relationship they set boundaries and expectations and have a clear vision for their relationship together as a team. Having cohesive boundaries and explicit expectations within any familial relationship are paramount to maintaining the mental and emotional health of each of its members. It is the only way that they will be able to weather the storms life throws their way.

My spice and I are such firm believers in the messiness of life that we chose it as our family motto, vita est nuntius (“Life is messy”). We didn’t chose this motto from a stance of fear or as a warning, per se; rather we proclaim life’s messiness as a rallying cry for our family to be always prepared. To know that we are always and forever on the same team. We want to live fully, facing Life head on; and we want our children to be brave when facing the messiness of living full and daring lives. Perhaps this decision to see our family as a team, as a unit, a clan (we are Clan Allen, after all), stemmed from my spice’s military experience as a Marine. He knows firsthand the importance of the semper fidelis.

When my children were young, I would tell them every time they left our home that they were entering the “mission field” as a reminder that they would face challenges to their faith, their beliefs, and their world as they new it — certainly not to instill fear, but to nurture their emotional and mental foundation, knowing that home, The Home Clan Allen Builds, is always their fortress of refuge and strength. Home is always the one place they can come to be loved and embraced fully for who they are.

Three of Clan Allen’s explicit expectations are that: (1) we are a team and stand together protecting our family from anyone or anything that might break up our unity, (2) we are to live to the best of our ability, and with God’s merciful help, Ephesians 4:31-32: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,” [which I’ll admit is often much easier quoted than done!]; and (3) only one of us gets to be “crazy” at a time. Again I’ll admit, this is easier said than done — especially when we had three teenagers in the home at the same time. Alas…

Of course it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Clan Allen. In our messy lives together, we’ve often had to remind one another, and especially our children, that Hey, we are on the same team here. Of course because life is messy, many boundaries have been crossed and expectations haven’t always been met, but having them in place has been the cornerstone of our family’s sanity. What boundaries and expectations have you and your partner, your teammate in Life, set for your familial relationships?

 

 

Secure Your Own Mask First

In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. … If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person. 

Ever wonder why we are asked to secure our own oxygen masks before assisting our children or companions? Of course, it makes perfect sense that if you only have 10-12 seconds of diminishing clarity before you pass out, you need to get oxygen and quickly. Clear logic dictates we must get oxygen into our own lungs; otherwise, we won’t be mentally alert and capable of properly caring for anyone who is vulnerable around us.

So why is this drill is repeated over and over on every single flight? Because oxygen is so important that it will lead to death if we are deprived of it for only a short time. And of course, a parent’s instinctual and immediate response is to save the life of their child first and foremost. In fact, almost any natural caregivers’ initial response is to assist those around them first … always intending to care for their own needs later; but the sad truth is that “later” never comes. That is why we need to be repeatedly reminded — especially in moments of crisis, when logic is most easily swept behind.

[T]he sad truth is that “later” never comes. 

That is why I’m using this tired metaphor to remind you, dear reader, of the real and imperative need for self-care. It is so crucial to a woman’s ability to be healthy and truly, clearly present for everything most important to her whether it be work, friends in need, family, her children, or anyone whom she holds dear.

Extreme self-care is an underpinning tenet for most life coaches and we impart that essential truth to our clientele. So please believe me when I tell you that you need singular “me” time to soothe and nurture You. I get it; you’re busy. And, if you’re a mom, your even busier. But there are always two or three Times in any relationship outside of self. There is a “Me” Time, a “We” Time, and if you have children or other dependents, there’s a “Family” Time. Absolutely each type of Time must be nurtured to maintain healthy relationships.

I get it; you’re busy.

The good news is that “Me” Time doesn’t have to be a vacation with Me, Myself, and I to the Riviera. It can be as simple as waking ten minutes before everyone else to sip a cup of coffee and pray or meditate for the day ahead. Or taking a warm twenty minute candle-lit bath before you fall into bed for the night. Just as long as you get your time alone, to yourself, will help; and no, locking the door when you have to pee doesn’t really count.

In this wonderful and wacky world, we cannot always expect friendly skies. Right now is a good time to remind yourself that you must get your own “oxygen mask on” first. Today is a great day to start preparing yourself for any turbulence ahead by getting in the habit of taking your oxygen.

***

Just FYI, here’s an interesting video highlighting the sciencey reason we cannot live, or even function properly, without oxygen. Not graphic. A bit disconcerting, but good to know.

 

Dear Exhausted Mom,

 

Do you ever forget to take care of yourself in the midst of all your exhaustion? Or do you feel selfish if you try to take care of yourself? If so, you are not alone. As women, we are constantly conditioned by society, media, and even family and friends that our most transcendent goal is that of Nurturer. And when we become mothers, this cultural expectation is exponentially exaggerated.

As women, we are constantly conditioned by society, media, and even family and friends that our most transcendent goal is that of Nurturer.

This is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The role of Nurturer is wonderful and supremely important — in fact it is crucial to the survival of our species! Problems arise when Nurturers forget to care for themselves. Always doing, giving, and caring for others can be seriously exhausting both physically and emotionally.

But, I don’t have to tell you that; however, I do want to remind you that self-care is essential to maintaining your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. I may not need to tell you that either, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded. Trying to keep up with society’s expectations of “The Woman Who Can Do It All,” women tend to overload themselves with responsibilities, in turn getting overwhelmed as we struggle to meet everyone’s expectations, even the unrealistic ones.

…women tend to overload themselves with responsibilities, in turn getting overwhelmed as they struggle to meet everyone’s expectations…

Speaking of expectations… are you setting sensible expectations for yourself? It’s imperative that we realize that there is only so much a human being can accomplish in the course of a day, week, month … a lifetime. What does your To-do list look like and how practical is it?  Trying to keep up with unrealistic expectations, even only the ones we set for ourselves, can make us feel like we’re hamsters desperately spinning our little legs off on our exercise wheels but getting nowhere. It’s difficult to celebrate even small tasks well-done because we see it stacked against the tasks yet to complete. This is a desperate and exhausting cycle.

If we don’t take the time to replenish our own inner resources, we won’t have the energy to properly care for others.

The bottom line is this: we can’t take care of other people when our own inner lives are in turmoil. If we don’t take the time to replenish our own inner resources, we won’t have the energy to properly care for others. Taking care of ourselves makes us mentally and emotionally stronger, which is always a good thing. Giving love, care, and support is a wonderful and even noble goal, providing we learn to love, care, and support ourselves.

With love from your fellow mom,

CLC Signature

Clan Allen circa 2012
Clan Allen circa 2012.