Q: My husband and I have made a lot of progress in terms of
our relationship. We used to get into
physical fights, as well as verbal attacks. Through counseling, we’ve learned a lot about ourselves and each
other. We both have a long history of
being abused, and we both come from alcoholic families. Now that things are going better, why am I
A: It is a major step to have gotten into
counseling; obviously you have made considerable progress. Couples often have hopes and expectations
that if they resolve the “identify problem” in their lives such as physical
abuse, or alcoholism, or parenting issues then they will be happy.
The reality, most of the time, is that a
major and obvious relationship problem takes a lot of time and is the focus of
considerable energy (often at the expense of other aspects of the relationship
Perhaps you are finally at a time in your
life when you have an opportunity to re-evaluate yourself, your marriage, and
life in general. It is difficult to look
at the big picture when your life is in crisis on a daily basis.
Talk to your counselor and explore other
areas in your life that you may want to change or modify. A similar situation occurs when couples tell
each other “we’ll really live and be happy when the children are grown,” and
then are disappointed and confused when the children move out and they aren’t
You and your husband may need to get to
know each other again as you rebuild your relationship. Of equal importance is your individual growth
and development as independent people aside from your relationship.
How do you feel about the rest of your
life? You may have inherited a lot of
extra time now that you’re not spending most of your time fighting or being
scared. How are you using that
time? Does your life feel balanced among
family work and play? So you have time
alone that you enjoy? Do you have friends
that you feel close to? Do you want to
spend the next 20 years of your life the way it is now? If not, what would you want to add, delete,
or change to feel more satisfied?
You also mentioned that you and your
husband grew up with parents who were alcoholics. Think back to your childhood. Did it seem that everyday was a crisis or
that one crisis cropped up as soon as another passed? It is common for adults who grew up in
alcoholic households to be used to a crisis lifestyle.
On one hand they long for a calm, peaceful
life but it is so unfamiliar that they can initially perceive the calm as
boring. You may want to explore this
issue with your counselor as well. Perhaps you need more challenge and stimulation now that the fighting is
better under control.
If you don’t find excitement and challenge
in healthy ways there may be a tendency to go back to the old familiar patterns
of fighting. Fighting will shake things
up quickly; however, I suggest you find healthier, more satisfying ways to add
excitement and challenge to your life if this is the case. The first step is to know what you’re
feeling, understand and examine where you are in your life now, and then you
will be prepared to make some choices for the future.