Most women who take their marriage vows do so with the understanding, the unwritten agreement that their man will be home only: for dinner, weekends and holidays, and of course the occasional flu or sprain ("In sickness or in health"). However, the recession has changed the dynamics of the marriage contract. Here's what female readers have frantically emailed me: "I feel like I have adopted an adult child." "He wants to be included in everything I do like we are joined at the hip."
I need girlfriend therapy!" "Now he wants me to prepare three-course lunches for him while he doesn't do his fair share around the house." "Now that he's home, all he thinks about is sex. He wants a quickie when I am busy with my to-do list." In summation Prince Charming has turned into a channel surfing toad plopped on the couch with a ravenous appetite for...
You feel wed locked.
Clearly, you are experiencing a bit of road rage in your own living room. Before you run him over, make sure to shift gears. Self improvement means home improvement. This is the time to get yourself in balance and think straight. Consider the teachings of martial arts which resemble "marital arts." Don't oppose an aggressor's strength head on. Instead the idea is to yield to an oncoming force in such a way that it is unable to harm you, yet at the same time redirecting its strength away from you, guiding the force where you wish.
Here's how to get his attention. Don't waste it with judgment or nagging. Make him feel that he indispensable. If he can't feel safe at home, where can he? Learn the difference between force and power. Don't compel him; but do tune into him to expand your sphere of influence.
- Perception changes everything - see yourself as a team - each with a separate skill set and define your goals together. Based on your strengths, these are your daily tasks. Based on his strengths, these are his tasks. When he succeeds at a chore, heap on plenty of praise and he will gladly take on more.
- Nothing deadens the heart like routine. Schedule a series of little adventures. Research shows that boredom is a marriage-killer. Have some unscheduled fun like take a day trip - play hooky from work to be with him. If you always do quickies, stage a longer romantic scenario. If you never do quickies, then try one along with a change in location. Consider a quickie as an appetizer to be followed later on by a main course.
- Communicate calmly and compassionately that you need to cultivate your separate identity with your friends and promise that you will bring new stories to the dinner table. Encourage him to spend time with his guy friends.
- Keep growing and learning. Share your personal growth and inspire him to take classes, volunteer and attend lectures.
- Exercise together to manage your collective stress. Exercise and sex have a lot in common. Get physical together and enjoy the emotional benefits.
When he finally goes back to work, you will miss him- honest!
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Addicted to Stress: A Woman's 7 Step Program to Reclaim Joy and Spontaneity in Life
, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout
and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul,
a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com