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Are You Married to a Stranger?

By Debbie Mandel

In many relationships some as soon as the second year of marriage, others after the seven-year itch and a couple of kids and then unexpectedly many after the silver anniversary Ė ďI woke up one morning and realized that I am living with a stranger. Is this all there is?Ē

Feeling estranged in a marriage has a scientific explanation with anthropologists like Helen Fischer at the forefront explaining that itís inevitable as we are not designed for long lasting romantic monogamy from an evolutionary standpoint and the best we can hope for is companionship with a truce. However, I would like to think that spiritually and intellectually we are much more than animals and insects responding to pheromones. Letís look at this stressful problem from the opposite perspective to reframe it, so that your relationship can immediately improve.

Consider this: What has ended is your phony, pretentious idea of what your partner should be.
  • Did you expect a clone?
  • Did you have an idealized version in your fantasy?
  • Did you expect that your spouse would never grow or change?
This falling out of love is not driven from your spouse, rather it emanates from you. Itís about time that you really see the individual you are living with and appreciate his strengths and skills. No human being can compete with your fantasy lover. And remember that you would never nag a fantasy lover! A successful relationship runs like a well-run business, a team approach, with each member having an individual skill-set and together you can give wing to your dreams.

Living with another person means that you have to become aware of your personal stressors and learn how to manage them. When you are stressed, you donít like yourself very much. How can you expect to like him? Also, remember your spouse has stressors too. Stress saps your vitality, distorts your perceptions and robs you of self-love. You are running on empty and in this depleted state you have lost the ability to reason right. To my chagrin I have observed high powered women who were scheduled up the kazoo leave their marriages feeling that they could do much better with a new knight in shining armor.

One such sad story stands out in my mind as a modern day fairytale. A sociology professor with three children began to sneer at her husband who had a jewelry business. After thirteen years of marriage, she felt that she had outshone him intellectually. To her he was a simple man earning a living for the family, no one dazzling to be with. Meanwhile all kinds of men were flirting with her and she believed she could have her pick of many possible suitors. She divorced her husband and became excited with the fantasy of a new romance and a new marriage of happily ever after. Guess what? Her husband remarried a woman ten years younger than her and created an artistic diamond ring for her to wear. They have two young children of their own. Unfortunately, the professor learned a lesson that all the men who were courting her, only did so while she was married! Now that she is free, they run for higher ground. She is still alone, but she is successful at work. It is a little tiring to raise the children alone. She admits that her husband isnít so bad after all.

Minimize your stress and you will maximize your marriage. Carve out time for yourself and rev up your romance with life. Donít be estranged from yourself. Remember this formula: Happy me = Happy Us.

If you wake up one morning and look at your spouse in bed and see a stranger, thatís wonderful! Because now you can make love with a stranger and it isnít a betrayal. You can rediscover this ďstrangerĒ as boredom falls by the wayside.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of 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: