Recently on the local news channel, a story appeared regarding a court case involving the issue of a woman who claimed that she was consistently raped by her husband. This brought to mind a case that I dealt with many years ago in my role as a psychotherapist. I remember that very early in my career, a middle-aged couple approached me for marital therapy. They were a handsome couple who ostensibly appeared happy in their relationship if fifteen years. They indicated that they had two children who were now in their adolescence. The problem that they brought to therapy was defined as the wife’s claiming that her husband repeatedly raped her while her husband vehemently disagreed, indicating that it was his right and privilege to have a sexual encounter with his wife of seventeen years whenever he wished. Furthermore, he was accusing her of becoming “cold” and non-sexual as the marriage progressed over the years … that in the early years of their marriage she was most eager to engage him sexually. She, on the other hand, tearfully said that over the years, her husband’s demands bordered his ordering her to comply with meeting his needs instead of involving her in lovemaking.
While the wife was in tears, her husband adamant about his conjugal rights as a husband. To be honest, I felt a bit like I had taken on the role of Solomon in this repartee of offsetting perceptions. Instead, though, what I chose to do was to question each partner abut what the other was saying about them to determine whether they would each be able to gain some insight into the dilemma. Starting with the husband, I very carefully chose other words that the wife was expressing but with the same meaning to determine whether he could identify with her plight. I asked whether he felt the same way about lovemaking now as he did in the early part of their relationship. He started to talk about her frigidity and I stopped him and said that I was interested in how he felt about himself … not about his wife. He then proceeded to say that in the earlier days of their relationship, he may have been more attuned to her needs and when asked whether that satisfied him, he indicated that if it satisfied her, it satisfied him immensely and added to his pleasure as well.
I then turned to the wife and asked how she felt about becoming involved with her husband on a sexual level in the early days. She indicated that their relationship was most pleasurable and that she would do anything and everything that she could to please him which, in turn, pleased her to no end. She said that she felt more relaxed then and without the concerns of having children to care for; it was like they were able to savor that time without the need to be responsible for having a house and children which came later on. Both partners went on to describe the joy that they experienced in the early days of their marriage not just sexually but in the many simple things like taking long walks and bike riding that they did to bring them a great deal of pleasure … things that they had, over the years … stopped doing. When asked why they stopped they both looked at one another at the same time and responded with the same answer: “We just ran out of time.”
I wondered whether, if they were able to bring back some of the enjoyable activities and feelings that the so aptly described, they might be able to resume where they had left off. In fact, I asked them to forget about the sexual problem for which they approached therapy and concentrate only on doing the things together that brought them happiness and a sense of closeness. They agreed to do so for about a month. When they returned, they were beaming with happiness. They had done as I had asked and not only were they able to enjoy those events they had long forgotten, but their sexual life improved 100 fold.
As life brings on the responsibilities that surround us all, we tend to get lost in the true meaning of the relationships that we formed in the past. The present and future tends to appear very dim, dark and hopeless. Remembering what brought us together with our partner and reinvesting ourselves in the continuation of that process can often bring about the kinds of results that my little vignette portrayed. More often than not, it isn’t the love that we had for each other that has been lost. Rather, it is the cessation of those elements that firmed up that love in terms of what we did to further it and the good feelings that deep love brings.
(21 August 2013)
Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at www.charlesmbonasera.com.