Bella Vida Therapy

Molly Papp, MS, MPH, CSAT, LMFT #88196

Bella Vida Therapy

Molly Papp, LMFT

You deserve a beautiful life

Sex, intimacy, and relationship therapy

Taking Turns: How Equality in a Relationship Shifts

Can you relate to being a kid and screaming, "But it's not fair!" when you didn't get your way? And your mom would predictably let you know that, "Life is not fair." As much as you couldn't understand it then, mom was right. Life often is not fair and that's a hard pill to swallow as a child when we learn for the first time how to cope with inevitable disappointments from parents, friends and teachers.

What about relationships? Are they fair? Not always. In my work with couples this issue comes up often. One person will feel neglected when the other has a period of time where, for whatever reason, be it work/illness/family issues, they require more attention. The couple dynamic suffers often because the balance shifts. It's no longer "fair." The neglected person feels that they are not being valued or listened to. In other words, they feel their needs are not getting met.

So what do I tell them? For starters, I repeat those words that my mom told me some 20 years ago. You are absolutely right, it is not fair. And you have to be okay with that. Because in reality, relationships require trading off. There will be some times (days, months, maybe even years), when one person will really need that extra support from their partner. And the dynamic shifts remarkably. Some couples cannot stand these cosmic shifts and crumble with the new relationship structure.

Don't get me wrong: I am not advocating just being the supportive spouse 100% of the time while your needs go completely unmet. This is where I want to shout to my clients: COMMUNICATE!!
Tell your lover what you need. Below are a few examples of ways to balance the partnership again so you are not left feeling disconnected:

Ask for:
1. Physical connection (hug, kiss, sex)
2. A date night where you can talk and reconnect
3. Time for you to be the one to vent and share about your day/life (some couples trade off with 10 min a day spent reviewing how they are feeling and each person takes a turn)
4. Whatever else you need

Remember you timing as well. The best time to ask for whatever you need is not after a long day where your husband or wife has been dealing with their main issue and is tired, hungry and stressed. It's when things are calm and it is a safe time to talk. (like after the kids are in bed or on the weekends when you have some down time)

Every person in the relationship deserves love, respect and care. No, it won't always be fair or even. Long-term love is not a competition, it's a team effort. When one member gets injured, the other rises up to support them so that when they get hurt in the future, they will have that support in return. It may not be the sexiest of ideas, but it's true. So the next time your love is complaining yet again about their difficult boss, just nod your head and validate their frustrations. Trust me, you will get your 'turn' again. In the meantime, be a rock for the person you love. They will appreciate it and your love will grow even stronger.