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January 25, 2013

Spouse has lost that loving feeling

Qualities that once seemed attractive in partner need another look

Dear Susan: Compared to my friends’ husbands, who are very ambitious, my husband is totally easygoing. I was originally attracted to him because of his laid-back ways, but I resent it now that we’re married.

Dear reader: This complaint is a familiar one to marriage counselors: the qualities that were attractive before marriage often have become an irritation after marriage. Why does this happen?

During the courtship phase of a relationship, there are no obligations. It is a fun, romantic time when two people are exploring their attraction to one another. After marriage, there are obligations. Then, the very qualities that make someone a fun companion and lover can make him or her a less-than-fun spouse.

Another possible reason for a change in feelings may have to do with preconceived notions about the words “husband” and “wife.” If your notion of “husband” is a hard-driving workaholic, you may have unrealistically expected your easygoing lover to magically turn into someone completely different when he became a husband.

It isn’t really helpful to your relationship to compare your mate with other husbands. For while you find their ambition appealing, they may have other qualities you would find very unappealing.

In marriage counseling, we sometimes ask people to make a list of the qualities and behaviors they (not society, not their families) want in their life partners. And we ask them to think in those terms — partners in life rather than “husband” or “wife.” They are often surprised to find that their spouses have many of the qualities they value. They have forgotten their partners’ positive qualities because they have become so focused on the negative.

The key question that must be answered is: Overall, do your partner’s easy-going ways contribute to the relationship in a positive or a negative way? If an easygoing partner causes problems with financial or parental obligations, that has a negative effect. But, if an easy-going partner is loving, considerate, and brings a sense of calm to the relationship, his lack of ambition may not be that important. In either case, marital counseling can help you learn healthy ways to deal with your personality differences.

Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., teaches people to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at susanbritt1@verizon.net or 978-546-9431.

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