The Sand Trap … Not Only in Golf

   Written by on October 30, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Melissa muttered through her tears, “Why am I the only one who cares about our marriage?  Doesn’t he care about me at all?”  Melissa and Sam have been married for over fifteen years.  She came to counseling because she was ready to call it quits.

gowinTrying to reassure her, I responded, “I suspect Sam cares a great deal for you.  Melissa, could it be he doesn’t know how to show his emotions?”  “But I have tried everything.  Short of spelling it out, I don’t know what to do.”  Melissa responded in frustration.  I said gently.  “I know lots of women are frustrated by this.  You’d like your husband to ‘get you’ and to understand your emotional needs.”  Melissa still crying asks, “Everything’s fine as long as he can ignore anything with emotions.  But, I’m forty years old and just tired of not feeling connected to my husband.  Am I asking for too much?”

No, Melissa is not asking too much.  As my husband (and it sounds better coming from him) likes to say, “All men are emotionally retarded.”  Melissa and Sam, like many couples, struggle with this difference, and their struggle has become part of their marriage dance:

• She pursues emotional conversations; he resists by watching sports, or going outside;

• She purchases self-help books; he makes excuses for never reading them;

• She finds occasions to spend quality time together; he puts his time and energy into his favorite past times;

• She wants to join an adult fellowship group; he is always too busy;

• She wants intense communications; he will only engage in light-hearted conversation;

• She wants commitment and responsibility; he looks for flexibility and sees nothing wrong with a little irresponsibility.

Men are taught to eliminate problems quickly, to avoid talking about emotions, and to dislike emotional intensity.  Women, on the other hand, are created to be relational with a nurturing nature caring for the well-being of others and are naturally able to handle emotional intensity.

Ok so is there an answer to this problem?  Yes and here are some points to consider as you are finding your way to change your marriage dance.

First, accept that both of you are partners in this dance.  Stop pointing a finger, step back, and look at your part.  It will take an effort by both of you to move your relationship into a healthy direction.  Denial is not needed, both of you must agree to change.

Second, find a neutral person or counselor who can help.  Remember even the best of athletes have coaches to help them identify what they need to change to become even better.  The neutral person should not be a close friend or member of the family; focus on neutral.

Third, don’t make this a power struggle.  This is a “C” word project; change comes through cooperation.  Pushing and running away will not solve this problem.  Both of you are responsible for ending this pattern.

Fourth, patience, patience, patience.  As the saying goes; Rome was not built in a day.  The principle fits this situation.  You are both trying to learn a new pattern.  Come up with a way to allow for a time out but this must include how you get back to the game.

Finally, encourage each other and reward yourself for positive changes.  Change is a progress.  Make a note of the times you, as a couple; have implemented co-responsibility for issues, as well as finding solutions to problems.  Thank her for controlling her emotions and giving you time to be in your man cave.  In addition, make sure you are giving your husband significant kudos for being willing to talk about touchy topics and his feelings.

Always, remember sand is for sand traps, not to bury your head in.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Colossians 3:9–10 (ESV)

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or


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