Jim could not figure out what his wife wanted. Jessie told him yesterday that she had gone to see a lawyer about getting a divorce. Though they had talked about it before, this devastated him. He loved his wife and children, did not cheat on her, worked hard for a living and tried to provide everything they needed. A divorce was the last thing he wanted. Yet it was staring him right in the face.
He could not understand why his wife was unhappy, always complaining, and never wanted any physical affection. Yes, they had their differences. But he wanted to resolve them.
Jessie came in with Jim at our next counseling session. An event had triggered her trip to a lawyer. Jim had been taking their daughter to Saturday practice. While his daughter played he went to have a few beers with a couple of the other mothers. Over the last year he had become close to one mom and considered her his best friend.
Jessie had complained on a number of occasions about this. She said she was uncomfortable and worried about their close relationships. More than a few times, she had asked him to stop seeing this mom. But Jim, wanting to see his friend, kept going, even after Jessie had talked about divorce. Jim protested that she was a friend, and only a friend. He could not understand why his wife was angry and upset.
During the session, more came out. In a way, it was a typical scenario. This couple had not been close for some time. Jim seemed angry and distant. Jessie would pick up on this and back off. She felt a little intimidated by Jim and took to heart his critical comments. They began to argue more and more. Tensions rose in the household. The two rarely went out on a date. Physical intimacy dropped off. They couldn’t talk about anything except the day to day details of running a household. Jessie began to think that Jim did not like her and maybe did not love her.
Against this backdrop, Jim began his friendship with the mom. He liked her, laughed with her and spent time with her. They grew close.
Meanwhile, Jessie saw this and felt hurt and afraid. She wanted to be close to Jim, but felt fear that he didn’t seem to want her. She suspected that she was not high on Jim’s list of priorities because he rarely wanted to spend time with her. It hurt to see Jim seeking out his friend. It must mean that her suspicions were true: she was simply not that important to him. When he continued to spend time with his friend, even after she asked him not to, it confirmed her worst fears. Jim really did not care that much about her. After all, he chose his friend over her.
Jessie wanted a partner who cared for her, wanted to spend time with her, talked to her, and let her know that she was Number One in her life. She wanted Jim to be her best and closest friend.
I am not going to say Jim was right or wrong. Each couple must decide what to do in situations like this one. The choices vary. I do know that in the past, it was enough that Jim was a good provider. It was enough that he didn’t gamble or drink, too much, that his income was stable and he spent some time with the kids. Some couples adopt this model and find happiness within it.
But others desire more. Their partnership is based on their close and intimate connection with each other. These individuals want to know that they are the top priority in their partner’s life. They need to believe that their mate will place them above anything else in the world.
This is what she really wanted. And most men want the same thing.
Copyright by Joseph Dragun, Ph.D