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What happened to you?
Q: When I first met my partner, she – “Shana” – had all the time in the world for me. Shana even left work, at times, to have an extended “noonie” with me. She was over my place constantly, nightly and on weekends. For at least a year, life was wonderful with Shana. We played, went to restaurants, concerts, movies – you name it. We had time for friends and each other. I felt loved and valued by her, so we had a commitment ceremony and nested together.
But after we moved in together, that all ended. She began working long hours and said she was too tired to go out, have sex, or have time with our friends. It’s like she shot her wad “courting” me and has been at work or flopped out on the sofa ever since.
We get into fights about it and she says that she has had to do more at work because they have let so many people go that those who have remained are working twice as hard and still falling behind. I understand that this is true, but things have changed so dramatically, I feel left out of her life – like she’s not in it anymore other than to sleep, bathe, change her clothes and go back to work. I feel unloved and unimportant to her.
I work at home and it is only a part-time job because that’s what Shana and I decided on when we made our commitment to each other. She’d be the main breadwinner, and I would do half time and take on the other life duties. (I did have a full-time job when we were going together.) We decided on this arrangement because we want to have kids, and also so that I could take care of all the other stuff, like pay bills, clean, cook, shop and eventually childcare. She can’t have children, so I’ll be doing that – we’re starting that process already. However, now I don’t know if I want to have kids with her because of how I am feeling. I don’t want to bring children into my unhappy picture.
I’m tired of waiting by the door to have her come home late, give me a quick kiss, rummage through the refrigerator for food I prepared three hours before, get a plate, hit the sofa, and go to sleep while watching TV, leaving me to clean up her dirty dishes that she left on the coffee table. Sometimes she doesn’t even bother to get up and come to bed with me.
I guess that I have given you the picture. I want to know how I can change it or if I can.
I feel like I signed up for something different than what I have. I love Shana and I want to honor my commitment to her and our relationship, but I’m unhappy.
A: This world offers our lives no guarantees to stay the same – as a matter of fact, we can be pretty sure that life will change. I think that the trick to life is to be able to make successful adaptations to the changes that we encounter as life moves on. This is where you and Shana are now, needing to change to her new demands and stresses at work. You both can either adapt by making each other miserable or by trying to work your situation out so that things are better. I will assume you would prefer the latter. So, instead of fighting over what’s going on, work on ways that Shana can give you time, but also with your respecting her new work situation and her fatigue from working.
As you are feeling abandoned and unloved, find out what she’s feeling. My guess is that she’s feeling a lot of pressure to be viewed as “necessary” at her job so she doesn’t lose it–these are tough times and the threat of losing one’s job hangs over those who haven’t already lost it. She also must feel the stress of being the main breadwinner in the family and your plans for children. After you both have listened to each other, it will be time to figure out how she can work in some time for you. Even if she’s fatigued, it’s not good for her physical or mental health to be continually flopped out on the sofa. She needs to renew herself with some good things outside of work; she’ll be a better employee if she takes care of her relationships and herself. If you can’t do this on your own, find a good couple’s counselor to help you.