When it disappears…REALLY???

barely hanging together

by Kenneth Justice

~Yesterday I talked with a client for quite a bit about how much we change throughout the course of our life. My client has been married for 20 years and his life has changed a lot. My client was an every day drug addict for nearly 10 years and his life was going nowhere when he met his future wife at a bar one night in the 1980’s, she told him during that first meeting; “Your going to marry me and you’re never going to do drugs again

And so he married her and he’s never touched drugs or alcohol ever since. Not once since that first meeting at the bar, with what would be his future wife, has he ever touched drugs or alcohol…..its been 20 years.

Sounds like a match ‘made in heaven’ right? Well…..not necessarily.

Kenneth its been 20 years. I’m simply not the person I was then….and neither is she. I simply don’t believe anyone is truly head-over-heels in love with their spouse after 20 years of marriage….its just not possible” he said to me yesterday.

Does he sound a bit ungrateful?

There he was, a drunk and drug addict spiraling toward a life of meaninglessness when he met a woman at the bar whom he not only fell-in-love with, but she also was the impetus for him finding a greater purpose in life away from chemical substances.

Yet that is often the case in life. There are things that bind us together in a relationship and when those things disappear…….we often find the friendship or love disappearing.

—) Some people have great marriages until the children grow up…..once they are gone the relationship dies

—) Some people are great friends with co-workers…..but when they leave the job for a new vocation….they find that those co-worker ‘friends’ are no longer in their life

—) Some people bond over fighting addictions or fighting crazy relatives….but when the conflict is over…..they find that they simply don’t have that much in common

One of the most common and dramatic examples of changing seasons in life is when we attended school as children and young adults. Statistics tell us that the overwhelming majority of people do not have close friendships with their school mates post graduation; Once you no longer go to school with the kids you are less likely to stay friends with them……you move on with your life and so do they.

Monday thru Friday you see those fellow school mates from morning to afternoon…..for more than a decade you go to birthday parties, play on athletic teams with them, go on dates, get your first kiss (lose your virginity?)…..but once you move on to college or career or fill-in-the-blank…you are unlikely to remain friends with the majority of those classmates.

Do you notice how the external components of life can help to bind us together…..but when the external circumstances change……the dynamics of our friendships and relationships often change as well.

Marriage counselors suggest finding new ‘things to bond over’. “Go on date nights“, “find things to do that you both enjoy” they will tell you. Yet many people try doing those things and it only confirms to them all the more that they are no longer interested in being in an intimate relationship with their significant other.

We all change. Life changes us. Marriage changes us. Relationships change us…….who we once were becomes a shadow of who we are now.

We used to be happy sitting at a desk entering data into a computer….but now we want something different to do….we want new challenges….different friendships and relationships.

But aren’t there success stories? What about the people who have been married for fifty years and are still just as much in love with each other? My client said that he doesn’t believe most of those people ‘are in love’. “Kenneth, most of those are just marriages of conveniences….if the people could move on with their life without being condemned by society or religion they probably would” is what he told me.

Is my client right? Or is he just expressing a personally pessimistic attitude because of his own circumstances?

A friend of mine told me the following;

The key to a successful long-term relationship is allowing each other to have close friends outside of the marriage. You both need to develop somewhat separate lives so that you don’t suffocate each other. Its not a bad idea to travel separately once in awhile. Have different experiences so you can come back to the relationship with something fresh to discuss….otherwise too much time together and you start to get on each other’s nerves

What do you think? Are long-term friendships, marriages and other such relationships possible? What is the key to making them work?

lots of thoughts this morning and they all lead me to realizing that its time for my morning coffee,


Categories: relationships

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

54 replies

  1. If marrieds imagine that the grass is greener out there, then they need a reality check. Your mate probably has all the potential to be what you seek if you focus on their growing. If they are off in new directions then the conversation should be about their changing needs. The perspective that a couple can’t enjoy growth together is the biggest problem. The break down occurs when they fail to discover the new facets of their old lover. I have seen couples do this gracefully but never without much effort and awareness.

  2. I used to be a mess when my ‘special friend’ was away from me too long…but now I laugh and ask him “if we wind up living together, am I gonna find out you are an asshole?”…lol

    when we see each other now, it’s because we WANT to not because we feel OBLIGATED and that’s a wonderful feeling

    and we have learned a lot about each other, and are STILL learning

  3. I don’t think there is a pat answer for this and I think each person needs to look at their own situation in order to both define it and determine longevity potential.

    I believe that a marriage that is intended to go the long haul has to be continually created. Many people pour the coals over getting the other person to notice them and court them, so to speak, all the way up through marriage and then after that, they expect it to just maintain that state without contributing too it. Yes, any relationship goes stale if neglected. But, creating it alone may not necessarily fix it if the goals and purposes of the individuals change to a large degree or if they have encountered “deal breakers” those things that could take place that would be more than you could live with on a day to day basis.

    I think if people are very honest with each other, separation or divorce can be very civil…but don’t expect your children to understand. Though they see the signs of an unhappy family, many still wish their parents were together. My ex and I divorced after 25 years, amicably and after counseling. We worked out our own settlement and e-filed the whole thing. For seven years, my daughter kept making subtle hints about us getting back together, even after I became involved with someone else and up until I got married again.

    Friendships are a different thing. A long term friendship has a different quality. My best friend lives 3000 miles away. We don’t need to chat every day, share every secret, etc. but the times we do spend together always just “click” with familiarity and fondness. We have been friends for 35 years. The same example is true for my husband and several of his friends.

    Friendships and marriages that last a long time are mostly the examples from earlier generations, typical of those born in the earlier part of the 1900s. I know some of those that did marry, should not have stayed married. But when I look at real long term marriages, the ones that I have seen don’t have the heavy infatuation that a new marriage has but they have common goals but also separate interests, respect for the needs of the other, they compliment and comfort each other, they wouldn’t even consider lying and cheating, they completely support (the hide a dead body for you type…not literally, of course) each other. You know, it really takes a lot of granting the other person their own life and individuality, separate from yours to be able to tolerate someone in your space every day. So, yes. I agree on this part.

    My husband and I have been together together for 7 years and we’re still crazy about each other…so. I’m pretty hopeful that some marriages can go the long haul.

  4. Gosh Kenneth,I found this a very dispiriting blog post.

    Maybe my husband and I are unusual (though we have several friends who are in a similar place to ourselves) because we have been married for 38 years and are still loving being together.
    Both of us had sowed lots of wild oats prior to marriage, both of us knew what we wanted from a marriage, and by and large we have been successful in having it.
    We are on a life adventure together.
    We never stop talking to each other.
    I find him the most interesting man I know, and though it is a cliche, he is my best friend.
    He has allowed me to follow my dreams and I hope I have done the same for him. Of course, now we are in our mid-60s we are no longer ‘head-over-heels’ in love, we know each other very well – five minutes ago we discussed your post and he said “well I am no longer ‘in lust’ with you, but I love you more than I did 20 years ago”.
    Our children are grown-up and living their own lives now, and we are grandparents.
    I do not wish the years away, I do not think the grass could be greener with another, I am extremely grateful for the marriage I have and I NEVER take my husband nor my marriage for granted. Give and take, give and take.

    • It was a pretty “sad” conversation I had yesterday and u only got a snippet of what he was telling me….if I had posted the entirety of what he said it might have driven some of my readers to go get drunk it was so depressing! But that is how life is, I guess…he was feeling really down and even though at first I tried to cheer him up, I realized he just wanted to vent and needed me to listen

    • if someone gets filled by genuine love and then losses that — its going to be rough.

  5. Not one to speak after 7 years and than failing. But I know falling in love is easy, staying in love is hard work.
    Making an effort to fall in love every day again. Finding something that ignites your feelings over and over. Can it be done. Yes. if i see a couple around here married 40 years and still frolicking through life i know it can be done. But it also takes a lot to let go, let them have their friends. and that’s where TRUST comes in. Give them room to go out, and find them coming back. It can be hard finding a balance

    • “falling in love is easy, staying in love is hard work”

      I’ve had people tell me that if love is hard work than you shouldn’t be in the relationship……but I’m with you; I believe there can be seasons of life where love is hard work….but there can also be seasons in life where it’s easy….. 🙂

    • Hear hear! you are absolutly on the button.

  6. Falling in love… making a life commitment… then over years investing elsewhere in careers and hobbies — drifting apart slowly or steadily or even in a sudden dawning — marriage presents challenges daily. Are marrieds up to these?

    The commitment is daily — just like a spiritual commitment. If wanting to stay on course, its vital to have a daily routine that dawns in awareness that today is a new day — being here in today, head, heart and body is going to be a challenge.

    It takes making a daily commitment — and in the case of marriage — we need to move our thinking and senses towards along a spiritual path. Marriage is a spiritual union when it works.

    Thanks for posting this topic. I’d love to see more on this.

    ~ Eric

  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Families_and_How_to_Survive_Them
    I find this book and its sibling “Life and how to survive it” excellent works of re-evaluating and re-approaching your life and relations. And they are pointing towards the same direction you do Kenneth. But as all great and in-describable things in life, it is a matter of beliefs.

  8. Everybody thinks their particular situation is the norm, and that people who claim otherwise are lying. So what? I’ve been married almost 40 years, and don’t particularly care what your friend thinks.

  9. I’d love to offer some really great, poignant advice on this topic, but I have none. I’m a loner type, I guess. I’ve dated but I haven’t committed to a long term relationship since my marriage ended and by that, I mean that I have seen how bad it can get so I think I’m no longer so naive going into a relationship.

    The word “unconditional” is beautiful and foreboding at the same time. Beautiful in theory, foreboding in reality, because mostly people (including me) definitely do have conditions.

    • ” I mean that I have seen how bad it can get so I think I’m no longer so naive going into a relationship”

      i wonder; perhaps the people who have never seen ‘how bad it can get’ aren’t able to truly relate to those who had bad relationships….and vice versa…?

    • I’m sure that’s the case. I’ve had good relationships that ended for reasons totally outside of my control but nothing lasting since my divorce, and well.. I’m ok with that. Rather to be happy alone than miserable with the wrong person but in case there’s a right person out there for me, I keep my heart open. You just never know.

  10. I married my second wife 24 years ago . . . one heated rush and a marriage in the park a week later . . . emotion, emotion, emotion . . . now we have both used all that emotion up . . . fact: you cannot ride that wave forever, nobody can.

    Now we are in our early seventies, I’m still healthy enough to build a house by myself, but my wife is sick a hundred different ways . . . time for a new wife, right?

    Lots of people do just that, the rush is gone? then so am I . . .

    You runners are missing out on the greatest gift and learning experience life has to offer. . . to be a caretaker. Love is an emotion, but it can also become a state of being.

    There are times when relationships take a turn and the pathway splits beyond repair. . . but to run just because the emotional excitement plays itself out and you fall out of love? bad karma . . . coward.

    • “You runners are missing out on the greatest gift and learning experience life has to offer. . . to be a caretaker. Love is an emotion, but it can also become a state of being”

      that’s a very deep and intense point you make 🙂

  11. A lot to think about here Kenneth, great post!! I am not sure about the long term relationship thing, but my parents have been married for 50 years and still seem to love each other. They are each others best friend and I marvel at the fact that not only do they still have things to talk about but they are genuinely interested in each others opinions, thoughts and such. It has been my experience that empathy is an important factor in the ability of a relationship to last. As soon as the thoughts become about me and what I am getting or not getting to meet my needs, the relationship is over. That is just my experience.
    As for the friendship part, aren’t all friendships based on a shared experience? School, work, club, group, political party, religious affiliation, etc. It only makes sense when that experience is removed the friendships will wane a bit. I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing because in life, there is room for new experiences and friendships to happen. I believe that every person you meet comes into your life for a reason and most often to teach you something. I look at friends old and new that way and I have learned much. My best friend and I have been friends since we started school in 1971, we still yak on the phone almost every day as he bitches about his life and we fight about philosophy and the best thing the Red Sox should do in the World Series. As I have often observed though, I am not normal.
    thanks for the thoughts, great post Kenneth. Why is it that people believe they have to stay married forever? If you are unhappy, it seems foolish to stay in the relationship because you think you should. Makes no sense to me. But I also think happiness is something that comes from within yourself and if you choose to be happy with a job, relationship or anything else I am sure that you can. Sorry for rambling here, the coffee makes me write!! 🙂

  12. I think a lot of people make the mistake of thinking marriage is a long-term “head over heels” experience. Too many movies, perhaps? When the swooning and butterfly tummies are gone, people think the love is gone. And sometimes it is. But sometimes, I believe, that’s where the real deal is just starting. My husband and I are nearly 9 years into being married, and I still adore him. I can’t say my tummy flops when I see him or that my palms get sweaty when he calls, but I *love* him. To oversimplify things, I guess I’m trying to say people need to grow up a bit. We don’t live in the movies…love isn’t grand gestures and lust bunny behavior…love grows and evolves and needs proper care and feeding. I really believe that long-lasting marriages can remain happy and healthy. 🙂

    • “Too many movies, perhaps”

      its interesting that quite a few people point to the movies as having shaped our view of marriage and relationships…..I guess that can be bad or good depending on how they have influenced us.

  13. Really, I am being really honest here, I don´t know why “marriage” was invented at all.

    The marital institution doesn´t rhyme at all with life´s natural course.

    I have seen all too many examples: married couples remaining together due to fear and habit, due to a false sense of security, often, due to sheer cowardice. Of course, my words would surely be found offensive by all traditionalists, but I simply don´t care.

    Why love a single person through all your life…?

    If we had a sane and healthy community where Truth and Emotional Nearness would prevail, we wouldn´t make such an unnatural and crazy commitment to a single person. We would naturally love, enjoy and take care of each other, without written contracts or stupid egotic boundaries.


    EGO IS THE ROOT TO ALL EVIL and marriage is the institution where ego and separation is promulgated by law…

    Marriage is where all violence, bigotry and conflict is created: “us against them”…My family, my clan, my nation…-ego, ego, ego…

    As long as man restricts himself to live in the narrow limits of his ego, married or not married, he will turn
    this life into hell.

    • I think marriage may have partly been invented to keep track of whose baby belonged to who. But ya, so not a natural part of being human.

    • Yeah, agreed– I think marriage helps keep track of things as far as the children.

      However, most of the research I’ve looked at points to serial monogamy being a consistent norm, that is, most people seem to lean to chains of limited committed relationships. Don’t get me wrong; I have considered very passionate arguments for polyamory, but I have never seen it work stably in practice, more so (towards relationships fragmenting towards monogamy of sorts) if children are involved.

  14. Yes, I do think people can grow apart, our expectations change and the partner may not be up to speed or it is simply not vocalised clearly enough, and if so, the partner may not be hearing it..so many factors at play. Falling in love again..I mean, can anyone resist that? Being able or want to or can act it out, that is another question.

  15. Another thought-provoking post, as usual. I hope I don’t start taking YOU for granted. Thanks.

  16. I think the key to making any relationship (long or short) work is honest communication, common decency and realistic expectations. They are the basis for creating and maintaining a solid foundation that guards against the assaults that can destroy a bond between two people, no matter how in lust they are.

  17. So, having my partner leave me and our five year relationship, I can say that too much time apart, and spending extensive time with other people outside of your relationship is what did it. I never saw him the majority of the time. I wish I could have said that we were suffocating each other, but really we had ran away from each other.

  18. This may sound odd, but my husband is not my best friend. Don’t get me wrong–I love him, we have a good marriage, a solid life together–but I think the onus of being both best friend and spouse is too much. We have lives, work, interests, friends outside of one another, but because we don’t suffocate one another, we have reason to come back to one another and enjoy the other’s company. It may not work for everyone, but it does work for us (and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it).

  19. A great thought-provoking post.

    It’s hard to admit, but relationships often have a shelf-life. If I do X because of Y, and Y ceases, then there’s no reason to do X. This is basic logic, yet when it comes to relationships, many act like things are different.

    To even try to save a relationship (marriage, friendship, etc…) is largely an admission that it has run its course.

    So why do it? Here are a few reasons:

    1. People reify what’s a relation among people into a concrete thing and as such try to serve this thing. The most common case is when people try to save a “marriage”. If two people are miserable together, what is there to save? Did the concept trump the happiness of all those involved? Why did they marry in the first place?

    2. People want to believe they were drawn to the “essence” of the other person, and to admit conditions played a role is to undermine this essence.

    3. People define themselves in terms of the relationship (see #2) and to let it go is to let go of a part of their identity.

    I think a big part of this is people’s attempts to force stability into an unstable world. What does it mean when something so valued, so sacred is merely a product of the environment, of a place and time?

    • “People define themselves in terms of the relationship (see #2) and to let it go is to let go of a part of their identity”

      this is a great point…its also something that a lot of people disagree on; many people believe it is good to find a sense of identity in their spouse and others believe its not such a good idea.

    • Thank you!

      I think there’s a fine line between valuing something and being attached to it, and many people either don’t recognize this, or feel they are obligated to be attached. They may feel they are “holding back” and that unless they put their welfare into the hands of another, they have somehow not really participated in the relationship.

      Then the idea of moving on strikes them as a betrayal. Even the idea that this — like their many previous relationships — may not last seems a betrayal too.

      It’s almost as if willful ignorance is treated as a mark of commitment, as something sacred.

  20. Love and marriage will both be unsuccessful if the partners do not constantly work on it. Some people are just not ready or able to make that commitment.

  21. Your friend has a valid point. I don’t know if most marriages are loveless but there are many of them that are. They stay together cause it’s easier than divorcing. It’s like jobs. You feel you are better off just staying and being somewhat miserable than starting over.

  22. I think people are giving into pessimistic views because it’s easier. I also think that despite what we all know to be reality, we all still secretly expect long term love to continue to always be like the movies and it’s just not. Work is involved and nurturing is needed. Okay so I realize I JUST told you I’ve never really had a relationship last all that long, but from what I’ve seen, read, etc., what I’m saying tonight is based on my observations. Yes sometimes there are those who got married for the wrong reasons. Your client – it sounds like a romantic story but I’m guessing it was because she saw him as a project, thought she could change him to what she wanted and maybe at that moment it was fine but as she changed and he did, the real reason was no longer valid. Marriage needs to be about much more than just a project or a “fixer-upper” situation so one can feel good about “saving” someone else. That kind of thing never lasts. Real love will last; a couple that has genuine love will have real things in common and can find ways to bring the romance back in from time to time. I think we’ve forgotten about those things. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it lol. 🙂

  23. “Statistics tell us that the overwhelming majority of people do not have close friendships with their school mates post graduation.”

    That’s certainly true in my experience (I’ll talk more on the platonic side of things than the romantic for now). A friend of mine and I, we got to be buddies in high school and were really tight through much of college, and the ending years of my time at uni. He moved a couple of times, and although he and his spouse met my wife, they’ve just drifted away. His wife should remember us, but the eldest 3 (of 8) children do not remember me, nor do the in-laws.

    He is fighting for his life now, battling T-cell lymphoma. Some news I got before his stem cell transplant, when I could still talk to him, but mother-in-law answered last time I called; he and the missus were still at the hospital. No word from the missus, MIL told me. Then, boom, I got tons more information… in a newspaper article. He might die. I’m definitely on the outside looking in… all that are at his home have no idea who I am.

  24. so glad I found your site…interesting posts and interesting comments…my comment is probably best summed up by this post from a while ago http://alivecoalinthesea.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/friday-favorites-my-marriage/


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