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Dear Emuna: Grown Apart

May 30, 2013 | by Emuna Braverman

I feel distant from my wife. What can I do to save our marriage?

Dear Emuna,

My wife told me last month that we have grown apart and she does not know how to fix it. What should I do or say? I knew something was wrong, but when I kept asking she would assure me that everything is fine. I feel like roommates, she's in one room and I'm in another most of the time. Is there anything I could do at this point or should I just let things play out?

Frightened Husband

Dear Frightened Husband,

If you just let things play out, the end result is obvious and inevitable. But I assume you wouldn’t have written to me if you weren’t looking for a more positive outcome.

All is not lost. It’s just going to require some hard work – and willingness on both sides to put in the time and effort – to get your marriage back on track.

I highly recommend that you find a competent professional in your area who can walk you through the process and stay on top of your progress (and sometimes your lack thereof). However good (or bad), you feel things are going, don’t cancel your appointment!

In the meantime, recovering the unity in your relationship begins with good will and a sincere desire to start anew.

In most situations, it’s not so much a case of having grown apart as it is of being distracted and busy – work, school, homework, bills, exercise, errands – many busy couples find it difficult to make time for each other. Without real conversations, without focused time, it may feel like you are roommates and not marital partners.

I would start the recovery attempt with three simple steps (simple in description though not necessarily in practice): 1. Prayer 2. Date Night 3. List of Your Spouse’s Virtues

Prayer: You want your marriage to succeed? You should definitely ask the Almighty for His help. Nonstop. Every spare moment. Show Him (and in the process yourself) how important it is to you.

Date Night: By this, I don’t mean see a movie together. Get out of the house for enough time to wind down – and talk, really talk. It may not initially flow. It takes time to switch gears. Go to a different neighborhood. No talking about the kids. All couples need this time. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Make it happen. (This is in addition to therapy; marriage counseling does not count as date night!)

Virtue List: Make a list of all of your spouse’s good qualities, the reasons you married her and the wonderful character traits you’ve uncovered since. We all need of reminder of those good qualities and good times.

Marriages (and lives) go through phases. The key is not to let a “down” or challenging phase throw you off or lead to radical decisions. With real effort and with the Almighty’s help, your marriage could turn out even better than before.

-- Emuna

Dear Emuna,

I have a 21 year old brother who lives such a reckless life that my parents, siblings and I are all worried about how it'll all end. He gets mixed up with the wrong crowd, is out 7 nights a week returning in the early morning hours and then sleeps in all day, drives like a maniac, lies to cover up lies ... Where do we start? Where do we turn to for help?

Worried Sister

Dear Worried Sister,

This is a very serious situation that requires serious professional help as soon as possible. There are not enough details here for me to even begin to advise you. But even if there were, this can’t be handled with a few tips or words of wisdom. There are no quick fixes here.

My guess is that it will be a long process and challenge everyone’s patience. But he’s your brother and you love him and he needs to know you’re in it for the long haul.

Turn to the Almighty for help, always your first resource. And find a therapist in your neighborhood with experience in this area. Don’t hesitate or delay; you need to act now.

Hates Homework

Dear Emuna,

My daughter is a great girl, full of life, kind to others, warm and friendly. She is fun to be with and very easy-going. Except when it comes to schoolwork. Then she morphs into “Studentzilla.” She hates doing homework, studying for tests and even sitting still paying attention in the classroom. I don’t know how to handle this side of her. It’s not like school is only a small part of her time and it’s not like there aren’t consequences. Help!

Concerned Mom

Dear Concerned Mom (aren’t we all?),

I understand your concern and frustration. I’m really glad that you began with a list of your daughter’s positive attributes. It shows that you appreciate her and that probably helps her feel safe and secure. (I really wish all teachers would learn from you and begin their parent-teacher conferences with words of praise!)

There are a few issues here. I am going to address them out of order. Let’s start with the sitting still/paying attention issue. Assuming that she doesn’t have ADHD (did you test her?), then not sitting still is a character issue, not an academic one. Here you need to be tough. It is disrespectful to the teacher and the other students not to pay attention (and even worse if she is disruptive). Even if she is bored or doesn’t understand, she needs to learn patience and consideration and respect. This is an area where you should stand firm.

With regards to the homework and tests, I’m not sure there are too many children who actually like them but she certainly needs to make her effort. Again, even without learning difficulties, she may find homework and tests challenging. Discuss it with her. Set some minimal standards of expectations of accomplishments and behavior. Offer rewards to up the ante.

I don’t know how old your daughter is. The serious consequences of actual academic results don’t usually manifest themselves until the late high school years. Sometime during her teens, you will need to find a system of rewards/ disincentives/tutors etc to help. But for now, pull back a little. Give her help where she would like it, rewards where they will work and some space to find her own way.

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