Dating the One You Married
Willard F. Harley, Jr.
Most jobs leave us tired by the end of the day. But Ralph and his wife Pat, were exhausted when they would return home. He was a construction worker and she sold cosmetics in a department store. They were both on their feet all day long, and by the time they were home, all they could think about doing was to sit down. Once seated, they didnít want to stand up again to do anything. A date was simply out of the question.
Ralph and Pat came to my office for help with their marriage because their relationship had grown cold. They wanted advice to make it hot, like it had been while they were dating.
Before marriage, they had the same jobs, but at the end of the day, they were looking forward to being together. In spite of having active an active day, they were able to muster up enough energy to create a very passionate relationship with each other when their workday had ended.
But after married, the effort that they had put into dating didnít seem necessary. Now, when coming home from work, they could simply crash. Take-out dinner, a glass of wine, TV, and off to bed. They had no children, so the stress of childcare after work was not their issue.
My goal for Ralph and Pat was for them to date at least 15 hours a week so that they could restore their romantic relationship and their love for each other. Since fatigue was their major obstacle, I began my inquiry by examining its root causes.
What Causes Lethargy?
In Ralph and Patís case, the major cause of their lethargy first seemed to be the lifestyle factor, energy intensive employment. But there were other factors to consider that were more important.
I am no stranger to lethargy since I had worked very long hours most of my adult life and often failed to get the sleep I needed. I rarely exercised and my diet wasnít the best, either. But I eventually discovered that the primary cause of lethargy, for me at least, was a vitamin D deficiency. After correcting for it, I had all the energy I needed, rarely feeling like sleeping during the day in spite of my busy schedule.
But a vitamin D deficiency is only one of a host of physical conditions that could have caused Ralph and Patís unrelenting exhaustion when they were had home evenings. So, I asked them to see their doctor for a complete physical exam, with lethargy as the focus of the tests. They could have had diseases of the kidneys or liver, heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, sleep apnea, or a host of other physical conditions that cause fatigue. Were any of these contributing to their lack of energy?
You, as a reader, might think that I am being ridiculous for thinking that fatigue at the end of a day is something that needs to be fixed. Isnít everyone fatigued at the end of the day? Why go to the trouble of checking out physical causes when it is a normal and common experience?
You, too, may have a very busy and exhausting day. When you return home from work, there are dinners to serve your children, clothes to wash, homework to help your children with, messes that they make to clean up, and then, when itís over, you barely have enough energy to fall into bed to get 5 hours of sleep before another busy day begins.
Why look at physical conditions when thatís your story?
In your case, you might be right. Your lifestyle conditions may tell the whole story. In your case, I would focus attention on your lifestyle to restore the energy you need for a date. Eight hours sleep at all costs and getting help for evening housework might do the trick. In some cases, Iíve even recommended a less energy-sapping career.
But for many of the couples Iíve counseled, physical conditions were actually the primary causes of their lethargy. With appropriate medical guidance, as I received when my vitamin D deficiency was discovered, those conditions were addressed and overcome, making dating possible and much more enjoyable.
In the case of Ralph and Pat, however, it wasnít their physical conditions that were causing their lethargy. Their check-ups gave both of them a clean bill of health. Instead, it was a lifestyle routine where, when they got home at night, they spent the evening eating their take-out dinners, having a glass of wine, watching TV, and going to bed. Their bodies had adjusted to doing little or nothing after work.
Aside from being in the habit of crashing when they returned home at night, there was one huge elephant in the room. They both drank a glass of wine when they got home, and had several more glasses before going to bed. From my perspective, that factor alone could have been the major culprit.
Itís been my experience throughout my career as a marital therapist that alcoholic beverages do not enhance dating. They make dating much more difficult, especially for men. Itís a major contributor to sexual impotence and it also lends itself to saying and doing things that are offensive, making each date the victim of Love Busters.
Back to Dating Again
After ruling out physical causes of lethargy, I focused my attention on two of Ralph and Patís possible lifestyle causes: (1) The habits they had developed by staying at home after work and, (2) drinking wine.
I assigned to them my standard dating schedule to follow. They were to date 3 hours from 6-9 pm on Tuesday and Thursday; 4-9 pm Saturday; and 5-9 pm Sunday. They were to date away from home except for the time that they would be making love at the end of the date.
We discussed what they were to do on every date: meeting each otherís intimate emotional needs for affection, intimate conversation, recreational companionship, and sexual fulfillment. They assured me that they would have no problem meeting those needs if they had the energy to do so.
But one other assignment was particularly tough for them: They were not to consume any alcohol while dating, or for the 4 hours before a date.
Tough problems often require tough assignments. That last assignment seemed at first to be impossible for Ralph and Pat. From Ralphís expression after I made the assignment, I wasnít sure if they would return for their next date.
But one week later, there they were, all smiles.
By being forced to get out of the house when they dated for 15 hours a week, and being forced to avoid all alcoholic beverages while dating, they discovered that they had plenty of energy to meet each otherís intimate emotional needs on a date. They had done it before they married, and could still do it now.
It wasnít their jobs that kept them from having the energy to date. It was simply two lifestyle factors, staying at home evenings and alcohol. By changing those two factors, dating became a snap for Ralph and Pat. And with the dating, their marriage turned from being cold to being red-hot.