Dating after Marriage
A More Challenging Couple
Willard F. Harley, Jr.
Wanda was working as a receptionist for an automobile dealership when she first met Peter, who had just been hired as a new car salesman. At first, he struck her as being way too conceited for her tastes, but the longer she saw him, the more he grew on her.
He flirted with her almost daily, complementing her on her hair, her clothes, her voice, and anything else that happened to get his attention. But when he would ask her to go out with him after work, she always turned him down, saying that she had something already scheduled.
One day, Peter came up to her desk, looked her in the eye, and said, “you name the time and the place, and I’ll meet you there.”
So, she told him to meet her at Trinity Church, 10:00 on Sunday morning. To her great surprise, he accepted the invitation.
After attending church together, he took her to an outdoor concert at a local park where they had a chance to get to know each other. From that day on, they were together almost every day after work. His flirting turned into expressions of his care for her, offering to be there for her when she needed him. He helped her with any problems she faced or, at least, listened attentively as she talked to him about them. Whenever they had a break, they would meet somewhere on the premises to talk and express their affection toward each other.
Peter invited Wanda to meet his family, who all thought he had hit the jackpot by finding her. But when he met her family, they were not as impressed. Just as she had been concerned about his conceit when they first met, they too were concerned about his high opinion of himself. Wanda tried to assure them all that once they got to know him, they would appreciate him as much as she did.
Within a year of meeting each other, they were married. But the automobile agency where they worked had a policy that prevented spouses from working there together, so Wanda continued as a receptionist and Peter found a job as a salesman for another agency.
His opportunity to be affectionate and engage in intimate conversation throughout the day had ended. By the time he returned home each day, he was exhausted, and wasn’t in the mood to talk because he had been talking all day selling cars. When he did feel like talking, he wanted to brag about the sales he had made, and how much better he was than any of the other salesmen.
His affection and intimate conversation that had made so many Love Bank deposits for Wanda prior to their marriage suddenly ended and it left her very confused. She would mention the problem to him occasionally, saying that she really missed it, but he didn’t do anything about it.
Instead of spending Saturdays with Wanda, Peter would often spend them with his single friends. His favorite sporting activity was hockey, but almost any sport got his attention. Wanda wasn’t interested in sports, so she filled her weekend with projects or visiting family and friends.
Every Sunday morning, Peter would go with Wanda to church because he knew how important that was to her. But in the afternoon, he was back to being with his friends.
She finally got up the courage to talk to her mother about what she had been experiencing, and her mother reminded her about the reservations that her family had expressed earlier. They thought they could see what she couldn’t: That everything was always about him.
Wanda left that conversation convinced that she had married the wrong man. When she returned home from work that evening, there was no cheery, Hi, how did it go today? Nope. Instead, there was silence.
Peter did wonder what had happened to Wanda that would make her so emotionally distant. But he felt that what she needed from him was privacy to work out whatever it was, and so he turned on the TV and left her alone.
Later that evening when they were in bed, Peter tried to hug her in a prelude to having sex. She pushed him away. Nothing was said, and he simply turned over and went to sleep. Wanda was very upset that he wouldn’t even try to understand what was bothering her.
That week, there was almost no conversation between them, and no sex, either. After two weeks, Peter finally decided that Wanda had deprived him of sex long enough. In an effort to bring up the topic, he started by asking her what it was that had been bothering her.
I should never have married you, was her response. We’re just not right for each other.
It should not have come as a surprise to Peter, but it was. He was shocked. What’s wrong with our marriage? I’ve always thought it was okay.
Okay for you maybe. But for me, it’s been a big disappointment, she responded.
That made Peter angry. Instead of trying to understand her problem with their marriage, he shot back, if you want a divorce, that’s fine with me. Who’s the lucky guy? I know that there had to be someone else for you to keep pushing me away for the past two weeks.
There’s no one else. It’s just you being a very disappointing husband, she responded.
From there, it went on to a very heated argument about who’s fault it was that Wanda felt the way she did. Bad family background, being spoiled, unreasonable expectations, and even possible mental disorders were mentioned by Peter.
At the end of the evening, Wanda left to move in with her parents.
With her parent’s encouragement, they came to my office the following week without having much hope for their marriage. The feeling of love they had at the time of their wedding was gone for both of them, and Wanda had come to dislike Peter. After the fight they had, and his suspicion that she was having an affair, he started disliking her, too.
Helping Norah and Jason was easy compared to helping Wanda and Peter
Norah and Jason had followed the Policy of Undivided Attention with ease. But if they had come to me just before Adam arrived, it would have been even easier for me to motivate them to follow it. Though they had let their effort to be successful in their careers deplete their Love Bank accounts, it wasn’t enough to drop below the romantic love threshold. With romantic love on their side, they would have known exactly what to do on a date without any instruction from me. All they needed was time in their schedule to do it. Their instincts would have done the rest.
When both spouses are in love, the four intimate emotional needs seem to blend into each other when they take time to be together. I don’t need to teach couples in love how to meet each other’s emotional needs for affection, sexual fulfillment, intimate conversation, and recreational companionship. Create the opportunity and it will happen. The most important part is simply scheduling the time. The rest of the date usually takes care of itself with only a few minor adjustments.
I have a plaque in front of my desk that reads, “The Truth Is, I’d Rather Do Nothing with You Than Something with Anyone Else.” That says it quite nicely for a couple in love.
Right from the beginning of my time with Norah and Jason, they were completely on board with my concept of undivided attention. Almost no convincing was necessary, and a schedule was made and followed with only two appointments. They were willing to follow my instructions because they liked each other. Meeting each other’s intimate emotional needs just wasn’t quite as instinctive as it had been when they were in love.
Within a few weeks of having to meet the four intimate emotional needs on a date, Norah and Jason were in love again. When that happened, nothing they did on a date seemed forced or contrived. It was what they wanted to do more than anything else.
But Wanda and Peter were a different story. In their case, since they didn’t like each other, planning a date to meet each other’s intimate emotional needs didn’t seem right. Why should Wanda make love to Peter? Why should he spend hours talking with her? Why should he give up what he wanted to do just to be with her?
They were not immediately convinced that a new dating schedule is what they needed. Since they didn't like each other at the time, it didn't seem at all attractive to them.
They had a big advantage over Norah and Jason: They didn’t have a 3-year-old child. That advantage was very significant because it was much easier for them to actually find the time to date. But because they didn’t want to be together, and they didn’t want to use that time to meet each other’s emotional needs, that advantage didn’t help them very much at first.
I explained to them that they had met each other’s intimate emotional needs prior to marriage when they were working together, and that’s why they fell in love. It was easy then, because their jobs helped make it work. But if they wanted to restore their love, they had to meet those same needs without the help of working together. They had to plan for it instead of it happening naturally.
Talking to each of them separately, I explained what it would take for them to meet all four of the intimate emotional needs on a date. I gave Peter help in understanding how he was to be affectionate, and converse intimately with Wanda. I gave her help in understanding how recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment were to be part of the total experience, just as it had been for them prior to their marriage.
Wanda was more reluctant to try my plan because she didn’t want to have sex with Peter until she felt like it. Even thinking about it made her skin crawl. Peter, however, was willing to make an effort to be affectionate and talk with her intimately each time they were together if it might lead to sex.
My advice to Wanda and Peter was that sex might be off the table for a while. She was to see how she would feel about making love to him when they were on their new first date. If she were to feel even neutral about it, not feeling strong one way or another, I encouraged her to try to go ahead with it. Otherwise, she should skip it and see how she would feel about it the next time.
After a few counseling sessions, I was able to convince them that dating for a week would be worth trying. After that week, they could decide if they wanted to continue the plan to save their marriage.
As with Norah and Jason, I encouraged Wanda and Peter to exercise together while on a date. But they didn’t want to exercise each time, so we agreed that their exercise would only be on Saturday and Sunday.
I gave them both strict instructions to avoid arguing about anything. If they had a conflict that they could not resolve quickly, they were to save the issue until they saw me for their next appointment.
The argument that initially brought them to my office was very unusual for them. Wanda would complain occasionally about his failure to meet her emotional needs, and to make plans without discussing them with her first. But she would never argue with him about it. She simply stated her reaction to his insensitivity and leave it at that. So they both knew that they could avoid any arguing.
While it was not absolutely essential that Wanda move back in with Peter, she agreed that if this new program were to be realistic, they would have to live together. So she moved back the following day.
Wanda and Peter’s Dating Schedule
We made up a dating schedule that was similar to the one I had made for Norah and Jason. On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they were to plan 5-hour dates. Since they had no children and didn't like each other, I wanted them to give each other 25 hours a week of undivided attention instead of the 20 I had recommended for Norah and Jason. When I was sure that they were in love again, I'd let them decide if they would like to date only 15 hours a week.
This is how we planned their week together:
Monday – Friday:
6:30 – Awake, shower and dress for both.
7:15 – Make breakfast and eat together. Clean up and make the bed together.
8:00 – Leave for work
8:30 – Both arrive for work.
8:30 – 4:30 4:30 – While at work text or talk to each other by telephone at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon. More often if possible.
4:30 – Contact each other to determine that they will arrive home together. If either has a delay, phone each other to explain how long it will take to resolve the problem and when to expect them at home. Try to avoid delays.
5:00 – 5:30 – Return Return home and get dressed for the evening.
5:30 – 10:30 – On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, have dinner together while out on their date. Plan the rest of the evening to include mutually enjoyable recreation with undivided attention. Make love after returning home.
10:30 – In bed and asleep.
6:00 – 10:30 – On Tuesday and Thursday, make dinner, have dinner, and clean up together. Complete household tasks together. When they are completed, do anything individually that is mutually acceptable.
10:30 – In bed and asleep.
5:30 – Noon – Sleep in if desired, cuddle in bed together when awake, shower, prepare and have breakfast together, and share domestic chores with each other so that by noon they are all completed.
Noon – 5:30 – Schedule any personal projects or activities that are done alone that are mutually agreeable. Watch TV, take a nap, surf the Internet, or be with friends as long as it is mutually acceptable.
5:30 – 10:30 – Date which includes exercising together and making love after they return home.
10:30 – In bed and asleep.
5:30 – 10:00 – Sleep in if desired, cuddle in bed together when awake, shower, prepare and have breakfast together, get ready to go to church.
10:00 – Noon – Attend church together.
Noon – 3:00 – Have lunch with friends.
3:00 – 5:30 – Schedule any personal projects or activities that are done alone that are mutually agreeable. Watch TV, take a nap, or surf the internet.
5:30 – 10:30 – Date which includes exercising together and making love after returning home.
10:30 – In bed and asleep.
Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
During the week, Wanda and Peter were to contact me by phone if they had any problems with their new schedule. Wanda said that she didn’t want to make love after the first date, so she didn’t, which disappointed Peter. But I had warned him earlier to accept her decision, even though he tried to be affectionate and conversant with her. He felt he had done his part, why shouldn’t she do hers?
Peter didn’t get angry with Wanda, which would have been his reaction before they saw me. Instead, he told her that he would always accept her decision regarding their lovemaking, which made her feel much more optimistic about their relationship.
On the second date, she still didn’t feel like making love, and Peter was even more disappointed than he had been after his first rejection. But he kept it to himself and said that he would wait until she was ready.
Their third date, Friday night, turned out much better for both of them. Wanda felt much closer to Peter than she had felt through most of their marriage. He was giving her the quality of attention that he had given her when they had worked together. So, lovemaking felt more natural to her. It was a perfect date.
But then, Peter had to wreck it all. On Saturday, while out with his friends that afternoon (acceptable to Wanda), they asked him to join them that evening to watch a professional hockey game. After giving it a little thought, he decided that since he and Wanda had already been on three dates that week, and were planning another on Sunday, that should be enough dating for any couple.
So, he told Wanda that he’d have to break his date with her that evening, but he’d make it up to her on their Sunday date. When he came home from the game, she was back living with her parents.
I talked to him on the phone about his fateful decision. He tried to argue that spending almost the entire weekend with his wife was suffocating. He didn’t think he could follow that schedule on Saturday because he felt it should be his time to do as he pleased.
Hockey almost ended their marriage. I explained to Peter that marriage should be a blending of two people’s interests and preferences in life, and that required a willingness of both to accommodate each other. He wasn’t convinced, however, and felt that there should be more room in the schedule for his personal interests. Marriage shouldn’t lock him into a schedule of her making.
I reminded him that it was a schedule that he had agreed to follow for a week, and that we would make adjustments the following week if either felt that there was a problem with it. But he insisted that he had the right to change the schedule if something better came up.
When I talked to Wanda on the telephone, she was furious. She told me that during their brief marriage, Peter would be loving and attentive when he wanted to have sex. But after it was over, he was a different man. It was as if all he needed from her was sex, and when he got it, he didn’t seem to be at all interested in her for a few days until he needed sex again. His choice to be with his friends instead of her after having sex the night before was typical of the way he had been treating her during their marriage.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that Wanda had returned to her parents after Peter’s terribly offensive decision. So where did we go from there? Was there any hope for their marriage? They hadn’t been married very long. They had no children. He had proven to be a very insensitive husband. What would you have recommended to Wanda?
The next article in this series focuses attention on the Love Buster, independent behavior. Once that Love Buster is overcome, Wanda and Peter will have a much clearer path to romantic love.
Phoenix Rising from the Ashes