It is the third year running after I met Andrew and his wife Nancy. Their marital problems have remained unresolved since. Nancy accused Andrew of being a bully and for psychologically torturing her. She complained that Andrew was manipulative and always made sure he had his way, that she felt enslaved with no space to express her will.
Andrew, a civil engineer running his own construction firm, on the other hand, accused Nancy of having an affair with her boss. Nancy worked for an airline company as an inflight attendant. She flew to distant destinations which sometimes meant spending nights away.
“The accusations of infidelity are part of Andrew’s grand scheme to manipulate me to do what he wants,” Nancy lamented, “he wants me to resign from my job and be a housewife.”
In the three years that I had known the couple, they had separated twice, the first time lasting three months and the second four months.
“I fear for my children because the home environment is not conducive,” Nancy explained.
The couple had been married for a total of seven years. They had two children. Andrew similarly had his concerns.
“I can withstand all the arguments and nasty words that are used against me by my wife,” Andrew quipped, “the one thing that hurts me and is unbearable is that Nancy uses sex as a weapon, and wouldn’t allow me to touch her.”
“I have repeatedly told you that I do not have sexual feelings,” Nancy interjected, “your false accusations of infidelity haven’t helped the situation either and only ups the distance between us.”
Incidentally, the couple had not had sex for close to a year. My previous medical assessments always ended with one conclusion – low libido secondary to relationship disharmony.
“I want to reconfirm that my diagnosis has not changed and we truly need to get a solution to your perennial disagreements,” I explained.
Andrew shook his head in disapproval. He explained that I was finding reasons to get Nancy off the hook and that I had always done that in previous visits.
“It is the lack of sex that is causing relationship disharmony and not the other way round,” he defended. I realised that there could be some truth in his assertion. It is normally a chicken and egg situation; determining which one came first can be a headache.
“It is sometimes a vicious cycle with relationship problems leading to loss of intimacy while at the same time the lack of sex in itself fueling the relationship problems,” I explained.
Whatever the case may be, the solution in dysfunctional relationships lies in getting a lasting solution. The big question that parties involved must answer is whether the relationship is tenable, whether there is a future to it. Secondly, the parties must be sure that they have a shared vision for the future of the marriage.
Whenever I have asked these questions to couples facing marital problems and they both agree that there is a future to the relationship and a vision that is shared things always work out. There will always be times of disagreement in marriage but if there is a shared future the couple overcomes.
But then some couples say they have had enough. Some are ready to leave immediately while others have given themselves time to prepare their exit. There are cases where couples are waiting for their children to reach the age of joining boarding schools then they part ways.
“Three years of trying to solve your disagreements are quite a long time and you need to tell me whether you have a shared future or not,” I told Andrew and Nancy.
“Simple, let her stop having sex with other men and do it with me,” Andrew said.
“That is so nasty and insensitive. It’s meant to demean and manipulate me,” Nancy shouted back. Harsher exchanges prompted Andrew to walk out of the session.
Nancy called me two days later. She had decided to walk out of the marriage.
“It is abusive and not good for me and my children,” she said.
“Well, cool down, actions taken in anger can be regrettable in the future,” I said. Nancy would however hear none of it and went ahead to move out of the house to start the third separation in three years.
Andrew called me a week later.
“I just wanted to let you know that my marriage is over,” he said.