Dear Rocky Love: Signed, Time-Crunched in East Jax
Dear Rocky Love,
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – There never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. Especially in the summer, there are so many demands on my time, plus I want to get in as much mountain biking as possible. My wife, who is not a mountain biker, sometimes thinks this means our relationship is not a top priority to me. How can I get her to understand that she means everything to me, even if it appears on the surface that our marriage comes in third behind work and play?
– Signed, Time-Crunched in East Jackson
I hear you on the busy Jackson summer front. In the frenzy to get in all our fun, we can lose sight of the pleasures of summer. Which include, my friend, slowing down and hanging out with the people we love.
It sounds like you really love your wife, and I have no reason to doubt you. But you don’t necessarily count everyday companionship as a sign of your love. For you, I’m guessing, the feeling of love and connection is a constant – that’s what I think you mean by “she means everything to me.” Your relationship is sort of like your bedrock, on top of which all the activities of life play out.
Here’s my guess: you and your wife have different needs and expectations around companionship.
For you, companionship is important, but not at the expense of career and play. Since I can’t talk to your wife, I can’t assume how her priority list stacks up. But I’ll hazard a guess that she may rank companionship a little higher than you do. Living in Jackson Hole may add an additional level of complexity because both of you may highly prioritize time outside playing – together, alone, or with others – which can take up big chunks of time.
What you asked about, essentially, is how to get her to understand your heart. I think you are starting with the right question but I’d add to it that you need to understand her too. In a way, understanding one another will be the easy part. What to do about your different companionship needs is perhaps the bigger challenge.
But first, let’s get you to understanding. According to The Gottman Institute Relationship Blog, “Problem solving … should only begin when both people feel totally understood.” (The Gottman Institute is a highly respected relationship research center. www.gottmanblogcom.) For intimate conversations like the one you and your wife need to have, The Gottman Institute recommends three skills:
Putting your feelings into words.
Asking open-ended questions.
My advice is to set aside time for this conversation, and let her know in advance what you want to talk about. If she’s like many women I know, she’ll practically keel over at the shock that you, her male partner, are initiating a relationship talk. If you’re savvy, you’ll do some extra homework here and make dinner for her, or at least create a special environment, to make it clear this talk is an expression of how much your relationship is a priority.
Finally, instead of jumping into delineating your needs and time limitations, start the whole conversation (utilizing Gottman’s three skills) by finding out about how she views the time issue. Deeply understanding – and respecting – her companionship needs is going to go a long way toward her doing the same for you – and ensuring your bedrock doesn’t crumble.
– XO, Rocky Love
Dear Rocky Love is an advice column on dating, sex and relationships in the Tetons.
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