I have many clients who enjoy playing golf. I often hear the small talk of, “I am playing golf with my buddies tomorrow,” or “This weather is so great, I think I need to fit in some golf.” But one client this week blew me out of the water with his golf analogy. Comparing his golf swing with his marriage (although made his wife roll her eyes at first), is a life changing insight.
This man grew up with a really disconnected father, as many late 30’s to 40’s men like him did. His father was still married to his mom and was around on a day to day basis, but “was around” is about the best connection he felt from him. He didn’t have any conversations with him that did not involve simple talk or sports. He remembers sitting in his room playing and wishing his father would come in and play with him and talk to him about what his interests were. But, his father was busy working and hanging out with his friends to have much time to spend doing any of these things. So my client did his own thing. He learned to be independent, take care of himself, and zone out from those around him.
Put 30 years on this guy, throw him in a marriage and I hope you can spot what the problem is. He has taken what he has learned in his childhood, and he is using that guy in his marriage. It is who he has been trained to be. It is what feels natural. He works a lot, comes home and zones out from his wife and kids in front of his television or goes out with his friends on the weekends or after work. This makes his wife feel abandoned and not important so she becomes angry and resentful. An angry and resentful wife does not make for the best nurturer in a marriage and he is feeling this. It hurts that is wife is no longer affectionate and nurturing. He is simply running on what he knows and it is not creating a very happy life for him, in fact his marriage can feel downright miserable sometimes.
What this husband has discovered after coming to therapy and learning some insight about himself is that to be a connected and loving husband and father is not going to come natural to him. It is something he is going to have to consciously work on. Similarly to his golf game. He said every time he goes up to hit the ball he has to think of each little tweak he has to make to be able to hit the ball well. He says if he just went up and hit the ball the way that felt natural and not the way he has been taught, the ball would swing way off to the right, most likely never to be found again. He said each time he goes up to hit the ball he has to be conscious about what he needs to do to be on target. HE CANNOT GO OFF OF INSTINCTS ALONE!
The same goes for his marriage. Now that he has the insight that he does about needing to be more attentive and connected with his family, it is something that is not going to come natural to him. He needs to think consciously about being that connected father with his children that he wished he would have had. He needs to remember what it felt like to sit in his room alone wishing to connect with his parents and go sit down and play with his children. Even if this seems like a lot of time and energy, it is what he wants more than anything. There is nothing he wants more than to be connected to his wife and children.
Now is the time to come in and work on changing what feels natural in your marriage. It seems like using our natural instincts in marriage would be the right thing to do, but I ask, “How is that working for you?” It’s time to come in and learn your strategies to improve your marriage, and you can maybe even work on your golf game!