May 2, 2011

What’s going on behind closed doors: Relationships in modern day Australia by Bernie Bolger

Filed under: Uncategorized — Admin @ 10:58 am

Australian couples are in crisis – relationship crisis. And what is it about?  Sex, money and power and the role of each in the relationship. And it’s causing mutual resentment.

From the men’s point of few they aren’t having sex with their wives, they may be having sex, but it is not with their wives.  From the women’s point of view, they are feeling, powerless, depressed and resentful. Mix these all up together and you have a disaster waiting to happen.

For at least the past 40 years, women have been encouraged to have the same expectations of life and career as men. In fact at school they are actively encouraged to study hard and pursue a career.  And in this day and age, most of these expectations can be realised.  Until they have a baby that it is and then all sense of equality goes out the window.  From the moment that baby is born, in the majority of cases, the care of that child becomes the mother’s issue. And this can happen without even a conversation taking place between the parents. In a lot of cases, it is just assumed that the mother will take time out of her career to look after the child.  This may work for the first few years, but ten years out of the paid workforce takes a toll on the woman’s self-confidence and sense of power and ultimately on the relationship.

But it is all very subtle.  It starts with the wife expending all her time and energy on being super mum.  In her mind, if she is going to make this her career, then she is going to do it to perfection. No wonder she is too tired to have sex.  And what about the husband? Well he has a role to play as well.  W hen he rocks in from the office, he doesn’t think of asking how her day has been or if she’d like a hand with bath-time.  In fact he is more than likely to put his nose in his blackberry to check the constant stream of emails.  And so the tit-for-tat begins. Wife decides “I’m not going to put out if he can’t even be bothered asking about his daughters’s ballet lesson!” Husband responds with ‘I don’t even know why I bother coming home – I may as well stay on in the office” And so the reality of parallel lives within the marriage begins.

Bernie’s Steps to a better Relationship

  1. If you think this might be your situation, the first thing you have to do is acknowledge there is a problem.  Issues like this do not go away – they go underground and fester. 
  2. Have a conversation.  If your situation is too far gone and it feels like it has been years since you were able to have a constructive conversation with your partner, it’s amazing how productive just one facilitated session with a therapist can be in raising all those issues which have been causing such resentment over the years. 
  3. If you are about to embark on a new relationship or have children who are about to go down this path, have the hard conversations upfront – it could save a lot of tears later. And make sure that in those conversations, the following topics are covered off.
  • The importance of sex in your life
  • The importance of financial independence and security in your life
  • What about child-care – who is going to look after the child?
  • How is that person going to get paid?  I would suggest that 50% of the wage-earner’s salary goes into his partner’s account
  • If the primary carer wants to go back to work, how will that work?
  • Make looking after the family finances, part of the stay-at-home partner’s role.  This includes seeing the financial adviser, the accountant, the lawyer.  Just because you give up paid work, doesn’t mean you give up access to your brain
  • When the kids get to school-going age, consider returning to paid work, even if it is only part-time.  This is not always about money – it is about self-esteem, a feeling of usefulness and a sense of achievement, the best counter-actions to those feelings of depression.