Is Your Relationship Starving for Affection or Attention? Not sure, read this…

“He is everything. But I’m… I’m really lonely. And to be with someone, when you’re not really with him can… it’s… I think I might be less lonely… alone.”- Quote from Hope Springs

I watched a movie called, “Hope Springs”, the other night and it really made me think about relationships. The movie follows an older couple by the names of Kay and Arnold, played by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones respectively. They’ve been married for 30 years and their relationship is on life support. Kay decides that they need to go to intensive marriage counseling and she purchases a week-long trip to a place called Hope Springs in Maine. Her husband is resistant even though they are sleeping in separate rooms.

The movie is touching in its portrayal of two people in a relationship where they have forgotten how to love one another. It’s clear that they are just going through the motions and defenses are up between both of them. My heart went out to both characters as they struggle to find a way to connect with one another. As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but think about how could two people who love each other gets so disconnected from one another to the point where they are afraid to touch each other.

The movie shows that they had both rejected each other at some point in the relationship. The rejection led to fear and protection and after some time, both people stopped trying. It was painful to watch the wife try to touch her husband in an intimate way and he recoils and retreats. How do you get so far away from someone who you once loved passionately while you are still sharing the same house?

In conversations about relationships, I’ve heard men argue that their wife or girlfriend shouldn’t complain about his emotional disconnection because “he comes home every night and he’s not out there cheating.” The husband character said something similar in the movie. But, if you are not present with your wife, then it’s like being in a house alone. A relationship requires intimacy to stay alive. Your wife needs to know that she is desired and loved. The way that a man can do that is through affection and attention.

If the husband is burying his attention in everything, but his wife, then he is ignoring her needs. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be porn, television, hobbies or almost anything. A man should have other interest outside of his wife and family, but the problem is when it becomes a way of distracting himself from the problems in the relationship or if he uses it to avoid her needs.

But the husband is not the only one at fault. Intimacy for women is in communication, romance and attention. For men, they create intimacy with the woman they love through sex. Often, when a woman feels like the man isn’t trying to give her intimacy, she will stop wanting to have sex. When the man experiences the lack of sex, it will cause him to shut down further and distract himself. His level of communication, romance and attention will drop further which leads to frustration in his wife. She will further shut down and this leads to the stalemate that dissolves into a loveless marriages.

“Arnold, your wife is very unhappy and you have to ask yourself, ‘have I done all I could?'”- quote from Hope Springs

Someone has to be the bigger person and take the first step. For some people, it may take the intervention of a counselor to get both people in the relationship to refocus their efforts on creating intimacy. But, someone has to open the lines of communication, inject the relationship with romance and attention and invite sex back into the equation. It will require both people to forgive each other, to stop rejecting one another and to remember why you fell in love in the first place.

Here are a few questions to think about:

Do you want the person you love to feel alone? If the person walks away from you, will you regret that you didn’t do everything you could to love them?  Is what you are distracting yourself with more important than the needs of your partner? 

If you see any of yourself or your relationship in this movie or this post, it’s time to start fighting for your relationship. If you can’t do it on your own, you should seek counseling. But, you have to do something, because it’s only if you are lucky that someone will force you to go to counseling like Kay did to her husband. Most people will wake up to find their partner gone from their life with no words and no warning.

Being there is only a part of being in a relationship. Being present, supportive and loving to your partner is the way to feed a relationship and make it grow. If you’re not growing together, you are growing apart. If you are telling yourself that you shouldn’t have to do anything that you don’t want to do while being in your relationship, you will create the outcome that fits that belief. Because the only people who don’t have to do anything someone else wants are single people. And, you will be single if you can’t bend over backwards for your relationship. Relationships that don’t bend, always break.