Lisa has been married to Ahmad for four years, the past two years they have been fighting non-stop. Ahmad was tired of driving the relationship and Lisa’s lateness would drive him crazy when he came to me. He complained that Lisa would wait on him to decide what they would be doing on the weekends, waiting on him to lead the social and sex life. He was sick of it.
Lisa said she liked to please Ahmad and she was happy to do what he wanted to do. She was also happy having a day in her PJ’s watching Netflix and relaxing with no plans or pressure. She liked being spontaneous and not having to have a schedule or time to wake up by. Ahmad grew up in a household where you got up, showered and dressed early every day. His family weekends were full of activities and super productive and he liked to live this way.
Her lack of discipline when it came to healthy eating, limited drinking and exercising annoyed him too. Resentment was building and as a result harsh words and comments were thrown around like they were nothing.
In the joint session Ahmad agreed to leave Lisa’s weight and exercise to her, would not pressure her. Lisa agreed to make sure she took more decisions and the lead more in the relationship social life and planned surprises for Ahmad.
She also agreed to wake up early one day or the weekend and lie in one day as this was something that would make her happy. Both agreed to make more effort in their sex life to make it more engaging and fun.
Working with Lisa and Ahmad separately and together I was able to help them bridge the communication gap and reconnect to why they fell in love in the first place. The process meant both had different things to work on separately and actions to agree on together.
Not a week goes by when I don’t meet someone who shares with me how tired they are of always taking the lead in the relationship.
They are always the one who is suggesting activities, new ideas, weekends away. They drive the holiday ideas and booking, are the ones to come up with ideas for children’s birthdays and holidays. They feel like their partner waits for them to lead everything and they are fed up of it being one sided all the time.
When I take couples through my marriage transformation program, we look at changing this and making it more balanced.
It’s draining when someone is so laid back they are not driven to take any initiative. The motivated one feels that if they left it up to their partner, they would sit around all weekend on the sofa watch tv and slob around all day.
It can sometimes feel to the person who is leading everything like they have a child not a partner in the relationship. Couples with children will share that it is like they have all children or women have said I have a man-child.
For the couples that don’t have children yet, the person who is leading everything is often worried about having children with their partner because they question whether their partner will step up and be more active. This can sometimes cause conflict in the relationship as one is holding back on committing fully to the next steps in the relationship.
They share with me that they long for an equal, someone to suggest and add excitement into the week. Someone who will wake up and exercise when they say that they are going to, rather than make plans to eat healthy and exercise and never follow through.
They get angry or irritated and hold resentment, when they see their partner not do what they said they will do. They want them to be more disiciplined, more motivated, more driven. So they attack their partner saying things like your lazy, boring, a sheep or suffocating me because your relying on me for your own drive.
The person naturally on the receiving end of the resentment feels unloved, unappreciated and disrespected. They often feel you knew I was laid back, and I am allowed to eat what I want, go to bed when I want, exercise when I want, why does it bother you so much. They feel controlled or parented rather than loved.
It can be difficult to navigate in this in a relationship. One person wants to have a shipmate to drive the relationship and life, to explore and go far on the yacht. Instead they feel like there partner is an anchor holding them back.
So how to handle this massive difference?
With love and respect. Firstly acknowledge that people are often attracted to their opposite in this area. Someone who is driven, motivated a hard worker sees the laid back quality and thinks wow, I could do with that. Must be fun and great to not care as much and relax more. The laid back person often admires their partner, wow I am so attracted to their energy, drive and how they like to organise things. With them I am going to do, experience and see more, how wonderful.
It often works well at the beginning, as the person who organises things and is in love takes over and enjoys making their partner happy by taking the lead. After some time, pressure at work, stress in other areas, they get worn out and crave support.
Instead of seeing laid back as attractive they see it as lazy, unattractive, disrespectful or even uncaring.
Sometimes it can even impact the quality of the conversations too if one person is leading that area also. So how to navigate this and become closer and like a team powering on to living a full colorful life together.
I have a 4 step process, watch my relationship masterclass, if you would like to know more about these steps to reignite the connection and passion in the couple.
The first step is to rebuild the connection with the right loving actions – picking the top 8 from a list of 25 needs in a relationship. Second is clearing negativity and resentment – which is essential for happiness, because no point having a loving date night only for resentment to flare up a few days later.
Then I take couples through communication principles to follow for productive discussions when couples disagree, and my final step is aligning goals, dreams and values which I will talk about in more detail to help you today if your relationship is struggling with this.
It’s important to have a shared vision for where you want your relationship to go and what dreams you have for your life together. Places to live and visit, experiences, family values and experiences.
It’s also important for many to find shared interests to talk about, decide on topics, do an online course together or something. I give 100 different activity sheet to couples I work with for inspiration to help them find things they can do together and have fun.
Then there is discussions I guide them through on expectations and roles.
What do they want their children to experience, the values and moral, social and educational upbringing. Whose role is it, how can they work together.
I get them to take it in turns to organise date nights, holidays and family birthdays and festivities or agree to joint plan everything. Initiating fun, thoughtful, beneficial things to do, date nights, weekends away, holidays
I encourage them to have monthly or quarterly financial meetings to be aligned and like a team financially. As when I work with couple counselling where one person does everything and the other does nothing conflict can occur.
Then there is intimacy – sometimes a driven person feels they are always driving sex and stop to see if there partner will lead. Then when they don’t they feel angry. So I often discuss how to ignite the passion, joint responsibility to instigate and make it special. I give book recommendations and we discuss this sensitive area for more chemistry to happen.