I got an email yesterday that made me sad.
However, I wasn’t at all surprised. It was an email that confirmed something I had already known.
It was an email from the wife of one of my previous clients. She was just saying hi and giving me some of their news. Unfortunately, they had broken up and she was now living in a new city, but was quite happy and making a good life for herself. My client was back living with his parents, and she wasn’t sure how he was doing. She reported that she just couldn’t do it anymore. The injury had stolen her husband, his will and drive to live. He wanted to sit at home and surf the net. No initiation, no motivation, no follow throug; hallmark traits for frontal lobe injuries. She was working two jobs to try to make ends meet, but at the same time had become a serious runner. She was running in one direction. He was staying put in another.
I remember a few years ago sitting in a team meeting with them. We discussed the challenges my client had: typical executive function, frontal lobe issues. But my thoughts were really on his amazing wife that sat by his side. She had always been such a stellar support for her husband, and had the kindest spirit. She looked amazing, had lost a lot of weight, and was seriously getting into running.
I looked at her and sadly, knew their marriage was over. It was only a matter of time. I think I even said something to the team at the end of the meeting. I know I came home and told Rob that another marriage was about to fall prey to TBI.
While TBI might have been an underlying contributor for this break up, there seems to be a pattern that many relationships have when they start down the slippery slope towards breakup.
It’s what I call a lack of togetherness.
There is the saying “The family that plays together, stays together “. (Another take on that is “The family that prays together, stays together” – which I firmly believe, but that’s for another post!)
You can develop different hobbies than your spouse, have varying interests, play different sports, but you need to make sure you are also developing some key things together. If one person goes too far along a different path, they may actually travel too far from the other person, and then they begin to lead their own lives. If they become so passionate or engrossed in something their partner cannot share with them anymore, they start to feel disconnected, or worse yet, connected to someone else who “understands”.
I knew when I saw my client lost in his stagnant world of hopelessness, and his wife entering the world of marathons, that their paths were not going to eventually end up at the same place. However, I’ve learned that the world of head injury is so unique that I don’t want to judge how things played out, if they could or should have done things differently. Was she supposed to stay in hopelessness with him? Should he have been somehow forced to run marathons? Could they have just persevered with their different lives and led them side by side? I don’t have the answers that would have been right for them, especially given the fact that head injury played a strong role.
What I do know is that togetherness is soooooo important. You need to share some fundamental values, interests and passions. You need to routinely spend time doing those things together. You need to “get into” some things that maybe aren’t exactly “your thing” but simply because they are your partner’s thing. A little give and take, a smidgen of compromise and a whole lot of tolerance.
If you have this togetherness in lots of different areas, you will be stronger, you will want to be together more, you will plan for your future more. You will find yourselves on the same road, perhaps darting on and off a few different paths, but walking the same road at the end of the day. And that is the best part of this journey- being able to share it together. Hand in hand. Sharing the same road with your best friend as you find new adventures together.