A main task of every marriage from the early days of the relationship to its end is for each partner to nurture the other.
The loneliness of life in cities, the long commutes, the absence of meaningful contact with people in so many jobs, the anonymity of suburban life, and the distances that separate close friends and family have all sharpened our emotional hungers. The faceless machines we spend so much time with in our offices have increased our sense of isolation.
We feel tired, driven, and needy. More than ever before we need someone special who understands how we feel and responds with tenderness. Love begins with paying attention.
Replenishing each others emotional reserves does not mean infantilizing each other --quite the reverse. Paradoxically, providing for a partner's dependency needs arise strengthens the capacity of both people to maintain their adulthood, for adulthood is built on occasional regressions. We all regress when we cry, when we admit helplessness and failure, when we feel discouraged and depressed.
We turn toward each other for a strong shoulder to lean on.
If we never let our guard down we become brittle, fragile, and boring. As adults we take two steps forward and one step back. If we do not , we risk depleting our reserves for the next step upward.
This kind of compassionate help beings with an accurate assessment of the cause of the others suffering, followed by a genuine effort to mutual understanding and genuine caring--not on generalities and platitudes. A marriage that does not provide nurturance and restorative comfort can die of emotional malnutrition.
Why get up in the morning to face the daily responsibilities of adulthood and family life if the rewards seems so inadequate compared to the effort required? The need for sympathy and for restoration of battered self esteem, which receive much less press than the search for sexual adventure, is a major component in infidelity.
To clarify the importance of nurturance in marriage, it helps to look at the notion of the mother as providing emotional refueling for the child who goes back and forth from independence with his peers to his mother's sheltering care. The toddler ventures away from her playground. She returns at intervals to have her tears dried and complaints kissed away, then returns to the serious business of conquering the world.
The same to and fro occurs in adult life. One or both partners venture out to face the perils of the workplace, then return to the safe, emotionally supportive relationship of marriage and home to gather nourishment and confidence to venture out again.
If the satisfactions of the house are sufficient, a balance is maintained.
If not, the man or woman feels depleted and unappreciated.
A marriage that is capable of rising magnificently to an acute crisis cannot always handle the boredom, fatigue, tension, and unmet needs that are part of everyday life.
But routine frustrations are always serious if the partners' needs are on a collision course. It is a drastic mistake to overlook these frustrations and assume that time will automatically take care of the problem. Although time may indeed provide a remedy, the so called remedy may not heal the marriage.
It is always better to acknowledge unmet needs than to deny them: at least they can be recognized and examined in the light.
Wallerstein & Blakeslee ~ The Good Marriage