A friend texts me, telling me she needs to talk. We meet up for coffee. And then it all spills out. No, not the coffee! The problem she is experiencing in her marriage. She’s really upset with her husband. They had gone to a party the night before. In her words, “He did what he always does at every party. Left me on my own!” Tentatively, I ask what I already knew and she confirmed. The party was at the home of their common friends. There were people at the party they both knew. I didn’t see a problem. He hadn’t, after all, left her home alone while he went for a boy’s night out (and so what if he did!). Since she saw this as a problem, I had to tread carefully. Sharing from my personal experience, I also expounded on something I learnt a long while ago – The Salad Theory of Relationships.
The Salad Theory Of Relationships
I had read this somewhere and diligently copied it into a notebook.
Just as a salad needs some lettuce, a little tomato, cucumber, this and that, a full life involves friends, work, arts, and community. When I ask clients, ‘What do you believe you can only get from him?’ they say, ‘He’s so interested, he listens to me, he thinks I’m special, we do things together.’ We can do things with zillions of people. Why is it that only he can get you doing things?– Diana de Vegh
What the salad theory says is that one ingredient cannot make a salad! We need different flavours! In relationship terms, all our needs cannot be met by one person. That would be unfair. We must learn to create space in our relationships.
Learn to be ‘separate together’
For couples to be content in their relationship, they need to create room to develop as individuals. Space in intimate relationships is healthy and very necessary.
I had to suggest to my friend that it was perfectly okay to separate at a party. If her husband was talking to others, it didn’t mean that he was ignoring or avoiding her. Was it possible that she was not getting something from the relationship that she believed she should?
I reminded her that one of the qualities that attracted her to her husband was his ability to socialize effortlessly. Did she hope that by being joined at the hip at parties, his popularity would rub off on her? Was she really so needy? I encouraged her to talk. And as she did, she realized that although her husband had a lot of friends, he was not really close to them. He, for instance, didn’t really have friends he could call like she had called me!!
She also began to see that although they had common interests, there were some they didn’t share. She did cherish her alone time painting, while he golfed. She did enjoy a quiet time at a cafe with a couple of friends talking about books, while he watched crime serials on television. So they were practicing the salad theory, but she hadn’t seen it that way.
I suggested that her husband and she spend time talking over how she felt about his behaviour at parties. She felt alone. Did she know how he felt?
She called a few days to let me know that their talk and sharing did help.
Working on the Salad Theory
Couples trying to meet all their needs in each other are going to have tremendous struggles. It’s just not possible to be The One who provides every need to the other.
In healthy relationships, partners are sufficiently secure in themselves and in each other to encourage the other to grow independently too. They encourage each other to pursue new ventures, live out dreams, socialize and even travel separately.
If you’re struggling in this aspect of your marriage/partnership:
- Spend time in honest communication about your feelings and needs and what you both want from the relationship. This helps do away with all assumptions and false expectations.
- If you have not been to therapy before and are a bit nervous about licensed couples counseling, a good starting point would be group therapy. Read this article to find out more about the benefits of group counseling.
Let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Image Credits: Unsplash