Let's go back a bit. Their story started when Ilan and Barb met shortly after high school. Ilan found a job in a plant and was a dedicated worker. He didn't have that many marketable skills however and felt that he could never rise above his entry level position. Nonetheless, he felt lucky to have found a job that at least paid him a regular salary. Ilan and Barb were able to live together frugally. Soon, they married.
Their expenses went up, of course, as their family grew. The cost of living also increased. Ilan's salary though was cast in concrete. They only managed financially because of government subsidies for their children. Ilan didn't think that he would ever find better employment. But he did ask a few of his friends if they knew of a possible second job, something that he could do for a few hours in the evening. Ilan gave up on the idea rather quickly because he was worried that his boss might find out. He was the type to fire someone for that kind of thing.
Barb married Ilan when she was 19. She was two years his junior. They seemed compatible but more importantly for Barb, Ilan was a straightforward and dependable guy. He wasn't a drinker and he didn't swear much. Barb really needed stability because she had grown up in a home where her father drank and created a lot of chaos. So, as Barb got to know Ilan, she was attracted to his disposition. These were the positive aspects of his nature.
As the years progressed, most of Barb's friends also married. Many of those marriages didn't last more than five years. But, single or divorced, her girlfriends seemed to be living much more comfortable lives. Barb felt torn. She envied her friends, even the divorced ones, who could afford to take care of themselves, drive a reliable car and shop for clothing when they needed it.
Yes, Ilan was stable. He lived up to Barb's expectations in that regard. Unfortunately, he was also too accepting of his lot in life. She saw no drive on his part to do better.
Barb often wondered whether she had sacrificed too much just to have a guy around who would give her the emotional stability her father never did. She had tried to get Ilan to go back to school or try another field of work. But, what was Ilan to do? He was tired by the end of the day and not very academically gifted. His consolation in life was coming home to his wife and children.
However, Barb was becoming less receptive to him. She had been cooling off for over a year. More than once, he had overheard Barb speaking to friends about her frustrations with Ilan and he thought that they were encouraging her to leave him for greener pastures. Her frustrations interfered with her desire for intimacy and the politeness at home was now ringing empty.
To make matters worse, around the same time, Ilan's stress went threw the roof when his boss told him that he didn't think that he was working very hard. Despite Ilan's protests, his boss had already come to a conclusion. Ilan was now also worried about losing his job in addition to his wife.
All the stress was making Ilan feel ill. He needed to share what he was experiencing with Barb, but, if she realized that he was worried that he might lose the job, she would probably be even more contemptuous because of the threat of financial ruin. What if Barb acted on her friends' advice?
For the next few days, Ilan lay in bed at night worrying. He never felt so alone. He thought that he should handle the stress like a man and just keep everything to himself. But his body was telling him otherwise. He was experiencing chest pains as he lay next to his wife. Barb didn't know this and Ilan was glad that at least he was able to keep this to himself. However, all of this stress was dramatically affecting his performance at the plant. One morning, his boss called Ilan into his office. Ilan was sweating and feeling nauseous.
"Ilan, I have had your manager keep a close eye on you recently and he has confirmed my suspicions. You really are not putting in the effort that we need. I'm paying you a solid salary but you don't seem motivated. So, I'm letting you go. The secretary will prepare your documents. Good luck." That was it. Thirty seconds and after all of those years, he was out.
Ilan left the boss' office with his tail between his legs. "Solid salary?" he thought to himself. "You cheap..." As he gathered his few possessions and headed out the door, he felt such shame and helplessness. The impact of his new reality hit him like the hot air as he stepped outside.
"Barb is going to freak!" Ilan thought. "It's still morning. What am I supposed to do, go home?" So, instead Ilan went to the diner to think. For the next hour, he replayed the scene that took place in his boss' office over and over again. He knew that he needed help and so he called a good friend of his who was a foreman in another plant and begged him for a job.
If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
So, what do you think Ilan should have done at this point?
Here's what happened: Ilan called home and told Barb that they needed to have an important conversation. While he was driving home, Barb was wondering if her husband had lost his job and if she should be furious with him. Or, who knows, perhaps it was possible that he'd become tired of her lousy attitude and wanted out of the marriage?
When they sat down together, before anything else was said, both Ilan and Barb realized that their marriage was at a crossroads. Whatever Ilan was going to share, they could either go forward together or go their own way.
Ilan started by telling Barb that he loved her. Tears welled up in her eyes. His matter of fact attitude made her think that maybe this was it. Normally, Ilan would have very sheepishly reported to his wife that he lost his job and wait for her to respond. This time, however, he said the following: "Barb, you married me because I was the opposite of your father. I don't know if you ever really loved me for being me. If that's so, then I'm telling you that I lost my job today because I have been so unhappy with our being so far apart that it was making me sick. I couldn't work properly. If you want to call it quits, OK. But I would rather we work things out."
Ilan shared his love for his wife and acknowledged the reality of their marriage as he saw it. He let Barb know that he wanted to improve their marriage. But Barb could choose to be contemptuous. At this point, that would really signal the end of their marriage. It was up to Barb to make a very important decision. What would it be?
"I'm very sorry," Barb responded. "But you're only partly right. I did need someone who was very different from my father. But there was more. While I waited for you to come home today, I thought about what it would be like not to have you here with me. I would miss you terribly. I love you very much." She reached out and touched the tear that was falling down his face.
Barb was addressing Ilan's greatest fear, that his wife didn't love him.
"I've heard you with your friends. You pretty much said that you would like to live as they do," Ilan added.
"Yes, I'm tired of being poor," Barb said, "but," she continued, "I want to be with you. I may have said something stupid a few times, but this morning, when I realized that I might not be sharing my life with you, it made me terribly sad."
Ilan took the opportunity to try and set a new tone. "OK. Listen. I know that I have not showed much drive in getting a better job, but the truth is that I was afraid that if I tried something and failed that you would leave me."
"Ilan." Barb said. "What kind of a marriage can't tolerate some tension? I would rather you try and fail but eventually do something more rewarding! I've never felt really cared for. I assumed that you didn't care about my worrying over our financial situation. Whenever, I mentioned the idea of your trying something to improve our position, you never seemed to give it thought."
At this point, Ilan realized that he had been making a terrible mistake. For years he had not been open with Barb. She mistook his fear for indifference. Now was the moment that he needed to change that. He also suddenly felt much more accepted and powerful, in a loving, protective way. "Well, it's time that we redo this marriage of ours. Barb, I want you to tell me what you want from me. I will try to be more of what you need."
Barb responded, "Ilan, what do you mean 'try'? You were doing better. Let's stick to a more direct tone and approach. If you backslide, and that's normal, I'll remind you not to be wishy washy. I am OK with who you are, but I want to see you push yourself as well. Let's do this and make sure that we succeed."
Ilan smiled and took hold of Barb's hand. They moved closer and kissed. A passion was felt by both of them. Before long, they were in the bedroom addressing their needs for affection and love.
When frustrations and personal shortcomings get in the way of love, you need to be open and honest with each other. Appreciate what your partner means to you and tell them. Commit to working out your issues. Then apply yourselves. Feeling needed and appreciated do a lot to increase the desire for intimacy.