Exits are important. They give us a way out.
We exit the door in the morning to go to work. We exit the office door at the end of the workday. We exit supermarkets, gyms, movie theaters, malls and churches on Sunday. Most exits are functional and a necessary part of life. We don't really think about them because they are simply part of our normal routine.
However, there are other exits we would be wise to heed — relationship exits. They happen every day but go unnoticed most of the time, and are a short-term solution for a longer-term problem.
Common exits: Working long hours and weekends. Spending a majority of free time with a hobby, playing computer games, tweeting, watching TV or checking Facebook. Daydreaming. Sports addiction. Obsessing about your health. Chronic tardiness. Camping out on the phone. Four scotches a night. Internet pornography. Shopping. Avoiding eye contact. Refusing to talk. Refusing to make love. Focusing all attention on the children. Crossword puzzles. Texting at meal times.
This does not mean all the above activities need to be eliminated. They become a problem only if they are getting in the way of consistently connecting with a partner.
Harville Hendricks, author and relationship expert, suggests creating a time with your partner to exchange information — what you see as ways you exit and what you perceive as your partner's exits. No name calling, yelling or blaming — just awareness. Follow that with decisions you are willing to make to spend less time on an activity or perhaps eliminating some. Try it for a week and see if it makes a difference.
If intimacy and closeness are what you desire, a willingness to take an honest look at behavioral patterns is important. If left unattended, relationship exits will kill relationships slowly but surely.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Email her at email@example.com.