If this title caught your eye, then you have some question about where to go with your relationship. Most couples experience ambivalence at various stages of their marital journey. You will find yourself in good company if you read any of the journals about relationships.
Let me give you this, at least you are seeking to become conscious of it and are wondering what you want to do about it. Many couples simply drift apart with hidden resentments and get lost in work, parenting, or the ever-present screens.
Yet you would not have opened this, if you did not want to find reasons to step up to the plate and invest some new energy. Let me outline some obvious and not so obvious suggestions to inspire you to put new energy into recreating a thriving and robust relationship with your closest compassion.
- Going To Bed At Night With Someone Who Means It When They Say, “I Love You”
After a long day, what can be more satisfying than doing spoons and saying those three words and hearing them in return? In the words of Jack Nicholas, that’s “as good as it gets.”
Dr. Sue Johnson in her research on what makes good couple relationships, notes that we adults resemble babies who need to know someone will come, if we let out a disaster cry. Those three simple words before sleeping provide a bucket load of reassurance. Ask any spouse like myself, who’s been through a stroke to find out how they will never forget their beloved’s response at a time of need.
Hearing that note of reassurance reverberates through your dreams and through the next day. I have a helpmate. I am not alone. I have someone who I can come to home and reclaim the feeling that all’s right with the world.
- Someone Who Knows What Your Big Deal Means
Let’s say you have just head from your boss that his superior has recognized you and wants you to head a new department that you have dreamed about. Or perhaps, the graduate school of your choice has accepted you and your beloved knows that this will open a door for you to enter the profession of your dreams. Alternatively, you have just recognized the second line on your home pregnancy test means you’re going to have a baby or your publisher has accepted your first book.
If you have invested well in your marriage, you know whom you will call first. No one could know better what this moment means to you. Only your partner in life can appreciate the depth of emotion this will trigger and help you to name it. With your partner’s affirmation, your excitement has a new texture, a sense of reality and feeling that it counts. Let the celebration begin.
- Buffer Through Life’s Unexpected Curve Balls
You were not expecting that next baby, or the boss to leave you stranded at the company was downsizing. Perhaps you had no expectation of the downturn in the economy leading to foreclosure on your house. Suppose you discover that your teenager has made heroin a drug of choice.
So you ask why invest in your marriage. Answer: you don’t want to face these challenges without a confidant and cheerleader to make sense of what to do. If you haven’t put in the time to build the marriage you need, you may encounter blame or criticism. Having someone believe that you are doing the best you can and helping you be creative will usher you through the crisis.
We don’t plan for these hiccups, yet we need to have a support system that helps us recall our inner resources and can help us cope with the reality. May I suggest, that you just don’t want to find yourself building a resource team at this point. Be sure you have built the grounding for the two of you to face it together.
- Don’t Forget Your Need For An “On Your Side” Critic
You partner can serve as your best mirror. I know, you may find this tricky. I find couples who have invested in making their marriage as an open forum for honest communication profit immensely from this feedback. Learning to trust your beloved’s clarity about other ways you could do your life will not come easy.
For myself, I have had to pull in my radar for discerning the slightest smidgeon of criticism in order to listen to Betsy’s clarity about how I could present myself to the world. Whether it’s the clothes I am wearing, the way I am getting long winded about my favorite topics, or my tendency to wear a chip on my shoulder, I need to listen.
Because I know she’s got my back and that she wants the best for me, I can pay attention. I may not always agree but at least she has offered another perspective. I would probably have to pay a consultant, piles of money, to get the same advice. It’s cheaper to keep it in house.
- Who Else Can Know You So Will To Help You Believe In Yourself
Couples who have put in the time to get to know each other’s dreams have a deep sense of the value of the other. If you have shared what you would like to happen in the next few years, your partner will see the “you” that has values and that is seeking to make a difference in the world.
In short, someone who knows the real you, warts and all and still loves you, can offer you the biggest ego booster you can find. It works better than therapy. On the other hand, if you can’t in, how much your intimate other believes in you, then you might need therapy. Sometimes we have an unexamined filter system that keeps us from allowing other’s opinions matter to us.
Something happens when you are at your lowest, and you feel you both are looking at your worst, and your best friend says, ‘I know who you are and you are more than these things.” I have seen this so powerfully with couples who have completed the road to infidelity recovery successfully. Someone else staying on your side in spite of what you have done works miracles for your self-esteem.
- Your Marriage Offers You Your Best Chance To Grow Up
Before you decide to give up on investing in your marriage, consider this. Have you actually let the challenges of your relationship push you to develop the maturity you need? To achieve full manhood or womanhood, one usually has a lot of growing. I guess by now you have recognized that you had to learn a lot just to stay in the relationship
I am talking about things like, willingness to accept the good and the bad in your partner, developing the freedom to give when your partner doesn’t have the bandwidth, or learning to get your needs on the table without attacking or whining. This includes as well, finding ways to listen until you really understand, problem solving only when asked, or finding out your partner’s preferred way of being loved. (See The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman).
Frame your relationship as a chance to become all that you can be. By bumping up against the obstacles of disappointment, moments of seeming abandonment, dealing with life when you don’t have much to give, will give you wisdom. Face the bumps in the road of your partner’s challenges, will allow you to emerge as a person who values your relationship as a training ground for mastering life.
- Two Is Better Than One For Increasing Your Connections To The World
Singlehood can seem at first to offer you endless opportunities to do what you want, when you want, with whom you want. However, think about the richness of the friendships that your spouse has brought into your life. You may still enjoy seeing his old college buddies, or the people that in her work circle, or even the people the two of you have encountered at your spiritual community or intellectual circuit. Reconnaissance to find enough friends alone, can prove daunting.
Besides having a drink just with your best friends for ever without having a chance to catch up with their spouses and celebrating life with them at holidays, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings etc. does not have the same depth. Afterwards you can come home to each other to compare notes about feelings that surfaced during the get-together.
Long-lasting mutual couple relationships provide a sense of continuity as you go through the stages of life together. Learning from them how they have met their challenges will give a sense that you are not alone and you can grow in similar ways.
- Do You Really Want To Go Through Life Alone?
Many of you will remember the passage from Genesis, “And God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone.” Rooted in the tradition of several religions, you will find the recognition that going it may leave something out of life. Many times, it’s necessary
If your partner abuses you physically, sexually or even financially, seek help. If your partner is a pathological liar with no indication of seeking to change, you know what you need to do. Spouses who commit infidelity without remorse and offer only defensiveness and no indication of willingness to seek help can provide ample justification for a divorce.
Let me, however, champion the cause for cases other than the above for investing in your marriage. Discover what your relationship can offer if you use the right tools and skills and become appreciative of each other again. Do this before you distance further and before the wounds have hardened into scar tissue.
For all of the reasons stated above, seek the companionship of the one with whom you fell in love. Often the obstacles become boulders until you get on a track that can help the two of you feel alive together again. If that is taking longer than you wish, seek help.
- Spending a Lifetime Together
Take seriously, Robert Browning’s words:
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to come,
The last of life, for which the first was made.”
Seeing an older couple celebrate their 50th anniversary touches most of us. As a marriage counselor, I remember my parents’ celebration. I marveled that they had found a way to achieve a happiness that proved a model to me.
Now as I get closer to that marker, I find myself writing articles like this to encourage couples to stick it out and work through the hurdles. The value of an “over the years relationship” becomes apparent as you look back and see how bonded you have become and the joys you have shared that now provide many memories. No one else has been present to all of those experiences.
Someone noted to me that the worst part of having her house burn down was losing the photographs of the family life together. Whom else will you reminisce with about your shared moments, both good and bad?
- The Sacred Bond Worth Keeping
In most religions, marriage has spiritual overtimes. Spiritually oriented people look beyond what we can taste, touch or feel, to give meaning to things. They tend inclined see the marital bond as something sacred. In other words, more than a mere signatures and word said to the justice of the peace, the marital bond created in front of others promises a vow of fidelity, and trust.
They know deep down that a relationship and caring for the relationship can bring out the best of their soul. One of the best antidotes for depression includes taking action steps to love another. To love another is experience something akin to the divine.
Martin Buber coined the phrase “I and Thou relationship” and by this, he recognized that in the marital relationship, one has special moments. At such times, two people drop down beyond the facades and the defenses that get them through much of life. They drop down to experience a sense of awe. They feel the wonder of letting the other know them, accept them value and challenge them. No miracle surpasses it.
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If you are in need of help for your marriage, whether you need 911 emergency help or to simply get your marriage out of a rut, I am here to help. For couples in the Midtown Manhattan and Westchester areas of New York, please call me at 914-548-8645 or drop me an email at email@example.com for a free consultation so we can see what we can do together to make your marriage thrive.