A dear friend of ours who has worked for over twenty-five years as a licensed counseling psychologist once compared relationships to sports (football to be exact). He said that when you play full out (in marriage or in sports) you WILL get hurt–it’s simply part of the game. Then you rest, recuperate, and tend to your wound–be it an aching heart or a strained muscle–and soon you’re back in the game, giving it your all.
Hurt so good
When we get hurt, we have the opportunity to learn and grow. What happened that didn’t work? What area of weakness could we strengthen? Where could we use more practice as a couple? Our hurts help as to further develop ourselves as individuals and as a couple. Though temporarily painful, the hurts often make it easier for us to play with more passion, agility, grace, and ease once we’ve healed.
Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.
~ Zen Buddhist saying
Don’t avoid risks
On the other hand, some couples work really hard to avoid any hurt. They walk on eggshells, don’t tell the truth, and withhold some part of themselves hoping to save themselves from pain. But, as the saying goes, “pain is inevitable,” so attempting to avoid it serves only to keep your connection at a superficial level where the risk–and the rewards–are low. It might work fine on a temporary basis, but if you’re intention is to form a life-long bond with your spouse, you have to be willing to risk a deeper level of intimacy and vulnerability.
So, play the game at 100%. Know that you will sometimes get hurt and will sometimes inflict pain. When you or your spouse are hurt, talk about what happened; shower each other with copious quantities of love, compassion, and (if needed) forgiveness; allow time for healing; then get back in the game with all you’ve got. Remember, you’re playing for a “win-win” where everything is better because you went full out.
(Note: In no way am I endorsing any kind of violence–verbal or physical–in relationships. The “hurts” to which I refer are the aches and pains of everyday life.)
This is the final post in the series exploring the reasons why couples are unhappy in marriage and, most importantly, how you can create a happier more satisfying relationship. Read posts 1-Unhappily ever after, 2-Are weddings ruining marriages?, 3-Healthy conversation tips for couples, 4-Required information on the road to a happy, fulfilling life, 5-Problem-proof your marriage with one simple change, 6-Sweet forgiveness — the power tool for healthy marriages, and 7-Two keys to make your love flourish.
I think that a healthy relationship is one in which, when their is “poop” to clean up, both partners pitch in. Though we don’t generally like to look at the messy parts of our marriages, they are a great window into our relationship health.
For many of us, it’s easy to place blame when things aren’t rosy. We live in a culture (definitely in the US at least), where blaming is becoming an instinct in relationships large and small. One of the main problems with blaming, however, is that it improves nothing. It might soothe your ego for a short while to think that your hubby or your wife has done you wrong, but once that high is gone, you’re likely to feel quite blue.
As long as you can find someone else to blame for anything you are doing, you cannot be held accountable or responsible for your growth or the lack of it.~ Sun Bear
So, if you want to feel better AND resolve your problems, stop blaming and start taking responsibility for what’s being created in your life. Note to all martyrs: Taking responsibility does NOT mean saying “It’s all my fault” and condemning yourself as the guilty party. That never works either. Taking responsibility means owning your part/role in what happened, taking action to rectify the situation, and giving your partner the space to do the same.
As you move away from the “gotcha” blame game, you’re likely to find that not only are messes more quickly cleaned up, but that they even stop getting created in the first place.
In I Do! I Do! The Marriage Vow Workbook, we offer you a step-by-step approach for writing your own unique vows, vows that will express your love in your own words. In addition to the numerous exercises, we provide suggestions based on our own experience as a happily married couple.
If you’re in the process of writing your wedding vows here are a few tips for making these self-authored marriage promises to your beloved:
- Write vows in the positive (e.g., “I will treat you with respect,” instead of, “I will not be disrespectful toward you.”).
- Write vows in the way you speak. If you’re plainspoken, write your vows that way and leave flowery prose to others.
- Write vows that register a strong “yes” within you when you read them to yourself. Something inside you will let you know that this commitment is right for you.
- Write vows that speak to the best in you and your partner.
Writing your own vows can be one was to get your marriage off to a strong start. Even if you don’t think of yourselves as writers, trust us, by using The Marriage Vow Workbook (either the print or e-book version) or another thoughtful process, you can write vows that beautifully express your committed love. Even if you want to have elements of tradition in your wedding, writing your own wedding vows can bring you and your partner closer and deepen the love you now feel.
Congratulations and have fun writing your vows!
Problem: 60% of women aren’t sure if they would remarry their current husbands if given the chance (according to a poll from Woman’s Day/AOL).
Solution: Invest yourself in creating a marriage that you would want to have if given the chance for a “do over.”
If YOUR marriage is in this 60%, there are two useful remedies–
time and loving attention.
When I say “time” I literally mean minutes, hours, days spent being with your spouse. For many couples today, time simply being together is rare. “Being” together is not running errands together, or going to your kids soccer games together. It’s just the two of you, undistracted by other responsibilities, sharing time in conversation, lovemaking, dreaming, reconnecting. So take the time, right now, to set time aside on your schedules to be alone together. Make this time inviolable (save death or true disaster)–your relationship is sacred so time for it should be sacrosanct too.
I specify “loving attention” because I see many people that think that complaining, griping, bitching, and moaning are going to turn their marriage around. Rather than nagging your spouse, whining to your friends, or journaling about your woes, focus yourself on giving positive energy to your relationship in thought, word, and deed. Make it your mission to give only positive reinforcement to your relationship, no matter what. Here are a few concrete examples of what this could look like.
- Instead of complaining that your husband works late, invite him to join you for dinner out at his favorite restaurant and then really enjoy the meal together.
- Rather than focusing on how your wife is usually late, compliment her on how good it feels to be in her company.
- When a friend gripes about her husband, share something you love about your husband and then invite her to do the same.
- If you’re angry at your wife for something, be honest with her about your feelings yet do it in a loving and respectful way.
There are plenty of things in our world that we cannot directly control. Fortunately for us, and our marriages, we are masters of ourselves. Choose to invest your time and your loving energy in your relationship–whether you’re currently unhappy or happy–and you will see your love and connection to your partner flourish.
This post is #7 in the series exploring the reasons why couples are unhappy in marriage and, most importantly, how you can create a happier more satisfying relationship. Read posts 1-Unhappily ever after, 2-Are weddings ruining marriages?, 3-Healthy conversation tips for couples, 4-Required information on the road to a happy, fulfilling life, 5-Problem-proof your marriage with one simple change, and 6-Sweet forgiveness — the power tool for healthy marriages.