“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.”
The first installment on this topic revolved around creating new principles, goals and objectives that gives the couple a chance for success in finding the underlying causes that create the rift in their relationship.
We also discussed the primary role for the therapists in guiding the conversation in session to help couples improve communication and review how the couple was progressing in sustaining the new principle, goals and objectives to breathe new life into the relationship.
In Part 2, we’ll review the importance of the individual behaviors in the relationship and the effort, time and compromises one must be willing to make.
When an individual reaches out in therapy to upgrade his/her relationship, that person must respect his mate and be honest with himself.
Time, Trade offs and Compromises
To create the relationship you really desire, there will be some difficult trade offs and tough choices for each person.
The first trade off will be time. It simply takes time to create a relationship that flourishes: time to be together, time to be with family, time to play, coordinate, nurture, relax, hang out and plan. This time will encroach on some other valuable areas – your personal or professional time.
The second compromise is comfort. That means emotional comfort, like going out on a limb to try novel ways of thinking or doing things, listening and being curious instead of butting in, speaking up instead of becoming resentfully compliant or withdrawing
At the beginning, there will be emotional risk taking action, but you will never explore different worlds if you always keep sight of the shoreline. In addition, few people are emotionally comfortable being confronted with how they don’t live their values or being confronted with the consequences of their actions.
The other comfort that will be challenged is energy comfort. It simply takes effort to sustain improvement over time: staying conscious of making a difference over time, remembering to be more respectful, more giving, more appreciative etc. It takes effort to remember and act.
The other effort is even more difficult for some people: that is improving their reaction to problems.
For example, if one person is hypersensitive to criticism and his/her partner is hypersensitive to feeling ignored, it will take effort to improve their sensitivity instead of hoping the partner will stop ignoring or criticizing.
In all these areas, there is generally a conflict between short-term gratification and the long-term goal of creating a satisfying relationship.
The blunt reality is that, in an interdependent relationship, effort is required on the part of each person to make a sustained improvement. It is like pairs figure skating – one person cannot do most of the work and still create an exceptional team.
- You can’t create a flourishing relationship by only fixing what’s wrong. But it’s a start.
- Grace under pressure does not spring full-grown even with the best of intentions – practice, practice and more practice. Practice the right things and you will get there.
- Love is destroyed when self-interest dominates.
- If you don’t know what you feel in important areas of your relationship, it is like playing high stakes poker when you see only half your cards. You will make a lot of dumb plays.
- The possibility exists that we choose partners we need but don’t necessarily want.
- To get to the bottom of a problem often means you first accept its complexity.
- Trust is the foundational building block of a flourishing relationship.
You create trust by doing what you say you will do.
- It’s impossible to be in a highly inter-dependent relationship without ever being judgmental or being judged.
- If you strive to always feel emotionally safe in your relationship and get it, you will pay the price by becoming dull
- If neither of you ever rocks the boat, you will end up with a dull relationship
- Knowledge is not power. Only knowledge that is applied is power.
Most of the ineffective things we do in relationships fall into just a few categories:
- Blame or attempt to dominate
- Resentful compliance
- Denial or confusion.
These are the normal emotional reactions to feeling a threat or high stress. Improving your relationship means better management of these reactions. Everything you do works for some part of you, even if other parts of you don’t like it. Three motivations will govern any sustained effort you make. You will seek to:
- Avoid pain or discomfort
- Create more benefits
- Be a better person.
It’s also true for your partner. If you are asking your partner to change something, sometimes it’s a good idea to ask if the change is consistent with how that person aspires to be in that situation.
Marriages fail for the same three reasons. A failure to:
- Learn from the past
- Adapt to changing conditions
- Predict probable future problems and take action.
Effective change requires insight plus action. Insight without action is passivity. Action without insight is impulsive. Insight plus action leads to clarity and power. If you want to create a win-win solution, you cannot hold a position that has caused your partner to lose in the past.
In the end it is to remind ourselves why we married in the first place and what have we lost on the way?
Why is it that people get married?
Because we need a witness to our lives.
There’s a billion people on the planet. What does anyone’s life really mean?
But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything…
The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things,
All of it… all the time, every day.
“Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it.
Your life will not go unwitnessed – because I will be your witness.
Wife in the movie, “Shall We Dance?” 2004
Couple in therapy photo available from Shutterstock