KSL Television ~ Studio 5
Dirty socks left on the floor, an expensive purchase made outside the family budget, more rude remarks made about your mother, another empty milk carton cluttering the kitchen counterÃ¢â?¬Â¦..Although the triggers vary, the outcome is the same: all couples fight the same fight! But we all feel so alone.
Despite our glorious individuality, marriage researchers have found us extraordinarily predictable. We start out with true love and great expectations. But we trip into trouble for a very humbling reason: we don’t know how to handle the negative feelings that are the unavoidable by-product of the differences between two people – the very differences that attracted us to each other in the first place.
Most people are surprised to hear me say that most unhappy couples don’t need therapy. Now, please understand that I am passionate about working with couples in my private practice. There is no greater honor than when someone trusts you with that delicate level of intimacy. However, it’s often not the “therapy” or “fixing” we need; it’s the “education.”
Sign-Up for Marriage Eduation Courses
The best wedding gift you could give an engaged couple is a marriage education course. That should be on the top of every bridal gift registry.
As couples, we need to learn very specific structures about how to go into a fight and come out of a fight where we both get some of our needs met. We also need to learn how to fight without doing additional damage, and it’s imperative that we learn how to listen! The most important marriage skill is to listen to your partner in such a way that he or she can’t possibly doubt that you love them!
I know a woman who gives marriage education courses as wedding gifts. Regardless of the age of the couple, she gives the gift of a marriage course. I smile when she says, “You know what? I got tired of giving china, crystal and silver wondering who ended up with it in the divorce!” So, instead of complaining she decided to do something proactive that would help these couples build a lasting marriage. She also places these certificates for weekend marriage education courses in gold picture frames, to remind the couple of their goal – a golden wedding anniversary.
And, there is nothing better to give a new baby than a gift to help his or her parents have a happy, long-term marriage. Empty-nesters can also use a marriage course to tune things up and be sure they make the most of their marriage in the golden years, as well.
While in a course like this, most couples learn that you’re not alone – that other couples struggle in very much the same way. Perhaps that’s what instills the most hope. We soon learn that as human beings we all have the same sorts of conflicts – they’re just colored differently. We all want to be treated respectfully by our partners and find deep satisfaction in marriage.
Stay With (Don’t Stuff) Conflict
Remember, the number one predictor of divorce is not that we have arguments over sex, money, time, children, or in-laws; it’s the avoidance of those arguments – the stonewalling and distancing- that signals a marriage in trouble. Disagreement just means you have two normal human beings. And I believe that every conflict has an opportunity to breed intimacy and increased understanding if we practice the skills that prevent us from being critical, contemptuous, distancing, and defensive.
Seek Out Successful, Married Mentors
Married couples need other married couples. We all need to seek out couples who are pro-marriage, solid, and successful, and develop a supportive, informal connection with them!
Share Sympathetic Joy
Some exciting research came out recently on the bond that’s strengthened when couples respond sympathetically to each other’s triumphs. Researchers examined the characteristics of 79 couples and found that it was the reactions to a partner’s victories that most predicted the strength of the relationship. Amplifying your partner’s triumphs is a powerful way to build intimacy. In order to do this you must be reasonably secure with your own abilities and accomplishments in order to truly honor those of your partner.
Stay Committed to the Journey
I’ve heard it said that marriage is like a submarine: its only safe when you’re all the way inside! Seal the door behind you. We can’t do marriage part-wayÃ¢â?¬Â¦one foot in, one foot out!
Walk into marriage with the firm belief that divorce is not an option. Now, we all know that under extenuating circumstances it is and needs to be, but when our focus is on staying in, and only on staying in, we find ways to repair and rebuild. If I’m always contemplating “should I get out?” – I lose the focus, energy, and creativity it takes to make marriage a work of art. And there is no other way: marriage will always be a work in progress – let that challenge excite you! And every morning, wake-up and ask yourself, “What can I do today to make my sweetheart’s life more worth living?” Then do it!
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