Every marriage – including your own – changes over time. As the years progress, your marriage is shaped by both the good and the bad times. There may be weeks and months (or even years), where things are so hard you fear it will end, only to look back realize the tough road actually strengthened your marital bond. Other times, you may find things so blissful you couldn’t imagine a time where you were apart. When you step back and look at your history together in a broad sense, it’s usually easier to see how tough times helped you and your partner grow. However, most of us get stuck in the day-to-day messy aspects of life that can make it hard to appreciate our most important relationship. This is why I regularly challenge couples to periodically review their marriage and address all of the little messy things that may not matter in the long run (but are super irritating in the present), as well as work on the those that really matter – the ones that strengthen the foundation of their union.
Prevent Mountains by Addressing Mole Hills
Whether or not your spouse closes the cupboard doors or puts the toilet paper on in the right direction should not be relationship-changing, but it can be. Most of us let these items slide as minor annoyances in order to avoid conflict. However, over time, these “mole hills” combine to create a mighty mountain of frustration and resentment. And when the mountain reaches capacity, it becomes a volcano and we explode with a list of all the ways our spouse regularly disappoints us.
Spend some time being honest with yourself and identify the ‘mountains in the making’ in your relationship. The best way to avoid creating volcanoes is communication. Yes, I’m suggesting you address the little things as they come up rather than letting them fester. But there is an art to airing your somewhat minor annoyances. In order to prevent a constant state of beratement, schedule time with your spouse to each (yes, your spouse gets to do this too!) talk about things that are bothering you, and more importantly, how they make you feel. For example, dishes left in the sink for you to put in the dishwasher makes you feel less than. Or, coming home from work and not being greeted warmly, makes you feel unappreciated.
Now, some of your frustrations may not be trivial. Maybe your partner’s spending bothers you, or some of his or her behaviors are truly unhealthy. These topics can become rather serious quickly, which is why they too, are better addressed promptly in a situation where you both are prepared to listen to the other.
Reflect Upon What’s Working and What Isn’t
When you reflect upon your marriage – whether with or without your partner – you should look at both your strengths and weaknesses. Focusing only on your weaknesses is pessimistic, and focusing only on your strengths is naive. Instead, figure out what’s working for you in the relationship, and identify what isn’t.
Questions you may ask yourself are:
- How do we resolve conflicts and overcome obstacles?
- How is our sex life?
- Are we making time for each other?
- Is our marriage a priority?
The goal of these questions is not to tear apart every detail of your marriage in an attempt to make it perfect. It is really an effort to be realistic. You are two imperfect people with strengths and faults, and together, you have the chance to spend a relatively happy life together instead of alone. You will share memories and experiences, and you will know each other better than anyone else. It is a shared communion that involves a lot of give and take.
Marriage is work. You’ve heard it a million times before, but you may not have understood the type of work it involves. Marriage work is process improvement work.. First and foremost, it’s a choice you each have to make for yourself. It’s a choice to work to constantly improve and learn how to be a better partner for your spouse. It is about caring to be the best version of yourself, and it is about accepting that neither of you is perfect. This kind of work will pay huge dividends in your relationship and help you to enjoy your partner and your marriage for a lifetime.
Asking For Help
Regularly reviewing and improving your marriage is an exercise that requires both introspection and communication, two skills that aren’t always easy to do. In fact, ‘lack of communication’ is the single most common complaint we hear from clients when they reach out to solicit our help with their relationship. Why? Because communicating effectively (key word!) can be hard, especially when we’ve grown accustomed to some bad habits. Whether your marriage has mole hills or soon-to-be volcanos, we can help you learn how to communicate with each other in a healthy, responsible way. Let us show you how.
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