Oftentimes, I talk to married people who are less than fulfilled in their marriages. They’ve settled into a lifestyle with their mates that includes work, kids, basketball practice, mortgage, car notes, sometimes vacations…and sometimes sex. Five to Seven years into it and they’re wondering “What in the world is going on? How did we get here?” Lately, the first response has been that they’ve “grown apart” and have “irreconcilable differences.” They then start making decisions that leaves a bloody trail of broken hearts, bad credit and dual-custody. But let’s take a minute to examine the road that got them there and look for a detour.
The institution of marriage is inherently filled with “opportunities of growth and development”… to put it nicely. Those “opportunities” are designed to help you grow out of your stage of selfishness and learn how to love someone unconditionally. It’s tough and not many of us like going through tough times. So there’s a tendency to shy away from those “opportunities.” You can get into a pattern of what I call, “Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.” That phase occurs when you two are avoiding the “white elephant” in the room and tip-toeing around the issues you have. As a result, you fall into The-Hole-of-No-Communication where you’re not arguing, but you’re not having constructive conversations, either. Your dialogue is riddled with talks of bills, work and kids. Day after day, month after month, year after year of this non-confrontational lifestyle leads to the demise of your relationship. You “suddenly” wake up 15 years in as strangers begging for a way out. One person told me that the reason he and his wife got a divorce after 30-something years of marriage was because they stopped “maintaining the care of their relationship.” Well said.
So here are some tips to avoid slipping into the hole:
1. Understand that good marriages are not automatic. They don’t become good or stay good without daily maintenance.
2. Know that although avoiding a topic altogether may seem like a good idea, it will only hurt the union in the long-run.
3. Before broaching a touchy subject, think about what you want the intended outcome to be and formulate your conversation with a positive result in mind.
4. If need-be, agree to disagree, but be mature enough to try and understand the other person’s viewpoint and work toward a common-ground.
5. If you feel like you’re just at an impasse, care enough about your marriage to seek professional assistance—not your single, best girlfriend or your boy from college, unless, of course, they’re trained professionals.
Marriage is, indeed, one of the most difficult challenges you will have right up there with raising children and walking on hot coals! LOL! Seriously, even if you’re going through a rough patch now, know that you don’t have to stay there. You can actually go THROUGH. Realize that if you navigate those murky waters with skill, smooth sailing is a wonderful luxury that will be yours to enjoy. So be courageous enough not to fall into The-Hole-of-No-Communication and avoid the trap of “Don’t Start Nothing, Won’t be Nothing!”
Next time we’ll discuss some common attitudes in marriage in a blog entitled, “If Loving You is Right, What am I Doing Wrong?”
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To Marriage...With Love,