Making Marriages Work
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, April 2008
Too often, people give their best selves to their work colleagues or to their friends, but when they are at home they are no longer kind, considerate, polite, and interested in their spouse's life. If you give your "all" at the office and you are "nowhere to be found" at home, being with you may just be too much of an effort for your partner.
For many couples, marriage is challenging because with busy schedules, people often have difficulty dedicating their time and attention to their partner and relationship. They frequently do not understand that marriage takes focus, energy, and work, and familiar role models may not provide positive interactions.
Where to begin? With communication. Communication is not just talking. It's also nurturing the relationship with thoughts, feelings, touch, eye movement, and facial expression. Be conscious of how you are communicating in every manner. Make the effort to hear what your partner is saying, as well as conveying to them what you are about. Talk about the big things (the kids' school, how much money you spend on vacation, who will take care of your aging mother, and who is footing the bill for a rehab facility for cousin Sue). Also pay attention to what you say, how you say it, and how critical you are. If someone is judged and criticized they will likely not be as eager to hear what you have to say. Be sure to communicate what you appreciate and are grateful for regarding your partner and your life together. Then the positives and negatives will be in balance.
Equally important is the need for tolerance. Everybody (including you) has their "stuff." If you only focus on the difficulties and disappointments in your relationship, you are likely to be unhappy. Understand and accept that you are not going to change this person. As long as no one is devaluing you or treating you badly, learn patience, tolerance, forgiveness and please develop a sense of humor. Appreciate difference, even if the difference is something you have difficulty accepting. The person you are with is a whole person who has aspects that are wonderful for you and aspects that are challenging. Figure out how you are going to deal with them in ways that are healthy for you and will enhance your relationship.
Couples have to put limits on the multiple intrusions they have in their relationships. Aside from children, parents (who may be ill), community responsibilities and work overflowing into home time, there is the magnificent technology that allows us to have the capacity to connect with hundreds of people at a moment's notice. However, what does this do to your primary relationship? Time is a precious resource, and couples need UNINTERRUPTED time to connect with each other.
We also need to make time for sex. With people commuting long hours and working hard, work and home life can blend together. Inertia sets in making it more difficult to turn off work, friends, family, and turn each other on. Weeks, months, go by and you have not been sexual with each other. Be mindful. Be sensuous. Even if you don't have sex, touch one another. Be playful. Remind each other what it's like to be aroused. There doesn't have to be mad sexual passion all the time, but at least give yourselves the chance to connect. Expressing your sexuality as a couple reminds you of the special connection you have to your partner that is uniquely yours. Don't let it fall by the wayside.
Think about what made your relationship special when you were first together. Remember that you really ARE invested in each other - you made a commitment and getting to know one another and continuing to support each other is living that commitment. Put energy into your relationship. People change; lovingly encourage their growth. Put your best self out there and share THAT self with your partner.
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