Sometimes the very thought of losing your spouse is the only thing that spurs you to action in your marriage.
So at what point do we recognize the seriousness of our marriage situation, and how bad does it have to get before we take our spouse seriously?
The first thing I want to tell you is that conflict in a relationship is normal. In fact, as long as there is conflict on some level, we know that there is difference between you, and that you are both being made aware of it. How this conflict
is expressed can be a negative or positive thing, but the fact that there is conflict present can sometimes be a good thing.
We notice that the feelings we have toward one another may not be as intense as they used to be, and the relationship may succumb to some external pressures, like parents, in-laws, money issues, and differences in priorities. All of a sudden the seemingly unbreakable connection you once had is under pressure, and the consequences are a little disconcerting.
So what do you do? Do you sit down with your partner and talk about the relationship and what’s happening, or do you just hope that it’s a temporary thing and that it will go away? Most of you that are seeking marriage help would have contemplated ignoring the problem, which may account for why it has come to this.
We avoid talking about the relationship and the perceived problems because we worry that by bringing up the issues we are creating conflict. After all, why create problems when we can pretend that everything is okay?
And therein lies the problem.
We put on a smiling face and pretend everything is fine, when underneath it all, there are issues that need to be discussed, feelings that need to be shared, and fulfillment, both on an individual and a relationship level that needs to be met.
Retrospect is a great thing. When we look back on our relationship, or on other people’s, it seems much clearer to us where the problems were and what we did wrong. Looking back over the last 2 or 5 years, we may see that we could have been more understanding, less controlling, more supportive, or could have done things differently.
In one moment, it all becomes clear, and our next mission is to prove to our partners that we are sorry for our mistakes, that we have learned from them, and that it’s going to be different next time.
I’m not sure that it’s a good idea to make promises like that, as it creates an expectation that the relationship will be perfect and free of conflict, when that’s an unrealistic promise to make.
The mistakes in our lives are the stepping stones on our path to evolution. Every mistake we make offers us the opportunity to learn something about ourselves, about each other, and about what is necessary to create a nurturing and supportive relationship.
One of the strongest realizations I can offer you is that you will never reach your zenith of learning, and your whole life will be dedicated to learning something more each day on your way to real love and higher spiritual and emotional enlightenment.
We avoid talking about mistakes or marriage issues because we fear being wrong. We fear exposing ourselves to the vulnerability of admitting to ourselves or our loved ones that we are imperfect and could have done something better.
The powerful lesson for all of us is in realizing that our marriage calls us into a deeper union both within ourselves and in each other. We can’t expect or demand perfection in others any more than we can expect it in ourselves. It’s okay to acknowledge it. In fact, it’s something I would like you to do right now.
Say, “I’m not perfect and that’s okay.”
Now say it again, and this time mean it. Say it again with conviction another 3 times. Notice how it feels to say it, and whether this is a good feeling or an uneasy one. My objective here is to encourage you to embrace your imperfections and realize that this is not the reason your marriage is in trouble.
All of us are imperfect. But how we choose to see and react to our imperfections can be the difference between a life lesson and a marriage crisis.
The difference? We acknowledge and talk about our life lesson. If we ignore it, it becomes a crisis.
How Is Crisis a Good thing for Your Relationship?
The strength of a relationship is never truly challenged until you are in a crisis situation. Until that time, the relationship lives in heady bliss, a utopian sort of existence where neither of you have firm opinions about anything, and your partner only sees the side of you that you want them to see.
This part of the relationship before the conflict hits is what we call romantic love. If you read through our discussion of it in our books, it can last anywhere from 6 months to a few years. The one thing that stands true for all couples, however, is that romantic love does have a limited shelf life.
As intense and invigorating as love is, people are lulled into the assumption that it will last forever, and that this is what love really is. In this period of romantic love, couples decide to date, cohabit, get married, and you can be well
into the first few years of marriage before the first crisis really hits you.
The problem for most couples that write to me is that how each of you react to a crisis can come as a surprise. Despite being in a relationship and having a commitment to one another, in times of crisis and stress we revert to the behaviors that are most familiar to us, so the patterns of behavior that are followed in a crisis more often than not
follow those that have influenced us during our development.
Have you ever noticed how despite the fact that you have avoided being anything like your parents when you were younger, you realize you have started to sound like them in arguments you have had?
That’s because no matter how hard we try, the behaviors of parents and other developmental figures stay with us on a subconscious level, and we normalize their behavior and believe that it is the most appropriate way to react.
If you are looking for ways to discuss the issues in your marriage rather than avoid them, keep an eye out for the next article, where I will give you some pointers about ways to discuss your feelings with your partner,
and minimize the crisis that is growing in your marriage