When a couple joins together in marriage, it is a union that they both believe will be for life. They both hold the best of intentions and dreams for a great walk on this Earth together.
Young love and the beginning of a life together with marriage is a beautiful vision to behold. Maybe that’s why we all get so excited when there is a wedding. These celebrations encompass all our hopes of the best to come for the new couple.
So with all this positivity and well wishes and great intentions, why do so many marriages falter? As a relationship expert and therapist, I help many couples find their way back to being “in a good place” with each other.
What I have found is that all the couples I work with have a few things in common. They all start out loving each other and then they end up wondering if the relationship will work.
When we couple with our special person, the feelings we experience are so powerful and intense, we sometimes subconsciously believe that because everything feels so right, it will always feel this way. This euphoria is a wonderful feeling. I wish this could be true. Unfortunately it is not.
Those amazing feelings we experience at the beginning of our relationships are designed to help us as a couple. Afterward, most people just expect everything to work out, only it doesn’t. That “high” we might have been feeling is fleeting. And sometimes at this stage couples can begin to find fault with each other.
So why does this happen? I believe it’s easier to fall in love than be in a relationship. Think about yourself and ask yourself this question. Do you know how to be a good mate? You are probably a well-developed individual and you will probably say this about your partner.
Many of us don’t think about how to be a good mate though. Most of us in relationships just believe that we should be happy, and that it’s our partner’s responsibility to make it so. When we feel uneasy or unhappy, we often strike out at the one we call beloved. This causes a disruption and a disconnection between you and the one you love.
I like to help people understand simple elements of what makes a good relationship. The skills are not hard once learned. But many couples expect things to get better on their own, and they don’t. Nothing will ever get better unless some changes are actively made.
One new skill involves becoming aware of how we talk to our mate. For instance: suppose you get unhappy because your partner does not pick up his socks. How do you let him know you would like different behavior? In this case, you might say, “I have told you 100 times to put your socks in the dirty laundry. When are you going to do this?” Or, maybe you would just roll your eyes and pick them up yourself.
Both of these examples send a message to your mate. The former loudly signals that you are upset. The second one might tell your partner you are beyond just upset, that you are annoyed and angry. And these actions will result in a negative reaction from your partner. He might defend himself or get mad at you for complaining. Inevitably, this leads to a disagreement between the two of you, one that could lead to other issues you both might be carrying. An argument simply about socks could turn into a fight about the laundry or dinner – and it might even turn into a fight about fighting.
To learn to be a good mate, all of us in a relationship have to become aware of what we say, and I mean every word. To get an idea of how to speak to your mate about problems, you could begin to listen to yourself. Start by asking yourself, “Would I say this sentence the same way if I were speaking lovingly to a 2-year-old child?”
As wild as that may sound, let that be your guide. Be loving with your words, even if you have something forceful to say. Remember that you love her. Your words will be a sample of what lies in your heart. You must be kind to the person who wants to spend their life with you. Don’t forget how tender the heart can be.
In my experience I have found that if you can be kind, you have a 70 percent chance of keeping your relationship intact. To increase the likelihood of your own marriage’s success even further, you should try this next concept.
Accept your partner as she is. That’s a big phrase, so let me define it more clearly: you do not have to agree with everything she says. What it does mean is that she has a right to her thoughts, even if they don’t match yours. If you can learn how to be with your partner and allow her to be herself, both of you will flourish.
It turns out that everyone in a relationship wants to feel safe to be themselves, loved for who they are, and valued by the person they love. If you can give this to your mate, you will be giving him the gift of a lifetime. And then it’s a no-brainer, if each of you feels safe, loved and valued, your marriage can thrive.
By Linda Nusbaum, LMFT