WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT MARRIAGE
(And other Relationships)
As a practicing psychotherapist, with over 30 years of experience, and a veteran of several relationships, I have learned a lot of what “not to do” in a relationship and I have learned a little about what works.
Problems in a relationship are normal and natural and derive from two people just learning to live with each other and working at getting along. They are also developmental, as well as based upon past experiences and what the couple has learned to “expect” in a marriage from their families of origin.
Each marriage is unique and is defined by the marital partners as they adjust to each other, over the years. No marriage escapes problems. It is impossible.
There is no place for sarcasm in a marriage; not even a little. If you have something to say, say it in a way that you think your partner will understand. Never use sarcasm.
Don’t say you will do something when you have no, or little, intention of doing it. You will appear as a “liar” to your partner and you will be portraying a false image of yourself. Your partner might not like it, but he/she will know the real you. This will then become a workable area upon which to work.
Society has a “marital ideal” to which most subscribe, but are never quite able to achieve. That is because it is an “ideal” and not achievable.
Adolescents and young adults subscribe to the marital ideal of “falling in love and living happily ever after.” When the partner of such a union turns out to be human, it is a disappointing discovery and will often lead to disharmony, at the least.
The older one gets, the more utilitarian marriages become; either for child rearing reasons, financial well-being, companionship, and/or physical and emotional support. Of course, it does not hurt to also feel love for one’s partner and have many things in common. Problems still exist in these marriages, and some go to their graves having lived in unsatisfying relationships their entire lives, but partners in these relationships are more likely to recognize the positives and learn to adjust to the negatives beyond their control.
Marriage can either be very easy and fulfilling, or it can be very difficult and unfulfilling.
My Personal Ideal for a Fulfilling Marriage
Life is hard and it “is” a jungle out there. Follow the daily news. There is little sanctuary for the weary. We must always be on guard for our physical and psychological well-being. Basically, our only “sanctuary” is HOME.
When I arrive home, I want to feel relieved and happy, that my time is my own, that I can do what I want, that I am in my comfort-zone. I want to feel that way whether I am single or married. If I am single, I do not want to feel lonely (Hey! Maybe I’ll get married)! If I am married, I want to feel just as happy in my home, as if I am single, but I also want to enjoy the companionship of my loved ones. I want someone to be there that is excited that I am home! I want to be excited to see them! I want someone there who is anxious to hear my tales of the day, just as I am anxious to hear theirs. If I am married, I want to feel even more relaxed than I did when I was single. I want to share my good times and bad times with my partner and I want to work on our individual and couple problems together.
If I choose (yes, I have the choice) to share my problems with my partner, I want my partner to “listen” and be supportive. I want my partner to share ideas with me as to how I/we might solve a particular problem and I want to feel that my partner is supportive of my perspective, unless she thinks it is the wrong perspective. Then, I want to know what she thinks and what she would do if she were me. When she shares her perceptions, then I will consider them and incorporate some, all, or none of them. What is important to me is that my partner listens and offers support. The rest is bonus.
In the same manner, I want to solve our “couple” problems. If “we” have a problem, I want to be able to identify it together and see if we can come to a comfortable resolution. Ultimately, if we can’t, I want to be able to “agree to disagree” and not let the problem interfere negatively with our relationship. I want life to go on as comfortably as I previously stated, and maybe even more comfortably, as we know each other a little better. Effective boundary management is the template with which I can accomplish this.
My Approach to Boundary Management
Simply stated, I want to defend and manage my personal and relationship boundaries. If I experience a Boundary Probe (BP) I will experience an “uneasy feeling.” My task is then to say “no” until and if I no longer have the uneasy feeling (See Boundary Management Therapy).
If I do not act appropriately on my uneasy feeling and say “yes,” I will experience resentment. Resentment is the feeling that alerts me that I have allowed a Boundary Invasion (BI). The more BIs I allow, the more resentment I will feel, towards others and myself. The fewer BIs I allow, the less resentment I will feel towards others and myself.