Wednesday, May 21, 2008
KEYS to A HAPPY MARRIAGE
7 KEYS to A HAPPY MARRIAGE"The key to happiness isn't finding the right mate; it's being the right mate."*anonymousWith the divorce rate for first marriages hovering around 50% (andslightly higher for second marriages), people often ask psychotherapistswhy some marriages work and others don't. Factors contributing to the demise of a marriage are easy to spot:financial difficulty, meddling in-laws, an affair, intrusive careerdemands, boredom, constant bickering, to name a few.Identifying what makes marriages work well is more difficult. Here are 7 recommendations which may not guarantee happiness, but theywill help keep the marriage on an even keel.#1 Assume personal responsibility:When a problem arises, don't throw your hands up in the air andimmediately blame your spouse. A problem is never only one person'sfault. Both partners contribute in some way. Ask yourself what you cando to fix the problem.#2 Accept each other's shortcomings: Both of you bring strengths and weaknesses to the marriage. None ofus is perfect, so why expect our spouse to be. Recall what attractedyou to your spouse in the first place and try to focus on thosequalities when you notice their weaknesses. #3 Don't shy away from disagreement:Being in love doesn't mean always agreeing. Disagreement is part ofevery relationship and can be a source of marital growth. Think ofdispute resolution as a form of problem solving. Sweeping problems under the rug doesn't solve them, it merely postpones dealing with them.#4 Express painful feelings behind your anger:Painful feelings like hurt, fear and neglect often are behind the angerand resentment which are front and center in an argument. Learn toexpress your painful feelings assertively using "I statements" ratherthanaggressively using "You statements" which feel like finger pointingand put your spouse on the defensive.#5 Don't take understanding for granted:Couples often assume that if their partner really loves them, he/she willintuitively understand what they want and need. Ask for what you want and ask your spouse to tell you what he/she wants and needs from you.#6 Maintain a balance of power in the marriage:Each partner needs a sense of personal authority, power and importance. A healthy marital relationship allows each of you to feel connected emotionally to the other; but, at the same time, to feel a sense ofpersonal autonomy.#7 The 3 C's:Couples I work with often ask me what the most important elements of agood marriage are. My reply is always the same:COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATION COMMUNICATIONGood marriages don't just happen, they're built over time. Caring,loving relationships require an ongoing investment of time, effort andemotional energy from ourself as well as our partner. As the Persian poet Ovid wrote long ago: "To be loved, be lovable."