Marriage is hard. I know this firsthand. Yet I did not hesitate when Robert asked me to marry him. The answer was a big happy ‘yes’. But, then we waited fifteen years. Speaking personally, it was my second marriage and, clearly, I was scared about making a formal, legal, public commitment. I wanted to be sure. Or something like that. Then, after a series of funerals and very sad events in our extended families, we decided it time for a joyous celebration. We knew each other well, and we had already made a lifelong commitment.
We were ready to formalise our union. It was a beautiful ceremony on Mount Macedon in the bush. Nature is my happy place, after all. We’ve been together for twenty-one years, and married for six. And we have known each other for 30 years, as we were friends first. But after the glow of the ceremony had faded, we went through a rocky time together. As a therapist who has helped many couples navigate relationships, I knew this might happen. But I was still unprepared for it. (I mean…I had known him for 30 years!) The Gottman Institute, an organisation devoted to healthy relationships, says: The point of marriage is not happiness. The point of marriage is growth. This has been my experience. My marriage has been a challenge. It has exposed my vulnerabilities and limitations. It has made me painfully aware of how impatient I am, and how I shouldn’t discuss anything important if I’m tired and hungry. It has also brought my values to the forefront, including my attitudes to money, financial security and time management. We humans don’t always act rationally either. Our psyche plays games with us. I found myself thinking and behaving in ways that were interfering with my self-esteem and connection to myself and my partner. I have had enough training and life experience to know better. I knew there was a better way to manage our lives and relationships. I wanted authentic happiness, for myself and for Robert. We decided to take action. Here’s what we did for support. 1. We got professional help. We learnt about each other’s emotional patterns and their sources. And now we seek to understand each other. When Robert goes into denial for example, I know what the deeper issue is, and aim to respond in a helpful way. 2. I prioritise self-care. I know I need to look after me, and this helps the relationship. 3. I ask my partner for support when I need it. I don’t expect Robert to guess what I need and sort it for me. I aim to make positive requests such as “I want you to make the bed each day”, not negative jabs like, “Why do I have to make the bed?” 4. I recognise how we both feel. I seek to be aware of my own and my partner’s emotions, and label them with words. We both aim to view the expression of emotion as an opportunity for connection. 5. We make time for each other. We schedule dates for romance and fun. We also have ‘business meetings’ to discuss practical issues. 6. We set relationship goals and values. It’s common to set goals for other areas of your life, like career and fitness. It makes sense to think about what you want to achieve in your marriage or relationship. 7. We accept our differences. This is not easy, but important. We are all unique and flawed, and part of every relationship is accepting difference. Commitment to another human being exposes you. It makes you vulnerable. And this is love. A healthy relationship is not about pleasing your partner, or pleasing yourself, but it is about real satisfaction and growth. Does your marriage or relationship need some TLC? I am passionate and very practical in the way I set about helping people achieve authentic happiness, and a big part of this is connectedness to others, particularly your life partner. As a fabulous comedian and therapist Swami Beondananda says: “The truth will upset you free.” Book a free 10-minute consultation with me today. We will chat about how we can work together to unstick you. Thanks for reading. Margo xx