ENJOYING THE TOUGHEST YEARS OF MARRIAGE, PART 2
PROVIDING THE SOLUTION, NOW! (NOT WHEN THE KIDS ARE GONE) When you add up all of the pressure from the items on these lists, couples will often fall into certain mistakes in response. The first is to pour yourself into any number of pursuits other than your marriage. It can be your job, hobby, kids, friends, a lover. Simply fill in the blank with anything that revolves around self. The second mistake is postponement thinking. You think that things will get better tomorrow. Or you assume that you can pick up with your marriage where you left off after the kids are out of the house. The problem with this is there is often too much time and destruction to overcome once you decide to pick it up again. A third error is what I call punctuated intimacy. You find short bursts of time where you are close to your spouse interspersed with long periods of nothing. What will often occur is that the length of time between the moments of closeness get longer and longer. Again, a toll is taken over the long haul. The fourth mistake I will mention is prolonged resentment. Instead of dealing honestly and up front with the concerns you have, you do a slow burn over the things that frustrate you. You build this wall between yourself and your spouse. You become two ships that pass in the night. I would like to provide some specific steps that you and your spouse can take to make your marriage work again. I call them the six “R’s.” 1. Renew Your Commitment to Each Other Marriage is not feelings and emotions, it is a commitment of your will to love your spouse. In our fast paced world, husbands and wives need each other more, not less. If you say that we need each other more, then it is going to take a strong commitment to work at the marriage. James Dobson of Focus on the Family notes how “Married life offers no panacea, if it is going to reach its potential, it will require an all out investment by both husband and wife.” 2. Resolve to Let Go of Past Marital Disappointments and Forgive Each Other Wallerstein and Blakeslee, in their book, The Good Marriage, How and Why It Works make the following observation: “All happy marriages are not carefree. There are good times and bad times, and certainly partners may face serious crises together or separately. Happily married husbands and wives get depressed, fight, lose jobs, struggle with demands in the workplace, and crisis of infants and teenagers, and confront sexual problems. All marriages are haunted by ghosts of the past, but every good marriage must adapt to developmental changes in each partner.” This means that couples must come to a place where they can forgive each other of the ghosts of the past and set the stage for their future. 3.Refocus your marriage to be less child focused and more partner focused. It’s not that you should neglect your teens, find a balance between energy spent on them and energy spent on your marriage. Some specific suggestions are become each other’s best friend again. Renew your romance and make time to make love. You may also want to find a new common activity you can both do together. 4.Rework your parenting issues away from the battles with your teens. You and your spouse should decide what battles are worth fighting and what ones you should let go. Try to limit the rules to ones that really matter for your teen’s safety and morality, and present a united front to your teens. 5.Restore meaningful communication with your spouse. Place a priority on maintaining effective communication that gives you the opportunity to express your feelings, frustrations, concerns and joys. Set aside time each day to talk about things. Make sure you get beyond the surface stuff of daily life to matters that are important to you and your spouse. 6.Reach out to other couples with teens. This will keep you from feeling isolated like “we’re the only ones going through this.” You will have the chance to glean helpful ideas and learn from the mistakes of other parents. You will also have opportunities to share what you have learned. The point of these articles is to not wait until your teens are out of the house before you work on your marriage. Place a priority on your marriage today, and carve out the time it will take to keep your marriage strong, or get it back to where it should be.  Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1995), 12-13.