Monday, November 12, 2012

Maturity in Marriage

So, I was all set to write another post on unconscious fear of intimacy.  I still will do that.  God knows there are plenty of reasons to be fearful of intimacy - both conscious and unconscious, real and imagined.  I found myself pondering what's really important in marriage?  The older I get - the longer I both practice and am married, I realize that what's really important in marriage are the basics.

1.) Kindness - when in doubt don't growl or grumble at your spouse.  An unexpected kind word or thank you will reap dividends in the emotional bank of marriage.  The esteemed, revered and frequently quoted marriage researcher and therapist, John Gottman, has learned from many hours of research and observation of couples that a harsh start-up in conversation dooms the rest of the conversation to a downhill, slippery slope of re activity.  Duh.  If you think about it, it is common sense 101.  A tone or comment of kindness at the outset of a conversation guarantees a better outcome.

2.) Saying sorry -  The 12 Step Programs (AA, Al-Anon) have a step which goes something like this When we were wrong, promptly admitted it. How's that for humility?  Let's say you and your spouse are having words.  What's the single most disarming thing that you can do to put a halt to the skirmish?  Admit your part in it. Let's say you're 1% wrong and your spouse is 99% wrong.  What's the right approach? Acknowledge your 1%.  Own up and take full responsibility for your 1%. And then point out their 99%? You may wonder.  The answer is no.  Take responsibility for your part in the kerfuffle.  Trust me you have a part in it.

3.) Bend and you're less likely to break - A little flexibility goes a very long way in marriage.  When in doubt, surrender.  Butting heads and power struggles are very characteristic of the early stages of marriage.  Duking it out over the usual - time, money and  which direction the toilet paper roll should hang may have a certain passionate exhilaration in your early twenties but the charm wears off rapidly and the winner often turns out to be the loser. 
Here's a noble for instance.  This weekend my incredibly flexible and hardworking husband wanted to have dinner at The Texas Roadhouse. A noisy restaurant full of red meat eaters is pretty close to my idea of hell on earth. In Wisconsin, no less.  In the middle of a two hour ride home, no less.  Much to my credit, I did  not moan, bitch or kvetch. I know right from wrong.  The poor dude had been riding a lawn mower non-stop for three days straight. A steak it was...Love is sometimes eating at The Texas Roadhouse in Wisconsin.

4.) Your spouse can not read your mind - Say what you need.  Wishing your spouse knew exactly what you want and need and will produce it unsolicited is a common but somewhat infantile fantasy. Do not expect your spouse to read your mind. It is not reasonable or realistic.  You gotta let 'em know.

If couples who have been married a long time want to comment on the cement that has kept them together for all these years, I would love to hear from them.  We need a little first hand experience which will no doubt put my steak eating sacrifice to shame. What are the basics that have strengthened your marriage?

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