State of the (Marital) Union
By Belinda Crosier, LPC, LADC, Edmond Family Counseling
5 Tips to Have a Healthier Marriage in 2015
It’s easy to get so busy & preoccupied with daily life, not to mention the holidays, that we slip into patterns of behavior that can cause distance & discord between ourselves and the one we committed to “til death do us part.” The new year is a good time to assess the state of our marriage and see if we’ve fallen into habits that can impede meaningful connection & communication.
- 1. Let go of the need to be right. I have a book excerpt that is subtitled “Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?” There is usually more than one way to view a situation or to do something, with neither being completely right or wrong. How much simpler & more pleasant to respond “You might be right,” or simply “Maybe so.” Being invested in having to be right can turn any discussion into an argument, and what have we really gained?
- 2. Let go of resentment. Resentment can completely erode loving feelings. If we have been wronged, we can express our feelings, talk about it (using lots of “I language”), then try to forgive and move on. Forgiveness doesn’t discount the wrong that was done to us, but frees us from it having power over our future happiness.
- 3. Let go of negative assumptions. How much happier would we all be if we believed our partner had other motives than an intent to hurt us? Preoccupation, fatigue, differing goals……all can cause a partner to say or do something that we perceive as inconsiderate and most of us are quick to assume that was the intent, when it well may have been the last thing intended. Simply checking it out can avoid hurt feelings and potential arguments: “Did you mean that to sound like I’m irresponsible?” or “You may not realize it, but what you said sounded very critical.”
- 4. Let go of scorekeeping. It’s a myth that marriage is always 50-50. Hopefully it averages out somewhere close to that, but partners may have different perceptions of what that even looks like. If we’ve picked up our spouse’s socks from the living room three days straight, it might be worth mentioning (kindly!), but he or she might have been cleaning up after us even longer & not saying anything. It’s human nature to remember all our noble deeds, while forgetting those of others.
- 5. Let go of sarcasm and attacking language. Sad to say, we’re often the least kind to the people we love most. We’re exposed to so much sarcasm in our culture, it can become our automatic response style, but it can also be very hurtful. Starting sentences with the words “I feel” or “I need” rather than “You never….” or “You always…” feels less attacking to our partner and can lower defenses, allowing for productive communication rather than an argument. We all like to feel appreciated; saying thank-you for even small deeds fosters a climate of cohesion and mutual respect, a happy atmosphere in which to spend the coming year!