In the July 22, 2012 edition of Parade, Daniel Jones writes a short yet insightful article for newlyweds. His tips offer great advice for any couple recently married — and for those who have been together for many years.
- Acknowledge that you each are responsible for your own happiness.
Recognize that each of you, as individuals, will have good days and bad. Most of the time, your partner’s bad day or season may only need to be accepted and understood. Giving your partner space to regroup and offering support can help them, and your relationship, move to more solid ground. Be patient, and focus on your own self-care and growth.
- Nix the Facebook fantasy.
When we are bored or disenchanted it is easy to turn to the internet, perhaps unconsciously and innocently, hoping to find and imagine a better life with another. This can be a temporary solution to our marital blues, but rarely is it ever more than an illusion. The” real deal” is where you are each day and with the person who stands beside you through the hard stuff life tosses out. Stick with what is solid and real. Work to make it better if you are unhappy.
- Rely on your friends when the going gets tough.
The friendship of other couples who are working on keeping their marriage strong and vibrant can be a tremendous support and inspiration when your own relationship is distressed. Others we trust and respect can model for us better management and coping skills as well as offer us role models to aspire to.
- When you become a mom or dad, take a break like your parents did.
My parents had regular “date nights.” We at TV dinners and had fun with favorite sitters who generally let us stay up a bit past our regular bedtime. We felt independent and “big” and had special time to forge solid sibling bonds that have lasted a lifetime. Being mindful of parental date nights taught me the value of parental boundaries, and more importantly, stressed the need for protecting sacred couple time. Couples who make their time alone together a priority weather the ups and downs of marriage far better than those who do not. The challenge is in negotiating regular dates with your partner… Never give up working on this…
- Even if you’re considering divorce, delay making a final decision — and keep delaying.
So many couples I work with are in great distress when they come in for therapy, ready to call their relationship quits. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges for me as a marriage and family therapist is to encourage these couples to slow down the process of rapid “escape” from the pain and unhappiness they experience. Yes, their distress is real and has generally been a part of their relationship for some time, and they are weary — tired of it all. But so often, if they can slow down the trajectory toward divorce, and look carefully at themselves, their own mistakes as well as their partners, revisit their commitment to each other, and do the hard work of getting to know each other all over again and reestablishing trust, they stand a good chance of holding on to something of value. Of course there are those times when abuse and neglect don’t warrant a glance back, but those couples who seek marital counseling, for the most part, have a deep desire to see what might be salvaged. Key is to encourage them to give the relationship time and energy and to trust the process of repair.
Sometimes I think that marriage should come with an owner’s manual… Then again, some owner’s manuals that I have reviewed over the years make no sense, or don’t work for me, so I suppose that it might be more realistic for each couple to write their own relationship owner’s manual — one that they can read and fits logically with their life goals and dreams. Perhaps that task should be a requirement for all newlyweds? My recommendation would be that such a manual is prepared, and more importantly, reviewed and updated each year to account for the inevitable changes that naturally occur.
Do share your thoughts on this with us.
Jones, Daniel. Parade. July 22, 2012.