Does your marriage feel a little flat? Barring some gross issue such as domestic violence or infidelity, most marriages experience ups and downs and can be improved by attending to the following two areas. See the good and address hurt feelings.
First, let’s start with seeing the good. Between being too busy, only dealing with problems and just losing sight of each other, we need to draw attention back onto the good. Our spouse has good and bad qualities (as do ourselves) and we may need to put a little more energy in seeing the good more often. Strangely, this can be hard. Start by setting a reminder on your phone each day to just pause and think about the good things about your spouse. Ask yourself:
- What does she do for me that I do not acknowledge well?
- What are some qualities about him that I admire and honestly wish I had?
- What are her most attractive traits?
- What new great thing have I recently realized about him?
- What does she do well?
Don’t spend all your energy thinking about who you originally married – that person has grown and is now different in ways. What is good about them currently?
- Where do I see him making effort?
- How does she make my life better?
And so on…
Now let’s look at addressing hurt feelings. It is inevitable that we will step on each other’s toes or disagree about things or just act immature in ways sometimes. This is not abnormal nor does it ruin marriages. Not addressing these things can ruin a marriage over time. Even though it may be hard, we need to bring concerns and hurts up and address them directly. Often, we do not attempt this because we hugely overestimate the negative consequences that may arise. The truth is, addressing issues may lead to negative consequences, but it will be survivable and better in the end. Start by changing your self-talk and thinking of difficult conversations a little differently. Instead of saying: “Bringing this up will be horrible and ruin everything”, or “Bringing this up will lead to her hating me forever”. Try saying: “Bringing this up will be a little bumpy”, or “Bringing this up won’t be my favorite part of the day”. This helps calm our overactive imaginations.
Unaddressed hurts can fester and grow into real dangers. Just as sad, they are totally avoidable. We can be brave and bring them up and have a better marriage overall.
To nurture your marriage, notice the good and address hurts.
By Darren J. Gillespie, LCSW