Finding Peace in Our Marriages Bring your marriage back into focus with these 5 relationship building blocks. BY DENISE J. CHARLES
Work on a few marriage building blocks and you'll find peace and happiness within your marriage.
“ Because women tend to function as nurturers, we often feel a strong sense of ownership or responsibility towards making our marriage work.”
Many of us, if quizzed about our marriage, may admit to not being totally happy with the state of our union. This may spring from a belief that our partner is insensitive to our core needs, but can a partner really "make" us happy? If we find ourselves "unhappy in love," is there a way for us to get what we want from our relationship?
While getting exactly what we want every time may seem like a really tall order, there is scope for finding peace with what we have. This does not mean settling for mediocrity, but rather pursuing only what we can change; namely ourselves and our perspective. If we find ourselves dissatisfied with what we're currently experiencing, reflecting on the following may bring what is really important into focus.
1. Knowing our relational context: Each of us comes to our relationship or marriage with a collection of diverse experiences. These include our general socialization, the stability of our home, our religious values, our birth order, nationality and even our gender. These factors, along with our personality, combine to create a context from which we will experience a relationship that is unique to us. If we are ignorant as to how our past influences what we currently want, then it means that we can be disconnected from our core longings or needs. In other words, while our level of unhappiness may be palpable, we can remain ignorant as to the source of such unhappiness. Knowledge about the past is not, however, enough in itself. Healing from past childhood traumas or previous failed adult relationships are also desirable outcomes of honest introspection.
2. Articulating needs: Getting what we desire from a marriage requires honest communication by both parties involved. We mistakenly believe that true love is so strong, that somehow our spouse will magically know and anticipate our every need. Because our spouse will have his own relationship journey with an individual context of experiences, he may be approaching the marriage from an entirely different place. Being open to discussing core differences, while being honest about what is important to us, is a step in the right direction. Although communication is critical, it does not, however, guarantee that we will always get what we want. If our husband or wife is also struggling with unresolved issues, then this can compound the sense of dissatisfaction which both parties might feel. Communication, however, can be a powerful gateway to compassionate understanding and couple-growth.
3. Releasing the relationship: Although this may seem like an anomaly, sometimes we have to let go of something we hold dear in order to really find ourselves. In the context of marriage or a long term commitment, I'm not speaking of jumping ship or of walking away. Releasing the relationship means really coming to a place of understanding that our relationship should not be our core or center; while it may be important, it should not totally define who we are. This is often a challenge for us women because we invest so much into our relationships. Because women tend to function as nurturers, we often feel a strong sense of ownership or responsibility towards making our marriage work. This can become burdensome, however, and can be a real source of unhappiness. Releasing the relationship therefore means coming to terms with the truth that no romance or marriage, no matter how promising, is able to meet our every need. Releasing helps us to acknowledge that while we may influence our partner, we really do not have the power to change him/her.
4. Coming into our own: Celebrating who we are; our strengths and accomplishments and actively working towards our dreams, is important for our individual growth. When we work on developing ourselves, we diversify our interests and this emphasizes that we do have a life outside of our partner. While I am not advocating growing apart or becoming emotionally or sexually involved with someone else, there is space in a healthy relationship for individual pursuits that are not damaging to the marriage. Learning to love and make ourselves happy and fulfilled also lifts much of the pressure we often place on a spouse to provide happiness. This in turn can enrich what we do have together.
5. Modeling what we want: Very often we're quick to make demands on our husband or wife without demonstrating the very qualities we value. If we're looking for excitement or more overt demonstrations of love, then our own actions can be the most powerful teacher. Leading by example strengthens our authenticity and provides a lot more currency in the relationship. This can set the framework in place for our partner to hear our heart, when we do share what is important to us.