People often ask Dino & I what are some of the pitfalls to avoid so they can create a healthy marriage. Here’s the basic, foundational pieces I believe you need to be aware of so you don’t sabotage your relationship.
#1- Ignoring the FUN FACTOR.
I put this as the first pitfall to address, as I see so many couples having issues with it. Even couples who have a “good” marriage tend to let the FUN FACTOR slide, and focus more of their energy on maintaining the house, their parental duties, financial responsibilities, and fixing what’s not working in the marriage. These are all important pursuits in a marriage, but the glue that binds your lives together, and makes all the “work” worth it, is the FUN FACTOR. I tell my mentoring clients that the more you play together, the lower the stress levels and better you handle the rest of your life. Marriage is an adventure, when you treat it like one, possibilities open up that you never knew were possible.
#2- Putting ME before WE- Selfishness
As a rule of thumb, whenever there’s a disagreement in your relationship, one or both of you are being selfish. The best question I ask myself when I’m in disharmony with Dino is, “How am I being selfish in this moment?” or “How can I be more selfless & show charity in this situation?” I know you might be thinking that’s not realistic in the heat of the argument, or that you are “right” about whatever your disagreement is about, but I suggest you consider a bigger perspective of your relationship. Is it better to be right or to have peace? How you answer that question will be a huge indicator to how much suffering vs. pleasure you are experiencing in your marriage.
#3- Keeping Feelings in
I typically hear my female clients complain about their husbands doing this, but upon further investigation, I find that they are just as guilty as men are about holding feelings in. First way to improve this is to really get that your spouse is not a mind reader!~ they can’t predict how you are feeling, so please just let them know. Sharing your hopes, fears, disappointments, requests,etc. is a short cut to you experiencing a meaningful marriage. Secondly, if your spouse hasn’t read my blog or doesn’t know how to express their feelings, I suggest you get really good at asking effective questions. What I mean is, learn how to ask compelling, open-ended questions that will help your loved one to open up and respond. Lastly, be the example by going first and sharing your feelings. And if it’s expressing a concern, do it in a short, concise manner, and then move on, don’t keep harping on a subject or bring it up in later discussions.
#4- Not Actively Listening to each other
In this day and age where technology is a means to instant gratification of information (and giving us symptoms similar to ADD), having sufficient focus and patience to really listen and hear our spouse is becoming a rare commodity. Do yourself and your partner a favor, put away any distractions (TV, laptop, cell phone, turn down radio) and give your spouse your undivided attention. Making eye contact is a strong indicator that you are actively listening and care what they are saying. Summarize what you heard them say, and then ask questions or respond to what they are saying so you are engaged in the conversation. Feeling heard and understood is essential in a healthy relationship.
#5- Holding on to resentment
Once you’ve dealt with an issue, it needs to be dropped and not brought up again later as fuel for a different discussion, or use as a guilt beating whenever you want to wound your spouse.This will put you in the fast track to unhappiness, insecurity, mistrust and eventual divorce. Additionally, holding resentment inside of you is a slow poison that will eat away at you and how you show up in your marriage. Their are several tools and modalities for dealing with bottled up resentment, find 2-3 that work for you and keep them in your “toolbelt” whenever resentment or anger comes up. The greatest gift you can give to your health and mental sanity is letting go of resentment. You are worth it!
#6- Not being PRESENT
Even when you are physically present, are you emotionally & mentally present? Are you engaging in your relationship or merely going through the motions? When you are home, do you find yourself thinking excessively about work, hobbies, friends or other things that could be distracting you from fully being present and aware of your spouse and family? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could use some improvement in being engaged in the present, and not living in the past or the future. There’s power in being truly present to your surroundings and loved ones, in the moment. Next time you feel yourself “Checking out” or “plugging in” to technology, I challenge you to seek out opportunities to connect with someone. Give your spouse a hug. Go start a conversation with one of your kids. Do something that keeps you in the here and now. Happiness is not an external experience, it exists within you. Right now.
I hope the awareness of these 6 pitfalls will help you to create the relationship of your dreams.
I believe when you know better, you can do better. Now you know, and I hope you’ll do.
Health & happiness,