Ever have that lingering feeling that "the loving just isn't what it used to be when we first got together."? Feel like your relationship has become so routine that it's no longer exciting or interesting? Or maybe that there is so much stress and tension in your marriage that you just want to be someplace else and preferably alone? If you answered yes to any of these, then you are really NOT alone. Many of us find ourselves there at one time or another. But do "irreconcilable differences" really mean it's time to pull the plug on your relationship or can you overcome them and recreate some of that magic and enjoy life with your partner once more?
Main Causes of Stress in Marriage
If you look at other stress management websites you'll get a list of causes of marriage stress that runs something like this: Finances, Health Concerns, Children, Work Responsibilities, In-Laws, Household Management Issues and so on. Granted these factors are often present as triggers of stress in relationships. But if we look a little deeper there are more significant factors that underlie all of these. They are:
1. Over time spouses stop talking to each other and begin to keep things to themselves. This leads to a Breakdown of Communication which becomes a ticking time bomb in the relationship.
2. This in turn leads to a Lack of Real Intimacy that creates further distance in the relationship.
3. And finally, both of these contribute to a Lack of Real Fun in the relationship for both partners.
If all of these issues are affecting a marriage there is a real danger of either or both partners looking for what they are missing outside of the relationship. This often gives rise to
the issue involved in most divorces.
Regardless of the surveys, our day to day routines, or other triggers that might lead us to believe our relationship is in a rut, we occasionally get to the point of knowing that we either need to do something to re-energize our marriage or consider the alternatives.
My spouse and I experienced this kind of marriage stress last fall. We needed to do something to help re-create the closeness we knew we could experience but that we both felt was not quite there like we wanted it.
I'd heard about Emotionally Focused Therapy and the work of Dr. Sue Johnson and decided to check it out. We found her book incredibly helpful. Even if your relationship is not in crisis the exercises and conversations outlined here will do a lot to enhance your marriage.
Another program worth exploring is the "Marriage Fitness" program offered by Mort Fertel.
We started with his free CD, and liked what we heard so ordered the set. We set aside a time each day to listen to a track or two and to decide on our "homework". We learned many things but probably the most significant was that the quality of our relationship was well within our control and that we really needed to do some very specific things to feed it if we wanted it to flourish and reduce the marriage stress. Duh! OK, we might have known that if we'd taken the time to think about it. But what we didn't know was some very specific and well tested steps to take to improve the "fitness" or our marriage.
Mort gave us some of those and they really made a difference. He also offers a "Marriage Boot Camp" using teleconferences. We haven't done that one yet but if ever experience a lot of marriage stress again, we just might. When I look back I also give each of us some credit for taking the time to acknowledge a problem and take some action. This comes down to Awareness and Intention. To bring these things to the forefront of our life experience required us to be willing to "self observe" without judgment or blame and then take the next step.
I'm grateful for my years of yoga and meditation training that I believe makes it much easier for me to do that. I'm also pleased that we are both mature enough to put our egos aside when we have a problem. We were able admit to ourselves and to each other that, despite our years of focus on spiritual living, there are times of stress in our marriage when we need outside help and need to do some more learning. It reminds me of a quote I heard many years ago. "(S)he who is not busy being born is busy dying." I just can't remember who said it. Anyone know?