So many times I hear from people that say they want to work on their marriage. Most have tried this before in one way or another and they are not sure what else they can. So, if you are thinking about working on your marriage, I want to talk to you about what that could look like, and how you can set yourself up for success.
First let’s talk about what most people do and why it doesn’t work. When we say we’re working on our marriage, this usually looks like two people trying to be nice to one another. We usually tell our partners we are going to try harder. So we start. We try to listen more, not to fight, and try to do more things.
It isn’t that this is wrong, it is just not enough. If you are already in a relationship with someone and you are not being nice, how much interest are they going to have in being in a relationship with you? If you are already not being nice, why is your partner going to want to be married to you? How can you expect to have a close, intimate relationship with your partner?
The marriage is in trouble and you said you’re going to work on it, and you start to do more things. Doing more things, or acts of service are not bad. It is not an unloving thing to do, and it is not going to do any damage but it is not going to bring you closer together. It is not going to change your spouse’s heart. Doing the dishes without being asked is not going to make them want to be closer to you and it is not going to make you feel any closer to them. So when you are at the stage where you’re seeking out answers for how to fix your marriage, acts of service are not enough.
Working on your marriage is not just being nice and doing more. That is not really getting serious about working on your marriage.
Think of it like weight loss and dieting. Maybe you want to lose 20 pounds. So what do you do to ensure you have the best chance at success? You can decide that you are going to try harder, choose more nutritional foods, and move your body more, OR you can seek out an expert to help you reach your goals. What is the difference?
When we decide we will do it on our own, we start out with the best of intentions. We research a diet and a plan and we get things lined up to get started on losing weight. Maybe we stick with it for a few weeks or maybe even a month or two. It is slow going, and we do not see a whole lot of change in the time we would like and we become frustrated. Little by little we start to let things slide, and before we know it, nothing much has changed.
Now when we seek out an expert to help us, the outcome is typically a bit different. We find someone who is qualified and they put a framework around what our diet plan will look like. They show us what the best practices will be for us to reach our goal, tell us what foods to eat, how much to eat, and how to best move our body to get the desired results.
So when you get serious about achieving a goal you don’t just talk about it, or say I’m working on that. When you get serious about it, you have to put structure around it, a program of some sort.
It doesn’t have to look any one way. It could be structured by me, a therapist, or even you. You could decide “this is what it’s going to look like” and then start filling in that framework. Maybe you decide you are going to watch a YouTube video every day on relationships, or read a new relationship book each month and really start to apply what you are learning. There are lots of ways and paths. You can find an expert or you can create your own program. Obviously, one is going to get you there faster than the other but you can get results.
The other thing you need is accountability. Obviously when you’re working with a coach or therapist, they hold you accountable. They monitor your success as you go. We know they will be doing this, so we try harder, we stick to it, we keep practicing all the new “skills” they are giving us. So even when you’re doing it yourself, you need to hold yourself accountable. Maybe you have accountability between one another and at the end of the week you check in with each other. Maybe you decided that this week you would work on being more affectionate with one another. The week goes by and you check in and ask “okay, how are we doing?
If you want to genuinely work on your marriage, don’t just say “I’m going work on it, I’m going to be nicer, I’m going to do more things.” Although these are all good things to do, they are not going to pull your marriage out of trouble on their own, and it’s going to be really slow going. When it is slow going, that is the exact time that you fall back into your same old patterns.
Go back to the diet example. How many of us have started a diet and then a month or two later we are off the diet and we’re back eating the way we were before? Most of us, right? To avoid that and truly create change, we have to create new habits. Without structure around creating new habits, we are going to just fall back into the way it was. That is how many of us lose a few pounds and then gain it back. We do not create the new habits.
Our relationship is the same. You might get the relationship to a place where it feels a little bit better but then a few months later, it doesn’t. You are back in the same sort of pattern. You are engaging and interacting with each other just like you used to, because you are not on guard anymore . You are not working on good behavior any more. You never had structure and accountability to create lasting change, so the cycle began to repeat itself.
If you would like to find out how you can work on your marriage, and not end up repeating the same cycle, I invite you to schedule a complimentary Exploratory Session. Let’s see if there is a good fit for us to work together. Remember, working on your marriage does not have to be hard.