It is extremely painful and distressing to experience hopelessness in your marriage. It can effect your feelings about yourself, your work, and your parenting. Sadly, people often avoid utilizing resources that could help. Most couples don't come in for help until they've had problems for 5-7 years, and unfortunately a lot of toxic damage can occur during such an erosive phase.
The good news is that there are real skills people can learn to improve the relationship they are in! Here are some tips for improving your strained relationship TODAY:
1.). Choose a good time to talk. Research says fights happen before bed and before dinner. Sounds simplistic but it's true: timing is important and when people's reserve is low, they are not likely to be acting in a "conscious" way, which is key to effective communication and healthy behavior.
2.). Remind yourself that all relationships cycle:
Honeymoon - closeness, joy, enthusiasm
Apprehension - differences become apparent
Evaluation - usually accompanied by some separation & an increase in independent activities
Re-Dedication - comes after you have decided to practice acceptance, reaffirm respect, and know you can be your self AND be close and "in" the relationship
3.). Approach your partner as a Team Member: This is even more challenging in Step families. There is so much pulling on a couple in modern America - and in a blended family, it is even worse. Couples can often lose sight of their romantic bond. Make time to be together without talking about the problems of the relationship or parenting issues. Preserve the fun, friendship, and sensuality that helped you form the relationship originally.
4.). Brainstorm problem solutions and make short term, concrete plans to experiment with change. Do not bring up history, give criticisms, or use this "meeting" as a time to fire an arsenal. Make every effort to move forward and renew your hope for the future and belief in change. If you hold the other person to the negative interpretations you have acquired (even if you believe they "deserve" that, have "earned" it), you are going to stop forward movement and the possibility for getting your needs met. "As a therapist I can truly say I have seen people experience awakenings and blossom in to happier healthier places at all stages of life. If there are 2 options, a negative interpretation and a positive one, it makes a whole lot of sense to act on the positive. Don't give up!" Says Remi Spicer, of Great Lakes Counseling. "Couples want to get along, but they need skills in order to do that, and education and therapy can help make significant improvements in people's lives."
If you would like to meet with a trained professional and improve your relationship, please call:
Remi Spicer, LMSW
Great Lakes Counseling Services
Holland: 312 Douglas
Grandville: 2675 44th St SW
Great Lakes Counseling: Therapy for What's Next