I’ve discovered that if you wait around long enough, everything old becomes new again. I’ve now lived through the granny dresses of the 60s, the platform shoes of the 70s and the leg warmer trend of the 80s twice now. One of those old standbys that has reappeared is the wild, wacky TV game show, The Newlywed Game.
I remember watching the original back in the day with Bob Eubanks as the host. The couples ran the gamut from being well-matched to seeming completely unaware of who they had married. The questions were often filled with sexual undertones and the reactions to the answers probably revealed more about the couples than they ever intended.
I haven’t watched the new incarnation but I’m sure the questions are less subtle and the reactions more revealing. In a way, I don’t have to watch the show as I see much of the detritus of marriages those couples will have on a regular basis in my office every day.
One of the hardest experiences I, as a pro-marriage marriage therapist/coach, have to deal with is when one partner is completely devasted and lost by the desire of the other to end the marriage. I usually hear one of two things. Either its, “I know we’ve been having some problems but I didn’t realize it was this bad.” Or worse, “I had no idea my partner was so unhappy, I’m okay with the way things are.”
There are a couple of reasons why the second statement may be made. Either your partner has not expressed that things aren’t going working for them. Or, more likely, you haven’t really been listening. Things are great for you, how could your partner be experiencing something so very different?
Going back to when you first got together, things probably really were great for both of you. The neurochemical process that drives being in love makes us immune to seeing any contradictions or potential challenges in the relationship. It’s not that you’re in denial, you really don’t see any flaws in your partner or your life together.
Once the magic of infatuation begins to fade, your immunity to the annoying habits and irritating behaviors of your partner wanes as well. But, here’s a caveat. The infatuation may fade at a differing rate for the two of you. You may still be in the throes of euphoria while your partner may be returning steadily to earth, or vise versa.
Hopefully, the partner who is feeling some relationship stress will speak up in a healthy and productive way and make a specific, reasonable request for a change in behavior. Ideally, the other partner will listen respectfully and honor the request. This loving and generous behavior continues over time with a healthy, successful marriage being the outcome for both partners.
Ah, but there in lies the rub. If you are the one noticing that something about the relationship has become bothersome, do you complain, drop hints (hostile or otherwise), or make specific, non-blaming requests for change? If you are the partner on the receiving end of the request, can you hear it without minimizing it, getting defensive, or countering with a complaint of your own?
It’s never easy to hear that something you are doing is problematic for the person you love. Most of the time, your intention is not to be annoying. What comes into play is your willingness to accommodate to your partner in a way you both can be comfortable with. Learning how to give and receive reasonable requests will prevent unpleasant surprises down the road.
How would you rate your relationship on a scale of 1-10 (1 being on it’s last legs and 10 being out of this world fantastic)? Would your partner rate it the same? If not, why not? In other words, do you know what your partner’s biggest complaint about your relationship is?
- The One Thing You Can Do Today to Create Calm in Your Marriage
- Keys to Your Happily Ever After Marriage: Communicate Productively
- The Fundamental Rules of Marriage
If having a better relationship is on your to-do list, join me, Dr. Bernie Siegel and Marci Shimoff at RelationshipResolutionTelesummit2012
Learn more about Lesli’s book and how you can have a great marriage without all the work.