Making your marriage work
Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Family Counsellor
Remember when Prince Charming carried his princess, the beautiful Sleeping Beauty, over the threshold? The story ends there and we’re told “They lived happily ever after.” Notice no one followed the happy couple behind the palace gates to see just how they solved who does the dishes or gets up to feed the baby late at night.
In marriage there are no guarantees and there is lots to solve and sort out together. The lessons relationship have to teach us are endless. Couples begin their life together with little or no prior training, no curriculum guide or instruction manual, no on-call assistance or supervision.
The truth is finding your prince or princess is not the end of the story. It’s the beginning and the real question is - After the honeymoon period and through the years ahead - how do you keep your marriage alive and well?
Empathizing with the challenges in front of any couple, here are some tips - a “Beckow’s half dozen,” so to speak - six keys to having a successful satisfying marriage.
One) Learn to make yourself happy
There is nothing more important in relationship than learning the art of making yourself happy. And it is an art. It begins as you let go of the expectation your partner will make your life happy and access the wisdom and the resourcefulness inside to look after our own well being. By developing this capacity to create pleasure and satisfaction out of life’s simple moments and it’s predicaments, we are learning to take care of our selves and the relationship.
There’s nothing more empowering than two people who each know how to make themselves happy, and who then express this satisfaction into the relationship. That’s power. Even if there is only one person who knows this skill it makes an enormous difference.
Two) Relationship is an inside job.
Most people think a relationship is something they “work on” outside themselves. It’s not. Consider a relationship an “inside job.” Your relationship exists in what you are saying to yourself about your partner and about your relationship. That’s where a relationship is.
Being in relationship is like growing a garden. What you are saying to yourself , your decisions, and beliefs, are the plants that take hold in your garden.
Tend to your garden regularly by pulling, and clearing any weeds that may appear. That way you have new and fresh soil in which new things can grow.
Three) Take the gloves off.
You don’t create safety and relationship when you harm another. Words, (blame and judgement) hurt. Couples often try to communicate when they are most upset or troubled. That is possibly the worst time to communicate. Just “letting it all hang out” may feel better for the moment, but if your words do harm, they have a big cost.
So take the boxing gloves off. Communicate difficulties after you‘ve settled down, when you are clearer in mind and body, and know what you want to express.
Four) Think of your spouse as your friend
A relationship includes moments of misunderstandings, conflicts, reactions, and sensitivities. Your partner can begin to feel like your adversary, a challenge sent to bewilder you, to add trouble and difficulty to your life.
Want to break this pattern? Do it by recalling your spouse is really your friend and you began your marriage as friends. Let this awareness of “being their friend” give your actions, and watch the difference it makes.
Five) Accept differences, because you have them.
You and your partner are very different in so many ways. Many couples spend lots of time trying to get the other person to be less like themselves and more like them. We have standards and ideals. How they “should be” and “shouldn’t be.” Couples try endlessly to improve fix, or change one another. “He should communicate more.” and “She should be less emotional.”. for example. These efforts create distance and “protective circles” between them.
Consider part of the spark of a marriage is created by differences and there is no right way to be. Think of your differences as being like two sides of a coin. These different ways of being, different ideas, styles and strategies, expand your range of responses as a couple to life. Accept your differences, make peace with them, even celebrate them – because you have them.
Six) Intimacy, is a creative affair.
A relationship is a knowing understanding and appreciation of another person’s way of being. This is the solid foundation of a relationship.
Notice however, that if you are going to have appreciation and acknowledgement, they don’t just appear on their own. They must be consciously searched for, created and expressed.
Yet in life we become lost in our busy lives. With our responsibilities and the demands upon us, we forget that moment by moment we are creating our experience of relationship.
Learning to master relationship means learning to remember to authentically generate appreciation and acknowledgement . This is a definite skill, that requires our attention, commitment and paves the way to that special experience of intimacy.
Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning the Victoria Family Institute at 250 721 2477 or contacted through his website at www.paulbeckow.com
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.