Sandra A Doron LCSW
I am deeply troubled to read this past week’s Relationships Matter and to discover that HELP’s wife suddenly left him after 12 years of marriage. I am a 22- year-old woman who wants to get married but when I hear stories like this, I ask myself if I ever did get married whether the same thing could happen to me. Marriage is a scary thing, and I too would be devastated if my husband bailed on me. CONFUSED & BEWILDERED
Dear CONFUSED & BEWILDERED:
I can understand how troubled and apprehensive you must feel about the prospect of marriage. With such a large percentage of marriages ending in divorce, and one in five Americans having an affair at least once in their lifetime, it is no wonder that an alarming number of young men and women are terrified of the “M” word.
Do not despair. We know that a good marriage takes effort and commitment from both partners. The secret is to make time for each other, no matter how busy you are. This will communicate to your partner that he is your first priority. When you are dating, and the relationship is new, it is easy and effortless to show your love and affection. But once you are married, and particularly after children are born, it takes an unwavering commitment to your partner to make your marriage the number one priority in your life.
Here are some ideas to keep the romance alive, after you marry:
1. Take time to be alone with your partner, even when your children are young. Daily Walk and Talk outings, lasting even for 30 minutes, give you “alone time”, without the interference of the telephone, children, and other distractions. This time allows you to maintain the deep friendship that is the cornerstone of your relationship.
2. Do special things together as a couple that are fun and meaningful-- for example, go kite-flying, plant a tree together in honor of your marriage, watch a sunset together.
3. Communicate to your partner, both verbally and non-verbally, that he is special. Hug him when he least expects it, tell him how glad you are that you are married to him, look into his eyes as you tell him about your day, tenderly touch him as you are working around the house, brush his hair, take a shower together, give him a massage.
No matter how stressful your daily life may be, if you make the time to be alone with each other, and communicate your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis, you will be able to work out your differences. Taking a walk together each evening is a wonderful way to make this happen. At this point you may be thinking about all the things that would interfere with “regular outings”—such as being angry with each other or that paying for a babysitter each evening is an impossible luxury. You may be thinking that sometimes you are so exhausted that taking a walk would be out of the question. However, the enormous effort that you both make to spend time together will revitalize and energize you. If you do not take the time to be alone, especially after the first child is born, an undesirable cycle begins: mother looks to her new born infant for validation, instead of to her partner. The result is that father is often left alone, convinced that he is no longer needed. He may spend more and more time at work or with friends to compensate for his sense of being “left out.” The couple then learns to look outside their relationship for emotional support, leading to more resentment and withdrawal. This destructive cycle can be prevented by making each other their top priority. As a couple, you need to be alone with each other every day, to talk regularly about important emotional issues, and to keep the romance alive, throughout every stage of your relationship.
Support and expressions of appreciation and affection do not happen automatically. Men often have a hard time expressing their feelings, and confronting difficult issues with their partners. The good news is that even men who have never shared their feelings can learn to do so, given time, patience, and a willingness to learn. If you focus on your partner’s strengths, rather than his limitations, your children will reap the dividends as well. When you and your partner communicate affection, appreciation, friendship, and forgiveness, you create an environment that is nurturing, safe, trusting, and loving. Your children learn that marriage is something they want for themselves when they become adults.
Sandra A Doron is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker A & A Couples Counseling Acknowledge and Appreciate (Keys to a Successful Relationship)
This site was last updated 01/22/06