If you want to gain valuable tools to grow a strong marriage, save a failing one, and possibly avoid a divorce, then read on as I share what couples can do to make or break their relationships…
Don’t Grow Up Emotionally
If you’re not going to grow up, you will wreck your marriage. In a therapy session, if one partner says, “I feel like I have an extra child because I am married to this person,” it is likely that this partner has failed to grow up emotionally. You’d be surprised to know how many highly successful adults in the business and professional world are actually emotional infants. Emotionally immature people:
- Look for others to take care of them
- Take disagreements personally
- Are only happy when things go their way
- Quickly unravel when disappointment, stress, or tragedy enter the picture
When emotionally immature people don’t get their way, they often:
- Drag their feet
- Become sarcastic
- Keep score and take revenge
Grow Up Already!
Emotionally mature people can love others without expecting them to change. They don’t expect anyone to be perfect in meeting their needs and when under stress they don’t fall into a victim mentality or the blame game. These folks are a pleasure to be around:
- They respect and love others without becoming critical and judgmental.
- They are convinced that they are lovable and they have nothing to prove.
- They make peace with their past.
- They have the ability to place the needs of others on a stage and can shine a spotlight on someone else without feeling personally threatened or ignored.
When you mature emotionally, you stop being competitive with your spouse and start instead to collaborate for the greater good. You also learn to prioritize your mate, and help lift them up to be the best version of themselves. In the truest sense, you become your partner’s biggest fan. Fundamentally, to grow up means you become “good medicine” to other people.
Be a Critical, Fault-Finding Person
Want to wreck your marriage? Be someone who looks at their own faults through a telescope but everyone else’s with a microscope. Critical people focus on the failures of others, are self-righteous, and become highly defensive when they are criticized themselves. Criticism is incredibly destructive to a marriage. It focuses on blame, accusation, and personal attacks on the other person.
Critical people are tough to be married to because they have a huge need to maintain control – they need things to be their way. Fault Finders may be able to stutter an occasional “I’m sorry” to their marriage partner, but they find it difficult to take the next essential step and actually yield their rights to another by asking forgiveness for their actions. For the person on the receiving end, life with a critical, fault-finding person can be overwhelming and draining.
Learn How to Forgive
Bitterness is not your friend, especially if you want your marriage to survive. Many relationships have been saved when one or both of the partners decide to stop keeping a list of wrongs against the other. They have come to understand what Loren Fischer meant when he said, “The difference between holding on to a hurt or releasing it with forgiveness is like the difference between laying your head down on a pillow filled with thorns or a pillow filled with rose petals.”
Forgiveness is contextual and is really about being good to yourself and not allowing another person’s actions to control your life or your thoughts. Choosing to forgive means YOU get to lay your head on rose petals. Now let me tell you what forgiveness is not:
- Forgiveness is not forgetting
- Forgiveness is not condoning
- Forgiveness does not always mean reconciliation
People who refuse to forgive like to hold on to grudges; it helps them to feel superior to others. Incessantly superior people are really tough to be married to. If you want to save your marriage, learn how to let go of the thorns.
Remember, good marriages don’t just happen. Some old things have to go and new things have to grow.
If you want to wreck your marriage, withdraw from your family and withhold yourself from these relationships. Be at home, but don’t engage the people you live with. Keep them at arm’s length. If you do engage with them, do as little as possible. Be just a roommate, and an inconsiderate one at that.
If you regularly block out or ignore your family because of over-working, TV, video games, computer time, hobbies, addictions and obsessions, you can kiss your relationships goodbye. Seriously! We know one marriage therapist who says, “The role of a parent and spouse is not only to protect and provide but to be present, to participate, and to offer partnership to your spouse and family.” Ultimately, you should save your best for those you love the most!
View and Treat Your Partner With a Spirit of Disdain
This marriage wrecker is alive and active when you hear a spouse say, “I love my husband/wife, I just don’t like them.” This is what happens when negativity goes unchecked. These disdainful marriage partners often:
- Speak disrespectfully to and about one another
- Insult each other
- Make faces or roll their eyes as the other speaks
- Call names
- Use biting sarcasm
- Physically, emotionally, or sexually abuse the other (remember that neglect is also form of abuse)
- Focus on the negative
To make things worse, very few people outside the home know this is going on. This is called a shame-based relationship. Many very upstanding people who are known and loved by their community actually turn around to treat their spouse and family like dirt.
Want to know if you are a shame-based person? Do you make a point to keep up appearances so no one will know the truth about your family? Ask yourself if you treat the neighbors, your co-workers and friends better than you treat your spouse. Better yet, ask your spouse! Doesn’t it seem reasonable that no one should treat your partner better than you do? Likewise, if this sounds like your own spouse, they could be red flags.
Learn That Your Happiness is Your Job
So many of the couples we meet truly long for happiness but inevitably they believe and speak these nine fatal words about their partner: “If only they would change, I could be happy.”
Want to REALLY save your marriage and change your life? Stop putting your happiness in the hands of another person. When you believe that your happiness is based upon your partner’s changing, you become a victim. Once you place your happiness and contentment outside of your own control you have assumed a powerless position.
It can be very hard to accept that you can really only change yourself. However, there is a fascinating freedom that accompanies people who have stopped trying to change others and choose rather to just accept and enjoy the people around them.
Personal contentment comes from learning to find joy in whatever the day brings. Begin to move away from expecting others to “do” the right behaviors in order for you to be happy. It really is possible for you to be happy independent of the people around you.
However, to accept others without expecting them to change does not mean you have to tolerate unacceptable behavior. All forms of abuse, violence, illegal activity, neglect, unfaithfulness, addictions, and disrespect can and should be addressed within your marriage. Seek the help of trusted friends, clergy, therapists and/or legal counsel to help you determine your next steps.
Ignore Your Past
Many of us come from backgrounds of abuse, trauma, loss, abandonment, mental illness, addiction, or divorce. Life has dealt us some very tough blows. Here’s the deal: You had no control over what happened to you as a kid, but now as an adult you are in charge of what happens in your life.
Many people who come to therapy have unresolved issues from their past that are destroying their present relationships. These issues cloud the lenses through which they see life.
Because some of these things can be so painful to deal with, most of us wander off into the world of “coping.” By coping we mean that people will often try everything to ease the pain they feel inside just to avoid dealing with the real issues.
Examples of coping:
- Over-eating (or under-eating)
- Watching TV for hours
- Substance abuse
- Over-commitment in activities
- Internet pornography and affairs
- A compulsion for success, recognition, or accomplishment
- Anything to an extreme, just to avoid “feeling,” even healthy behaviors
Deal With Your Stuff
Here’s the bottom Line: You will be happier, your family will be closer, and your marriage will be stronger if you deal with your past. You are shaped by your past. The events and people of your life – for better or worse – have made you who you are. Without knowing it, many people wreck their marriage and repeat the same harmful patterns that they were brought up with unless they take the courageous steps to change those patterns. Along the way you may need to take some practical steps:
- If you struggle with addiction, admit it and seek treatment and support.
- If you experience the mental torment of depression or anxiety – help yourself and your family by going to therapy
- Talk to a doctor about medications.
- Exercise and a healthy diet make everything look better – including you!
- Develop a spiritual life; it helps you realize the universe revolves around something greater, higher, and larger than you.
- Make laughter a daily practice. You can emotionally lighten your load if you learn to find the humor in life. A good laugh allows us to bond with other people and ease our loneliness.
Want to save your relationship and help your family? Please call us directly at 949-480-7767.