By Jack Ito
Are you married, but wishing your relationship was more like it was before you were married? You are not alone. When a relationship starts out, both men and women are interested in making a good impression, getting a positive response, having a good time, and increasing intimacy. The relationship feels exciting, the lover appears like the perfect match, and the desire to commit to each other is high.
Following the marriage commitment, the very same things that at first made the relationship so exciting are the very same things that fall away. After all, why work on making a good impression if someone has already committed their life to you? For men especially, often the highest level of intimacy they desire (sex) has already been obtained. Why put in even more time talking when there is no greater intimacy to be had and there are other things to do? On top of this, the things that were previously fun activities for the couple become routine (even a rut).
When a child comes along, focus on each other tends to turn to focus on the child. Although this as first renews sharing and adds vitality, it later increases the routine, decreases available time and energy, and increases stress. For this reason, couples are encouraged not to have children until their relationship is stable and strong.
Becoming roommates rather than husband and wife is usually a gradual process of gradually increasing emotional distance. Once this distance reaches a level that is uncomfortable for both the husband and the wife, there is a crisis. Depending on the way the crisis is managed, the couple continue to be roommates, have increasing conflict until breaking up, or redefine their marriage to allow for a positive change.
Redefining or renewing a relationship is the process of moving closer together. There are three components to creating a healthy relationship:
1. CHANGING VISIONS–Either the husband, wife, or both need to clearly discover what kind of relationship they want to have. So many couples become embroiled in trying to fix the problems, that they never really stop to consider what they want. A counselors will often use this problem focused approach that at best can get people back to where they were before. A relationship coach, on the other hand, will use the technique of creating a vision. Visions, desires, and goals, pull us toward them in a positive and exciting way. This makes for the possibility of an entirely new type of relationship to replace the old.
2. CHANGING BELIEFS–One of the most debilitating beliefs is that one’s partner must change before the relationship can improve. The fact is that one person must make the first move and that person can be either partner. It is not necessary to have a simultaneous start up. For example, a person who is unhappy in their marriage may find that by changing their job or starting a new hobby, they become happier with more of a zest for life. This, in turn, can make them more attractive to their partner. Misery loves company and when one person refuses to be miserable and makes positive life changes, the other partner is often pulled in that direction without any kind of coercion.
3. CHANGING STRATEGIES–People do what they know how to do. This means that they try to use the same strategies as in the past, but this time hoping to achieve different results. Even when couples put 100% of their effort into reviving their marriage by returning to what worked in the past, they will more than likely end up in the very same place. Trying harder to achieve different results using the same methods does not work. The number one strategy for creating a better relationship is getting help and support from someone who knows how to do that. It the person you see in the mirror has not had success in the area you want to improve, do you really want to put all your trust in his/her methods? If someone wants to quit smoking, which do you think would be better–hoping that you will develop the urge to quit smoking, trying to quit alone, buying a stop smoking self-help book, or committing to meeting regularly with an expert in smoking cessation? What would be the best strategy for achieving a healthy relationship?
An exercise that you can do now to begin changing your vision is to get a piece of paper and a pen. Write at the top of the paper, “My Dream Relationship.” Pretend you are not married. Imagine your fairy godmother grants you the wish of the man or woman of your dreams. Write down what that person is like physically and emotionally. What will you do with that person? Where will you go? Where will you live? What will your daily life with that person be like? The interesting thing about this exercise is that when husbands and wives who are emotionally distant do this exercise separately, they actually come up with many of the same ideas for their dream partner. When couples are distant, it is not usually because they want different things, but because they don’t know how to get what they want. Working on these areas of common desire with new and effective methods will bring new spark into the relationship and create the potential for more lasting, positive change.