Marriages* are not generally lasting these days. But why? We are not naturally monogamous, but it's not just other people we cheat with, we also cheat with food, attending to the kids, work and our addictions. These are the things over time that break up marriages.
In the beginning, we naturally make the partnership "senior" to our individual desires. It seems cruel that this stage doesn't "naturally" last. The truth is, even in the best, most romantic couples, it really doesn't.
This is actually good news. Why? The fact that we HAVE TO grow up about love and partnership is good for our overall development and sense of power in our lives.
- Do you want to believe in lasting love?
- Are you still traumatized from having failed at making love last?
- Are you starting to give up on finding love or making it last?
- Are you near divorce and hoping for one last chance to make it work?
If you fit any of the above, the following advice will provide you with some hope.
a time when your marriage was "senior." (Not when you were martyring yourself.) I mean when you genuinely cared about the other person's experience and wanted to understand it, and you wanted to give. Was it ever the case? What did you do differently then? Remembering this will be a helpful anchor as you move forward.
that you haven't been making your partnership "senior." (This one might sting a bit.) If you had been, you would have been doing what you did in the beginning: finding things to love and praise about the other, forgiving easily, staying focused on what would make things work, making time, doing things the other person loved, INSTEAD of the other things you've been doing to fill your time, your need for comfort and your need for affirmation.
3) Fess up
to what you have been making senior instead. Every time you cheat, or even flirt, with someone else, you put that person on the top rung, above your mate. Respect, trust and kindness begin to diminish immediately after the first lie or secret. Quickly you find more to "not like" about your partner to justify your secrecy.
When you put innocent or not so innocent flirting, work, your children's supposed needs or your addictions above regular, meaningful time with your partner, it's a clue you're headed towards the danger zone. You probably already have a pile of things you aren't saying to your partner about how you feel and what you want. We usually "find" these other "distractions" after the deterioration has already begun.
You can reverse this trend if both of you want to fight for the marriage and for it to be senior to you as individuals. When that is the philosophy to uphold, you each put the other on the top rung over and over by sorting through the accumulated "laundry list" of complaints, insecurities, etc., telling the truth and designing married life to avoid common pitfalls.
4) Co-create rules and rituals.
Every couple needs rules and rituals for how to come clean about crushes and flirting. Do you really think it's not happening in your relationship? Of course it is! So get over acting like it's not, so that you can at least begin to talk about it.
You also need rules about the following. Here are examples clients have used:
1. Work- 6:30-8:30pm is "no screen time" for the family.
2. Food- we only have dessert on weekends.
3. Addictions- no hiding smoking or eating.
4. Kids- we decide who is in charge of making sure homework gets done.
5. Anything you lie about- tell the truth, daily.
6. Anything else you are putting on Rung #1- talk about it so you can catch it early.
These don't have to be the same rules, equally applied to you and your spouse. Each of you will need your own set and some shared in common. The point is, having to say what you really think, contending with each other's thoughts and feelings and then designing how you WANT it to be, rather than living by default and growing apart.
To those of you saying, "I am on board with this, but he/she isn't," I have news for you. You probably have some cleaning up of your own to do before you are going to get equal participation in the healing work.
Start with a heartfelt apology for how long your issues have gone unaddressed, any crimes you can cop to already (leave out any defending you will want to do) and the statement of a real dream for your relationship. Maybe you'll get an easy yes from your partner, maybe you have to work a bit harder or maybe it is honestly too late and you'll discover it sooner rather than later and before it gets worse. Regardless of your partner's interest in participating, you can do all four steps above and you will experience miraculous shifts as a result.
Even if your relationship ends, it should be after putting it first and giving your whole heart to making it great. You then have a much better shot at making your next relationship everything you want it to be. I know it's not easy to put down your seemingly urgent, individual (ego) needs in the moment in order to make your partnership senior, but I guarantee results that will warm your heart forever.
Let me know if I am wrong or right in your experience, by posting a comment.
P.S.- If you want to start believing again in love lasting, come to our one-hour teleseminar, Hot Monogamy
on June 21, led by my husband, Will.
* I use marriage and partnership interchangeably throughout this blog and mean any committed, monogamous love relationship. Also, I have addressed love relationships here, but this same set of coaching applies in business partnerships and important family or friend relationships that you want to revitalize.