Related Post: Why “For Better or Worse” is a Fatal Vow
Even the most distressed marriages can be healed. I know. I’ve seen it happen in my office. But the healing always consists of one essential ingredient: intentionality. Specifically, the intentional creation of time and space for the marital relationship itself.
And the time and space do not have to be huge. This week, readers consistently pointed out that a cup of coffee here, a stroll in the mall there, a silent holding of hands in the midst of this crazy-hectic life can go a long way toward restoring your marriage. One reader even suggested small (but regular) donations to a “marriage insurance” fund can guarantee you have the resources to get away when you need to.
The idea of small but intentional space for your relationship is critical to marital therapy, as well. Marital therapy has several stages. In the first stage, couples attend one or more times a week, often in order to stabilize the crisis that brought them in. In the second stage, the therapy settles into productive, enriching weekly sessions that promote healing and growth. In the third stage, couples decrease the frequency of therapy sessions to every other week.
And I think this stage is actually the most predictive of successful marital healing, as the couple attempts to maintain the process of healing more independently from the therapist.
My instruction at this stage is always the same: use the therapy time-slot in the off weeks to create a new ritual of joining. For instance, if you are attending therapy every Wednesday at 5pm, then use the now vacated time slot every other week to be intentional about your marriage. Keep getting the babysitter every week, and on the Wednesdays you don’t come to therapy, go out to dinner. Face each other. Talk. Connect.
The couples who follow through with this are the ones most likely to save their marriages in the long-run.
But you don’t necessarily need to go to therapy to do this! You can begin this week, intentionally setting aside a regular time to prioritize your marriage, just like you would any other valuable commitment. Here are some guidelines:
- Pick a time that gives you the best shot at successful follow through. For instance, if one of you is a “night person,” don’t decide to do it at 5am.
- Choose a place separate from your normal routine. Maybe a restaurant or coffee shop. Maybe a walking route. Maybe a park bench. Just make it different. We tell kids not to study in bed because they’re used to sleeping there. Don’t try to connect in the kitchen; your used to working there.
- Start with an hour. Don’t feel like you need to make up for lost time all at once. Studies show most people can’t pay attention for more than an hour anyway.
- Don’t begin the hour by trying to solve problems or re-visiting on-going arguments. Make the first thirty minutes about re-connecting, providing support to each other, getting to know each other again.
- Try to spend the last 15-30 minutes discussing things that are harder to discuss. Make sure you go slowly, take turns speaking and paraphrasing.
- If step 5 seems impossible, go back to step 4. If you get stuck and can’t progress to step 5, call a therapist.
Your marriage is like a living organism, and it needs to be fed. And the food is your attention and intention. Don’t wait. Our marriages are starving, so feed them now!
Tuesday Tip Disclaimer: The Tuesday Tip is not professional advice. It should be read as you would read a “self-help” book. For professional and customized advice, you should seek the services of a counselor, who can become more intimately familiar with your specific situation. Counselors can be located through your insurance network or through your state psychological association website.
Reading by Feed or E-mail?
Click here to visit the website, where you can subscribe by email.
Click here to visit the Facebook page.
Click here to visit the Twitter page.
Photo Credit: Photo taken from this website.