December 29, 2010

End of Year Marital Review and Marital Resolutions for the New Year

End of Year Marital Review and Marital New Year's Resolutions

Every year about his time, we hear a lot about end- of -year look-backs,  lists of the top the  ten best this or worst that.  Likewise, it won't be long before we will be thinking about new year's resolutions   Today our therapist, Rev. Michael Heath, will combine the two and  suggests some tips for  couples to have some fun and also keep their relationships healthy and growing.

Why it's important ? 

Resolutions are about having a goal.  We know that personal goals are important but we have more difficulty recognizing relational goals.  We understand  trying to lose weight or to stop smoking for an  but were not so clear about the importance of increasing time for  talking. While we understand regular check-ups for our teeth, we're not so sure about periodic reviews for our marriage. Think for a moment - do you have a goal for your marriage ?

The Problem -- Romantic Myths, Lack of Education and Pessimistic Expectations  

  • --Part of our reluctance to examine our relationships is because of the unrealistic attitudes many have about them. Pre-scientific , romantic myths imply that if a marriage is good, it will take care of itself  and, conversely, if it's bad there is nothing that can be done.
  • Likewise, even though many say that they value marriage, there is little marriage education in public schools. Thus, the level of public awareness regarding what keep marriages healthy is low.  Folks, young and old, need to have a better and  more accurate understanding about  how relationships work  and what it takes to make them last.
  • There seems to be an erroneous expectation that marriages start out perfect on the wedding day, but then slowly go into decline.  In fact folks on their wedding day are at the very beginning of a process.  With knowledge and skills, patience and practice the couple's relationship will continue to grow and deepen in joy and intimacy.    
  • Men especially expect that that reviewing one's relationships will always be a negative and painful experience. While some times acknowledging problems is sometimes uncomfortable, admitting that thing you've been avoiding brings relief. Also, and this is what many folks may not realize, regular reviews are not just about the negative or problematic. They can actually expand one's awareness of what is working in your marriage and lead to increasing the positive and joyful parts of your marriage, i.e. you can discover things  you want to do more of.

 7 Tips for Following Through on Resolutions      

1. Make it current - don't refight the civil war.
2. Keep it simple - chose one thing not ten.
3. Be concrete - not vague or general.
4. Describe, don't blame. Use I-Statements. Remember it takes "Two to Tango".
5. Think in terms of small steps not huge leaps.  Important changes take time .
6. Make deals and trades. If you do this, I'll do that.
7. Be patient and don't forget you love the person you're married to.

Many folks are amazed what a big difference  a simple review and a sincere resolution can make.
Obviously, if you run in to major problems, seek professional help. When nurtured and cared for, your marriage can be the greatest blessing of your life.

The Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, prepared these remarks for Bridge Street.   12 29 2010

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