Have you ever experienced that sinking feeling that maybe you’re married to the wrong person? The fond memories of the courtship, the carefree silly times, the romantic dinners, and in general most aspects of your relationship pre-kids and pre-careers seem like ancient history. And during those recent times when: Your spouse is working late again and you feel like a single parent… You feel unloved for who you are… You’re irritated that s/he’s putting you down in front of others… Your mind starts to churn. Why did I marry this person? Are we really right for each other?
For some reason, most of us have this naive notion in our heads that marriage is supposed to be easy. (Big shout out to Disney and Hollywood for that one!) But as we have all found out over time, being married takes a lot of hard work, commitment and compromise. There’s simply no way that two people – especially bright, confident and independent individuals – can always agree. There’s also no way that your partner can always be in a good mood. If she were, she wouldn’t be human. And there’s no way that your partner can always put you first. If he did, then you’d feel smothered. Relationships are full of challenges and it’s easy to start thinking we chose wrong when the going gets tough. However, when we don’t fully commit to making this the right marriage, we lose out.
Relationships are full of challenges and it’s easy to start thinking we chose wrong when the going gets tough. However, when we don’t fully commit to making this the right marriage, we lose out.
You can likely think of other times in your life when you missed out because you weren’t fully committed, when you weren’t all in. Remember when you or your kids were learning to swim? How you gripped firmly to the side of the pool and didn’t dare leave the safety and security of the edge to venture out into the deep end? How you missed out on all those fun pool games with friends because you were too afraid to trust that this swimming thing would work out?
Are you still “holding onto the edge” in your marriage, not sure if you are able to take the plunge and fully trust that this is the person for you? Here are some of the things you will gain when you let go of the edge and commit to being all in in your marriage:
- Emotional intimacy. When we are willing to share our fears, hopes, and dreams with our partner because we are secure in knowing that this is the person for us, we realize a deeper connection with them, a bond that unites us like no other. Isn’t that the main goal of your relationship?
- A team commitment. When those tough times come, you are focused on how to get through this challenge together with your partner because there is no other option. You aren’t wasting your time wondering if now is the time to cut your losses and move on. And it’s these times – when you step up and confront challenges together – these moments will be the glue that bind you closer and strengthen you as a couple.
- Security. You know that you’re both going to screw up once in a while. It’s comforting to know that you and your partner will support each other during these times.
- A better you. The problems you see before you certainly aren’t all your partner’s doing. (Hard to believe, I know!) By really sharing and being vulnerable with each other, you start to realize your own shortcomings and help bring out the best in each other.
It’s easy to want to be all in but it can be hard to abandon your modus operandi and get there. How do we let go and trust that this is exactly the person we are meant to be with?
- Examine your attitude. Do you really believe that your spouse is doing things just to annoy you? Do you really believe that s/he is unconcerned about your feelings? It’s quite likely that you might be misinterpreting some actions.
- Have a conversation. If you don’t let your partner know what’s bothering you, you can’t expect your relationship to improve. Regular conversations about your relationship are important so that little things don’t take on bigger meaning than they should. Before talking with your partner about what’s bothering you, try to identify the 1 or 2 biggest issues. It’s not really that he forgot to text you that he would be late one night, right? It’s more likely that this and other actions make you feel that you aren’t a priority to him. Don’t accuse of wrong-doing. Just let him know how those actions make you feel.
- Make your partner feel loved. When you go out of your way to do thoughtful things for your partner, it can change your attitude and your partner’s attitude. Be the one to start the virtuous cycle!
- Support groups, marriage sessions. Most everybody questions their marriage at some point. It can be really helpful to hear from others who have successfully navigated the challenging stretches and from those who are currently confronting the same obstacles. My husband and I recently attended a marriage workshop at our church. When you hear that other couples are all facing some form of the same challenges, you realize that these challenges would be present even if you married another person. As Winfred Reilly, LMFT, wrote “Marriage is a learn on the job proposition. None of us comes into it with all the skills we need for success. When the going gets rough it’s most often a sign that we need some new skills — not a sign that we need a new spouse.”
Spend your time and energy making yourself a great partner in the relationship you do have, not on wondering what might have been. Time to let go of the edge and be all in!