How will your marriage evolve in 2020?
Ahhhhh, January. This is the time of year we look at the blank calendar in front of us and imagine all the possibilities. It’s a fresh opportunity to think about the things we hope to improve in our lives over the next 12 months.
Maybe you’ve already defined your goals for 2020. What’s on your list? Many of us resolve to eat better, exercise more, go back to school, try new hobbies or visit exciting new places.
All of these choices sound promising. But have you thought about the one area that may hold the greatest potential to transform your life?
As Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, who took part in the longest-running study of human happiness ever conducted, tells us:
“There are two pillars of happiness. One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”
I find these words so illuminating. And it’s why I would suggest that when you outline your agenda for 2020, improving your marriage should top the list.
How does the state of your relationship affect you?
Whether you’re married or simply living as life partners, you know how crucial your relationship can be to your daily functioning, not to mention your state of mind.
A loving, supportive partnership can make everything in your life seem easier. You know your significant other has your back – which gives you the feeling that, no matter what life throws at you, you won’t have to struggle alone.
But if you and your partner live in a state of constant tension, you are much less likely to feel confident about the future. A significant share of your energy is devoted to dealing with the insecurity that comes from living in a less-than-satisfying relationship.
If left alone, this pattern can harm both of you in ways you may not realize. One long-term study showed that marital conflict leads to serious health effects. (In fact, researchers found that a troubled relationship is as unhealthy as smoking or excess drinking!)
Discovering where things stand between you
According to couples therapists, many of us ignore the difficulties we’re experiencing in our primary relationships. We tell ourselves that all couples have difficulties. Why should our lives be any different?
A valid point – but also one that may encourage us to ignore the serious issues in a relationship that may ultimately drive us apart.
The first step is taking an honest look at your relationship. This 2-minute quiz provides you with a helpful starting point. You may also want to grab a notebook and jot down your thoughts about where things stand. Would you describe your marriage as open, supportive, comfortable? Or angry, turbulent and uncertain? Somewhere in between?
That moment you realize that things need to change
Many people who take this step find themselves feeling frightened and alone. They didn’t realize how difficult things had become – and they have no idea what to do next.
My advice, as a long-term therapist who has worked with hundreds of married and committed couples, is to take your results seriously. You may want to ignore the picture you’re seeing, but I guarantee you that relationship troubles do not heal on their own. It takes conscious effort to heal the wounds that are harming both of you.
Working with a professional couples therapist will give each of you the opportunity to say how you feel about your marriage and how you would like it to change. Not only will you feel heard and understood, but you will also find the language and the real-world tools you need to create the relationship you really want.
There are many ways to begin. For example, you might choose a two-day marriage counseling intensive, a couples retreat, or traditional therapy that brings you to my office regularly for open, supportive conversations.
In our first meeting, we can discuss what’s happening between you. With a clearer sense of your needs and goals I can help you choose the form of couples therapy that will help you make real progress.
If you’d like 2020 to be a breakthrough year for your relationship, please get in touch with me now.