The other day I was telling a family member stories from my early days of marriage. It was one of those moments where I caught myself smiling because I hadn’t noticed until then how far we’ve really come!
As with many couples, we didn’t realize how challenging the transition from dating to marriage was going to be. This change was mulitplied by the addition of other simultaneous changes within the first year: new baby, international move, leaving friends and family back home, losing a job. Before I Iknew it, I had become nearly impossible to deal with.
Those times were exceedingly difficult to say the least. Thankfully, after endless conversations, we were able to identity some of the issues that were hurting our marriage and begin taking steps to remedy them.
The most important step was making the switch from receiving complaints from your spouse as criticism and instead, take them as your spouse telling you how to love them better.
As long as we take criticism from our spouse as attacks, we’ll automatically enter into a state of defensiveness. This led me to seeing Ray as my enemy instead of my teammate. But I soon learned that it’s not me againt him. It’s us against the problem.
When we finally started working as a team, we were empowered to recognize the obstacles that were damaging our marriage and learn the tools for overcoming them.
OBSTACLE #1: DISCONNECTION
When a couple builds strong emotional connection, they establish a foundation of strength, trust, and respect. Someone who values connection in the relationship will seek to resolve any issues that might cause disconnection.
Ray and I have an ongoing disagreement about how to deal with disconnection. I need time and space to internally process. Ray, on the other hand, wants to immediately talk about and process. Whether you need time to process or not, it’s important to respect what the other needs to pursue connection.
The goal is to always find a way to reconnect.
And this means keeping communication respectful at all times. Seeing your spouse as your teammate instead of your enemy is the best way to achieve this. I know how hard this can be when frustration, hurt, and shame are involved but you’ll learn along the way that any other type of conversation doesn’t help your grow your connection.
It’s better to wait until you can communicate in a way that builds connection instead of fostering even more anger in each other.
To be in a healthy marriage requires two people making daily decisions towards connection because love can’t be transferred in a relationship where there is no connection. Protect connection and grow it.
OBSTACLE #2: DISTRUST
Distrust happens when we don’t communicate and meet each other’s needs.
Many of us come into marriage unaware of what we need or find our needs changing. This is normal. This is haf the battle! Being vulnerable enough to, then, communicate your needs is critical. Being vulnerable means letting others into your heart. Without vulnerablity, there can be no intimacy.
In fact, we’re responsible for figuring out what we need and then communicating it to our spouse. We can’t expect them to know it nor can we allow them to assume that they know. In the same way, we can’t assume to know what they need.
In order for any relationship to grow in trust and connection, there needs to be equal pursuit and investment. This means that when our spouse communicates a need, we need to make a commitment to meet it over and over again. Then, commit to not breaking this commitment – let your yes be yes and your no be no. By doing this, you protect one another’s vulnerability and consequentially, trust distrust disappears.
Yes, it’s vulnerable and scary to keep your love on toward someone who has become a perceived threat – you cannot guarantee what he or she is going to do. But you can guarantee your own choice. And you can always choose connection.”Danny Silk
As your love grows in commitment, trust and vulnerability will reach new levels.
OBSTACLE #3: DISAPPOINTMENT
The first rush of love we get when we meet someone isn’t a sustainable one. This love is based on our ideas of what type of husband or wife they’ll be, what type of life you’ll have together, and what you’re future will look like. We get married and all of sudden we begin to notice their flaws and conclude that we’re not really getting out of the marriage what we had hoped for.
Because of this, disapointment challenges every marriage. No marriage is immune.
We must be willing to let the initial immature version of love die so that we can grow into a wiser, deeper, richer love.
Instead of wallowing in disappointment because whom you once viewed perfect is flawed, remember that marriage takes us on a journey to holiness. We come into marriage one way and as our flaws are exposed, we begin to change.
“Iron sharpens iron;” no matter what flaws you see in your spouse, there are always ways that you need to grow and develop, too.
Marriage turns the lights on.
And this new wave of love helps us deliberately choose to love them and the person they’re becoming each and every day so we’re no longer dissapointed. Instead, we’ve discarded the life we thought we wanted and now embrace the life we can build together.