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Marriage Help

In part one I covered the importance of helping your partner and what real help looks like. Today in part two I will share with you the second ingredient in my recipe for a happy marriage

State what it is you want clearly and without too much emotion

This rule sounds simple enough, but again there is a lot to it. So today I will only cover the first half about being clear about what you want and next week we will talk about why it is important to not use too much emotion in these kind of statements.

Before you can tell anyone else what you want, of course first you need to be clear about this in yourself. Doing this well requires vision …

Creating a Clear and Compelling Vision

Do you know what makes you happy? Have you thought about how what you are wanting right now will really make you feel?

Research clearly shows that most people are very bad at knowing what will make them happy in the long term.

Technically speaking this is described as the frontal lobe of our brain being a faulty simulator.

To demonstrate this to yourself take a moment now and think back to the last special event you planned.

  • Was it something you thought would improve your marriage and family life and make you feel good?
  • How did it end up?
  • Did all your work and planning for that event really make you any happier?
  • Now think about how that same kind of event has turned out for you in the past.
    Should you have known better?

Steve and I used to think having parties was a good way to have fun and bring people together, eventually however we figured out that parties usually just end up making us feel tired, anxious and behind in our work (and housework) and are not a good way to form deep connections with people we like.

In a similar way I have learned that Steve is often better at knowing what makes me happy than I am.

So now, when I see Steve looking at all worried about my plans, rather than trying harder to sell my ideas to him, I stop and ask him questions instead. Sometimes I discover he is just being lazy (and I do have some pretty big and energetic ideas at times!) but other times I end up having to admit that what I was excited about probably wasn’t such a good idea after all. In the same way I have helped Steve see that watching football on the weekends often ends up making him feel bad. I don’t tell him he can’t watch the game, but sometimes I will laugh about him ‘gambling with his emotions’ as a reminder that watching a game of football can sometimes make him tense and emotional in a way that isn’t as much fun as he thinks it will be.

Steve and I have got so much better at this over the years. Now rather than going on holidays with our kids, we have started sending them on holidays with relatives (or a church or school camp) and we stay home and get caught up on our work instead. Are we being work-a-holics by choosing to stay home to work instead of choosing to go on holidays and relax? I don’t think so. Because I know that being caught up with work really is what makes us feel happy and relaxed. It also helps me enjoy my time off work better when I know that, not only am I caught up on the work I have to do, but that I am also finding time to work on my own projects and interests. Even more important is that when the kids get home from holidays, we are relaxed and feeling in a very good place to make their homecoming warm and welcoming.

This is just an example – but take a moment now and think about your own life and how the things you are planning right now are really likely to make you feel?

Have You Put Yourself in Your Partner’s Shoes?

You want to be loved and listened to and cherished and adored, right? But if that is all you are looking forward to in life I wonder if that is really going to be all that fulfilling for your partner? Just because someone loves you doesn’t mean their life will hold no other interests. This is why a good vision needs to incorporate challenges that help encourage your partner to work on their own projects, personal development and developmental gaps. Developing a compelling vision in which everyone gets their needs met is a leadership skill that requires insight into your loved ones’ hopes, dreams and fears.

Is Your Vision Realistic?

How many wives in history have said they want a love, β€œJust like Romeo and Juliet?” But think now how that ended. Do you really want that kind of romanticised, over emotional devotion? Our marriage help has nothing to do with this kind of crazy fantasy. I want to help you shake all of that crazy nonsense out of your head right now and start learning how to have a happy marriage for real.

Or likewise – maybe you want to be swept off your feet and carried away to the life of your dreams? I wonder if your partner even knows how to make themselves happy, let alone provide you with that kind of level of care? I look back in horror at all the expectations I had of Steve when we first married — when I should have seen that really he was still just a boy inside. Try not to make the same mistake!

But what about ambition? Isn’t it healthy to aim your sights high and pursue a vision that other people may say is unrealistic (because it is currently beyond your means)? Research would discourage this. It is important to have standards and to stretch ourselves a little in reaching our dreams, but it is also very important that we set goals for ourselves that we are actually able to achieve. If we find we are needing to deny our authentic self, lie, steal or cheat in the quest to obtain our dreams, it is time to stop and rethink what it is we are trying to achieve. In a research study where a year after one group of people had won the lottery and another had become paraplegic – both groups estimated that their happiness was about the same. What does this mean? It highlights once again that we are not always very good at predicting how outcomes will affect our happiness. In that light I wonder if there is any future worth denying your own peace of mind in pursuing?

Does Your Vision Give Your Marriage a Purpose?

What are you hoping your partnership will accomplish? As dull as it may sound to anyone still looking for thrills in life – right now Steve and I see our purpose as creating a stabilizing emotional base for our teenage kids, their friends, our neighbourhood and our extended family. That was a vision I put to Steve years ago and is one that has taken us a long time to achieve. But it has worked and has been worth every bit of effort required from us to make that dream real. The kids now all love our home and are drawn to the calm stability of our marriage and our cheerful daily domestic routine, much more than if we were trying to be exciting or cool. We have a beautiful small apartment right in town, where the kids friends often need a bed at night after they have been out. It might be a mattress on the floor of our lounge room – but they always know we are here and that they will always be greeted warmly and by name.

That simple vision of a stability so grounded and solid that it extends a stabilizing effect on the world around us has given our life so much more meaning than other more grandiose or self centred dreams.

Steve and my vision for the future sees us one day moving from the city to the country – where we hope to plant a small orchard and making our own cheese and traditional foods such as Kim-chee, Natto and sourkraute, on a property (with a tire swing out the front) that our grandkids can come share with us and enjoy. And if finances allow we might even build some small cabins for friends to come and stay for awhile – if they need to take some time out and find a bit of quiet time and healing now and then.

So what is your vision for your loved ones? Does it offer them security and emotional stability – with room for them to develop and explore their own talents and skills? What will you be doing in that vision? I wonder if you can start adding a little more of whatever that is into your life right now?

Steve and my stable community is growing and I hope that you will share this post and help our stable influence continue extending out into the world.

– In Part 3 I share more about the second part of today’s ingredient in my recipe for a happy marriage.

Kim Cooper

Kim is the author of seven books on the topic of relationships and emotional intelligence.

A prolific multi-media content innovator, Kim has created and shared a library of articles and multi-media educational tools including radio shows,
movies and poetry on 'The NC Marriage', and 'The Love Safety Net'.

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. to be honest, i can hardly think of what to do on a daily basis but I will give this some thought and will comment more. I do know when this was first discovered my hope is that we are able to help others troubled by this disorder.

  2. I love reading your blogs and want to thank you for your great insight! My family has changed from raising children to an empty nest type now, but my hopes and dreams for the future are still strong. We are adjusting to taking care of each other now and have a vested interest in an expanding internet company that we each have a membership in for a comfortable retirement plan. My husband has his own interests just as I do, but we were with no children for almost 2 years in the beginning of our marriage and are adjusting comfortably into being a couple again. Although I am not the naive girl I was then I do understand that there are boundaries I must set now because he still has his issues and now I have developed my own because of his narcissism. I wish I had known what I was dealing with when the boys were young, but now that I do know I hope to help them adjust to being responsible married adults who respect their own families. Thanks again and keep up your awesome work here!

  3. My N husband and I are physically living the vision you and Steve have: the home in the country where the grandkids can come…the outside looks beautiful and serene, but inside is another story. After 2 decades in this marriage, I feel utterly drained. Today, for example we spent hours in the emergency room. He woke me this morning declaring he’d had a severe reaction to some medication he took yesterday and was shaking violently. He continued to shake until he was gowned and installed in a hospital bed in the emergency room being attended to by staff. The more attention he received, the better he seemed to feel-the shaking subsided and he started regaling the doctor with humorous stories from his military days. They gave him an anti-anxiety shot and released him. He felt well enough to stop at McDonalds and do a little shopping on the way home.
    He’s sleeping peacefully now and I’m left wondering-what was that all about? I think my vision may be unrealistic, but I would love a single day without drama!
    Sorry I’m off topic, Kim, but I just needed to vent!
    I have purchased your materials. I read it between crises and have tenuous hope for my marriage. I do appreciate your work, Kim.

  4. Thank you for your words of encouragement. We also share your vision for our family as well. I look forward to your next blog. Thank you.

  5. Hi Kim. Yes!!! Emotional stability is what I want for me and my family. It would be my dream of all dreams… exactly what you have described here. I am still living alone with my two children and my partner is seeming to want to move in with me…. My anxieties are growing again… Feeling totally off balance and filled with thoughts of constantly looking into every word that he says… Morning till night my brain will not shut down with questions and answers on how I can approach him and explain what I want and don’t want. Without rocking the boat…. He has started to express his acknowledgements of his own instabilities and I just listen but never knowing exactly how to respond so I walk away with a huge knot in my stomach with overwhelming tears the minute he walks out the door because I am unable to really say what I’m thinking, even though my thoughts are absolutely reasonable…. I’m always afraid of his response. He has been trying so much to show me his changes in his own little way by using a calmer more gentler voice, still rather manipulating(if you know what i mean) but in his own way trying hard. He says he wants to marry me and is offering to pay rent at my home start taking on some responsibility… which is something that has never happened before…..His offers sound very nice… but why am i so reluctant to accept….I want to get on with life Kim and start creating the stability for my two little boys that are absolutely beautiful. It always seems that he is so generous to so may people in his life accept the ones that he says he loves… I sit and listen to how he gave this and that and did this and that for others… and so many others. When he gives or does anything for me it seems that he wants immediate reward.. like a little boy … Anyway Kim… I want to make it clear to him exactly what I want before allowing him into my home to live… Why is that so difficult for me to do???? Part of it is that I do not want anyone sleeping in my home without being married, and I know that is what he wants me to do… Marry him!!!. It sounds exciting and of course I want to be married but How can I make it totally clear about what I want first. You have to realize he knows how to make it sound like our marriage will be like a match from heaven and he really believes that……Why does he think that, while I am not quite convinced??? But at times I am.. I’m still trying to get step 1 down and he’s already for marriage…???

    1. Hi everyone and thanks for your comments πŸ™‚ Gail – it is really important that you let him know that actions and not words or promises are the only thing that will impress you now. You need to sit him down and both do the gap finder exercises in The Love Safety Net Workbook and he needs to show you real progress he has made on his gaps before you even think about marrying him or letting him move in. You could give him three months and see what progress he makes in that time. In the meantime you could then start working through the other steps in the workbook. Setting clear goals for him that he is able to achieve will help more than anything – if he is serious about wanting a peaceful life.

  6. Great post Kim. I love your articles. Do you still by any chance have that list of “heart virtues” (I think that’s what you called them) from a while back?

    BTW, sourkraute is spelled “sauerkraut” – sorry I’m German and had to throw that in πŸ˜‰

  7. Kim, some of the themes you write of here resonate. A vision that includes stability and realistic expectations sounds so appealing to me. We have attempted to write down our vision. I’ve noticed that there are a few high and lofty goals though and so I’ve been considering options for how to present some gap work as part of our growth. I’d love to see some gratefulness and acceptance of where we’re at and some realistic goals in the mix of our shared vision.

  8. Kim
    thank you for all the work you have done and sharing with us. I have come to realize how awful I am in relationships and now have some tools to save me and possibly not lose the love of my life.

  9. Thank you for this very insightful article, Kim. I felt like this is what happened in my life growing up. Better choices for knowing what could make someone happy in the long run should’ve been made by my parents. You’ve described a problem perfectly that I’d always felt -just because you’re helping someone fulfill their potential doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone else in the family. It takes wisdom to know what will work and my parents were young, so I can understand their decisions, but see the cost of them.

  10. EVERY POST IS SO INSIGHTFUL!! LOVE BOTH FROM A FAR! YOUR TRANSPARENTCY IS LIKE A BREATH OF REASH AIR
    YOU BOTH I AM IN COUNSELING AND TRYING TO FIND A WAY TO ESCAPE. YOUR INFORMATION HAS BEEN RIGHT ON POINT. MY COUNSELOR IS OFFERING ME LITTLE TO NO SUPPORT AND I THINK MY HUSBAND HAS HIM SNOWED HIM A BIT. MY HUSBAND ADMITTED HE HAS BEEN INVOLVED IN PORNOGRAPHY FOR OVER 10 YEARS, HAS PROGRESSED TO STRIP CLUBS, AND EMOTIONAL AFFRAIRS AND SEXTING. THE COUNSELOR HAS NOT ADDRESSED THESE ISSUE IN 5 MONTHS EXCEPT FOR A FEW SHORT SPEECHES TO MY HUSBAND THAT THERE IS NO BOTTOM AND HE WILL ONLY GET WORSE IF HE DOES NOT STOP, AND THAT HE HAS BROKEN OUR TRUST. HE DOES NOT REALLY HOLD HIM ACCOUNTABLE FOR NOT DOING THE HOMEWORK. DOES THIS SOUND LIKE A REASONALBLE RESPONSE? I FEEL THAT I AM GETTING VERY LITTLE SUPPORT AND IT IS EXPENSIVE. I TRIED TO TELL MY HUSBAND THAT I DID NOT FEEL WE WERE GETTING RESULTS FROM THE COUNSELING AND HE BECAME ANGRY. HE DID NOT WANT TO GO IN THE FIRST PLACE.HE IS STILL VERY ANGRY PERIOD. HE DOES’T WANT TO DO THE HOMEWORK AND SAYS HE RESENTS ME FOR TRYING TO “FIX HIM.” I AM TRYING TO HAVE A SAFE, HAPPY LIFE WITH OUT WORRYING THAT HE IS RUNNING OUR FAMILY INTO A DITCH. PLEASE OFFER SUGGESTIONS ABOUT THE COUNSELING AND IF I SHOULD TRY TO GET OUT OF IT.

    1. Hi Erika and welcome! I would suggest that you read Back From the Looking Glass and soon as you can and then 10 steps to Overcome Codependence. After this you might start to get the idea of a plan in place and you will have a better idea of whether you think the counsellour might fit into your plan or not.

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