Let me be honest with you, you’re not meant to survive in a relationship. If you were expecting an answer to my question, you can stop reading now.
If you’d like to know what question I think is worth answering, read on. You see, surviving means staying alive. It means staying alive in spite of hardship. It’s a word used to describe people who manage to live in situations we normally wouldn’t expect them to.
Is that what your marriage is supposed to be? Is it supposed to be a survival competition? A race to see who falls first? Survival of the fittest?
If you were stranded on an island, you would look for ways to ensure you survive. If you have no money, food or home you need to do something so that you survive. That’s when you yourself will find an answer to a “How to survive” question.
But when it comes to a relationship that you are going to completely invest yourself in for a major portion of your life, surviving isn’t good enough.
We need to learn how to thrive. How to blossom, how to grow and become better than the person we started out as.
We’re never formally taught how to thrive in a relationship with another human-being. Nobody hands you a textbook and tells you to sign-up for a class that will provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to be an amazing spouse.
There are no infographics or flowcharts or tools that tell you precisely what to do and what to stay away from. No course from which you can graduate with a guarantee that you will know how to thrive in your marriage.
So how do we (generally) learn about love? Along the way we collect random pieces of information from friends, parents, colleagues, Facebook, motivational quotes and magazine articles. And who can blame us? We’re just making the best of what we have at our disposal.
I’ve compiled some of this information from couples who’ve attended marriage coaching sessions or participated in my annual marriage seminar, Nurturing Love.
Here are 3 of the most common habits that suffocate the life out of a marriage. They ensure survival and deny both spouses any opportunity to thrive.
1. The Resentment Cycle
Your husband didn’t take you to a family reunion 5 years ago because he was going fishing that weekend. Everybody was there except you. There’s nothing you can do about it now but there’s no reason why you should be the only one to suffer.
Solution: Whenever he wants to make a trip to see someone in his family, make it as difficult as possible for him to go. Or, if you end up going, be as unsociable as possible. Complain about everything – the food, the weather, the timing. Make sure he knows that you remember how he didn’t take you to the reunion.
What this Habit Does
Simply speaking, it makes you miserable. Every time your spouse does something that you don’t like, you make a mental note of it so that you can justify your unreasonable behaviour somewhere in the future. “Remember what you did? So don’t tell me not to act like this.”
Eventually, your spouse ends up doing the same thing. The cycle of resentment has been created. You may live together but you won’t thrive.
The Real Solution
Get comfortable with the fact that when you marry someone, you’re not marrying them because they will always do what you want them to. They’re not your slave or servant. They’re not going to magically start mirroring your likes and dislikes. And that’s perfectly normal.
They will do infuriating / irritating / childish things that make you unhappy, disappointed and even sad. Unless these things become a regular habit, they’re to be expected because occasionally that’s how human-beings respond to everything happening around them.
Once you accept this, you won’t see your spouse as a rival, but as a partner.
2. The Habit of Blaming
Too many spouses spend their lives evading responsibility and looking for new ways to pass the buck onto each other. Not only in marriage, but in almost every other sphere of our lives we’ve become addicted to blaming others for situations we find ourselves in.
Maybe we like to blame because it absolves us of any accountability?
Blaming your husband / wife for the state of your marriage, finances, health etc. does nothing to improve your situation.It only increases the resentment in his / her heart. It’s just another way to hurt your spouse. Another way to temporarily placate your ego and convince yourself that you are right and he / she is wrong. Maybe you’re both wrong.
Does it matter?
Did you get married to be right all the time?
3. Transplanting Emotions
You’ve just been through your bank statement and your income isn’t meeting your expenses all that well. You need to start spending less. Your debts are rising and you don’t know how you’re going to settle them. You mull over the matter at work, feel a general sense of heaviness because you’re worried. You’re not too interested in lunch because you’re stressed.
At the end of the day, you go home and your wife says she wants to buy some new clothes. You get upset. Why does she waste so much money? Things are tough but all she’s worried about is buying more things.
So you don’t talk nicely to her. You shrug off her questions. You’re upset with her because you didn’t do anything about your emotions when you were at work, so you merely transplant those emotions into your home. You’re intent on being upset so that she knows that she did something wrong. Or did she?
Too often, we allow our egos to speak on our behalf. If we feel that we’ve been treated badly we proceed to treat others badly.
The greatest tragedy perhaps is that the ones who love us the most are the ones we inadvertently treat the worst.