Are you hitting a tough spot in your marriage? It doesn’t matter if it’s the first bump in the road or one of many you have endured throughout your relationship; these situations are never easy on anyone. However, there are ways to move forward and come out on the other side stronger together.
Many things happen in life that can be straining to a marriage; losing a job, a big move, sickness, loss of a loved one, infidelity, arguments, the list goes on. A perfect marriage without hardships does not exist, but a healthy, strong marriage that can overcome adversity is achievable.
Brain scans of couples during an argument and who are in a state of love show interesting similarities. In contrast, significant differences can be found in the brain scans of couples who have become apathetic or indifferent towards each other. These findings tell us that you can use any state of high emotion to build a connection with each other if you have the skills to do so. The following points are not comprehensive or quick fixes, but they may help you reconsider your action plan in navigating marital conflict.
Connect, Reflect, and Redirect
Many couples struggle to overcome hard times because of their communication style. Healthy communication is key to discussing difficult topics. It’s vital to learn how to connect, reflect, and redirect. It is all about communicating intimately, increasing self-awareness during conversations, and learning how to coach each other when things get tense. My online couples’ course digs deeper into acquiring these communication skills.
Focus on Friendship
At its core, the foundation of a good marriage is a strong friendship. Don’t let that slip away! There are differences between love, lust, and like. Strengthen your friendship by growing the feelings of “like” you have towards one another. Make an effort to keep up with each other’s likes, dislikes, interests, and frustrations. Show one another you have care and respect. You wouldn’t disregard your friends’ feelings, so why would you ignore one another’s? Couples who have a strong friendship have shown to stay more level-headed in challenging moments, and they’re also more likely to be able to deescalate situations that may otherwise spiral out of control. Some research also shows that a healthy sex life (or lust) can lead to like. It makes sense that if someone can blow your mind in bed, you might feel like they are a swell guy or gal.
Voice Your Concerns & Desires
Keeping your worries and frustrations to yourself does not mean they will go away. Even if you think you’re hiding it well, there’s a good chance your partner can already tell something is on your mind. If something is bothering you, let your partner know constructively while including the outcome you want. You can do this without placing blame, which might cause defensiveness and escalate emotions. Use the mnemonic ME/WE to remember how to have difficult conversations. Briefly describe the moment and the emotion(s) you felt, then discuss what you want and the emotion you would feel achieving that outcome. For example, “When you turned the TV volume up, it made me feel unwanted, and next time I have something important to say, I want you to mute the TV and listen. That would make me feel heard and more connected to you.” The purpose of this communication style is to help you express your feelings, avoid assumptions, and paint a picture of what you want as a positive outcome.
For personalized guidance and support throughout hardships in a marriage, I always recommend trying out couples therapy. Even attending couples therapy for a short period can provide tools that are practical long term!