Bev and I celebrated our 20th anniversary last year. I’ve got to admit, I feel pride in saying that. I have said for a long time that I don’t like it when people say that “Marriage takes work.” That sounds daunting and not so much the case, I think. I do believe that marriage takes attention, though. Both to our partner’s needs and to ourselves.
One of the many things I’ve learned doing couples therapy and being part of a couple is that there are things our partner does that is definitely going to annoy us. More than annoy us, though, we may experience our partner not just pushing our buttons but stomping on them. Here’s an example I had to work out. Bev is careful. She’s one of those people who checks the stove to make sure it’s off before she leaves the house. There’s a certain way she likes things and if they are like that, she relaxes and is happy. However….I have a sensitive place in me that responds strongly to messages that I am incompetent. That’s a message I received like a continued battery of canon shots when I was young. Unlearning that training and embracing my own competence was quite a task and I have spent a lot of time working on that. (Yay Therapy!) However, there are times when my wife’s need to double check what I have just done (to calm herself – which is a good thing) may smack me across the chops with a loud “You can’t do this right.” There was a time I would get so hurt and angry when this would happen. But somehow, over the years (and thanks to my work with couples and seeing this play out many times) when she acts in a certain way, it’s not about me, it’s about her. When I realized that my wife’s personal foibles were about her and not me, I was able to settle down and the emotional climate of our home became much calmer.
My parents were married for 56 years and I don’t know that I ever saw them happy together. In later years, they just went to their own rooms and did their thing. That was the model I saw of marriage and for that and a variety of other reasons, I never thought I would have a long term, solid bond. So, I’m kind of amazed that I have a 20 year long marriage that remains happy. I do think that the lessons I learned in studying Emotionally Focused Therapy have helped enormously. On some level, though, I think we need to make a decision that we want to turn to our relationship – actively support it. Give it the attention it needs…..and have a loving partner who makes the same commitment. That I have! I write this as a lucky guy.