Do you ever wonder why no-one ever teaches us explicitly how to have a successful and fulfilling marriage or couple relationship, or how to save your marriage when it runs into trouble? Even more amazing, few couples set out to discover or develop this knowledge for themselves. There is some mistaken belief that knowing how to cook, and do DIY is sufficient.
It is no small surprise then that when relationships or marriages hit a difficult time, usually after children come along, the vast majority of couples have no clue what to do. Consequently almost 50% of marriages and 75% of cohabiting relationships break down, many if not most unnecessarily.
One of the things no-one tells us (probably because they don’t know), is that relationships, like people, are meant to grow and develop. They do grow, of course, as couples become committed, marry, set up home and start a family, but then they tend to stagnate. That is when the spark goes and couples ask themselves “Is this it?” They then start to wonder if the marriage is over.
They see each other’s failings but are blind to their own. They blame each other, and tend to withdraw from each other physically, mentally and emotionally until they are totally disconnected. Eventually one or other of the couple becomes depressed with their lot and starts the “We need to talk” dialogue, and we all know where that leads; nowhere.
Here are the 10 steps of the Mend It Don’t End It process, to turn such a situation around.
Step One: Park the Problem
If you find yourselves continually talking about “the problem”, that becomes a problem in itself, and only serves to put more distance between you. Paradoxical as it may seem, you need to put “the problem” aside, for now. It is crucial that the deteriorating situation is stabilized as soon as possible.
Step Two: Commit To The Process
One or preferably both of you needs to commit to this 10 Step process over a minimum 90 day period. There is a need to be wholehearted if you are to make the changes you hope for.
Step Three: Make Your Marriage The Priority
Your marriage hasn’t got to the state of breakdown overnight, and it will take time and focused attention to turn it around. Your Marriage needs to be prioritized over your work, your leisure, your friends and family and even your children. It is in your children’s best interests to have two parents in a fulfilling marriage, to each other.
Step Four: Align and Reconnect
It is not possible to resolve challenges or conflict from a position of being disconnected. It is important to reconnect with each other and get into alignment, becoming Allies instead of opponents.
Step Five: Take Stock
From a stable position of teamwork and partnership, you will begin to feel less tense and more hopeful, and better able to to learn about how relationships work – or don’t work! This is a chance to consider how your Human Needs are being met and how you are meeting your partner’s Needs, also to examine each of your Values and how you can both honour them.
Step Six: Stop Playing Games
We all play Games, but most of us until we learn about them are unaware that we do so. Games are a dishonest attempt to get our needs met while creating an impression of being honest. The most destructive is The Blame Game, otherwise known as the Karpman Triangle.
Step Seven: Embrace Emotional Honesty
If Games are dishonest, then the way to overcome that is to become emotionally honest. A start with that is asking directly for what you want without prevaricating and hoping your partner can mind read. It is also about getting beyond being over concerned about what people think.
Step Eight: Conflict Regulation
Many couples don’t understand that Conflict is usual and healthy in relationships. Many think the virtue lies in not having Conflict. What is unhealthy is having too much unregulated conflict, or avoiding it altogether, which may be worse. It is crucial to develop the skill of being able to talk openly and honestly about matters that trouble you and about which you disagree. That is the beginning of real emotional intimacy.
Step Nine: Create Healthy Boundaries
Couples generally don’t know about or understand the significance of healthy Boundaries, and it is important to get this clear. We all have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual Boundaries, as well as couple and family Boundaries, which are often breached because people don’t know they haven’t got them in place. Make a point of finding out more about this important issue.
Step Ten: Develop Vision and Relating Skills
There is a well known Biblical scripture which says, “without a progressive Vision, the people perish”. This points to the fact that we usually make happen whatever we visualize, for better or for worse. The operative word is progressive. As I mentioned, couples visualize getting married, having a home and perhaps a family together, but often don’t go beyond that. It is important to create a Vision for the future you both wish to create. In order to do that you need to consciously develop your relating skills, such as Conflict Regulation, Communication, Understanding, Presence and Empathy.
Remember, Relationships, like plants need to be regularly repotted, otherwise they become pot-bound! You owe it to yourself, your partner and your family to pay attention, not just to your personal and professional development, but also to your Relationship Development. As well as moving your marriage onto a new and more fulfilling level, you will be role modeling great relationship skills for your children and grandchildren. It is in your hands how your Family Tree may look in the future. Mend It – Don’t End It.
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