A Fresh, New Start
by Lynn M. Griesemer
The holidays are winding down; some people are thinking about making New Year’s Resolutions and others are taking an inventory of their lives, considering change in some area(s). Many are looking for a fresh start. How about you? Are you looking to make improvements?
What about your marriage? From time to time, some will question, “Is this all there is?” Or, “How can I make things better?” We may long for something better in our relationships; we may experience discontent and wish for a fresh new start – not necessarily with another partner, but within our marriage. It’s natural to feel this way, as cycles and seasons of marriage change.
As you know, I am in support of lifelong, committed marriage. Divorce is not part of my repertoire or recommendation. This means that I am in favor of working through times where there may be unhappiness, distant feelings, or shattered dreams to one extent or another. Past issues of this newsletter have contained articles that touched upon coping with difficulties: “Falling in Love Again,” “Change: Embrace It and Go with the Flow,” and “Reenergize Your Marriage in 21 Days.”
Couples who find themselves in a marriage that has been unfulfilling for several years are in a tough situation. On the one hand, they do not desire divorce, and on the other hand, they don’t think things will get better. They think their partner’s personality is the main stumbling block, that there is little chance that he or she will change and that the spouse is simply unable to address the needs of the one who is discontent.
I am convinced that our emotional needs at age 45 are different from our needs at age 25, when we might have married. Twenty years into a marriage and a husband might need a relaxed wife who is not so task-oriented; perhaps a wife needs more affection and romance, especially if she is burdened by her job, teenagers and an aging parent. Oftentimes, certain patterns have found their way into the relationship. A fresh, new start is needed.
No amount of self-help books, courses or quick fixes can help marriages in need of more than just a fresh start. An uncomplicated fresh start is like bringing the marriage in to the auto mechanic shop for new spark plugs and an oil change as opposed to a complete engine overhaul when a complicated fresh start is warranted. If you are looking for fine tuning, there are resources in abundance.
I do not have the time or space to address the serious issue of “engine replacement,” but I can mention a few things. I would like to draw your attention to your thought patterns if you believe that your marriage needs an engine replacement. If you suspect you need an engine replacement, what are some things you can do? First, you know that patience is necessary. It is likely that your situation did not erupt overnight. It was a long time in the making. Many of us want to be delivered from our suffering or predicament, and the sooner, the better. This preference is understandable, but is often wishful thinking. Try the following:
- Believe in the possibility of improvement. If you think that you are stuck, you will probably not see or look for the valve that might hold a small opening for the beginnings of greater intimacy.
- Think liquid rather than solid. Relationships are liquid – changing and flowing. Yes, we want a solid foundation, solid values and character traits - dependable, reliable, loving behavior in marriage, but we must be able to adapt, accept and change as needed. Respond to your partner’s needs and desires. What worked one way at one time might not work today. For those who are parents or have children of different ages and stages, you know that your parenting style and responses must shift as your children get older.
- True empathy is most successful when you can enter into the inner world of your partner. Ask, don’t assume, what your partner is feeling and thinking and have discussions to clarify and understand. Make it your goal to feel genuine compassion if you don’t already.
- Here is a tough one to consider. Let’s say you feel you’ve “done everything you can” and your partner is not receptive, nor does he or she care for marital improvement. Your efforts at increased intimacy seemed to have failed and you are exhausted. For many marriages, this is the time where one partner is ready to initiate divorce. How sad. What is troubling is that sometimes a couple will exhaust their own resources without finding the right guidance that can easily unlock some of the complexity going on. Some last ditch efforts could include the following:
Write some notes, be able to articulate exactly what you’ve done to seek improvement recently or during the past year and sit down with your partner and discuss. Discuss what you both want from your marriage and look for a third party professional (not friend) whose goal is to revive your marriage. You will probably benefit more from a therapist who’s had many years of experience and can cite positive outcomes with other couples.
When looking for a fresh, new start, some people will temporarily avoid their circumstances in resignation. If you choose to do this, at least spend that time with a spirit of hope or thought that the future can and will be different. You can accept the current state as it is, knowing that adjustments must be made, when you are ready.
Being in an unhappy marriage is not a life sentence, as some comedians joke about. A fresh, new start can happen at any time. Fresh, new starts take different forms and require different levels of exertion. You may see no results, little results or big change over time. In order to see change, sometimes we must experience a little discomfort. “Never, never, never, never give up,” as Winston Churchill famously proclaimed.
www.marriagecoachlynn.com – See if Marriage Coaching might be something you’re interested in. The concept of coaching is similar to a personal trainer for the body and is a way to boost your marital health by becoming stronger.
www.blogtalkradio.com/marriagecoachlynn -Weekly internet radio program that encourages and supports lifelong, happy marriage. Archived shows all available for listening.
Nurture your marriage and invest in resources, conferences, weekend retreats, therapy or coaching as a way to deepen your understanding of yourself and your relationship. Some people spend 15 minutes a day with prayer, meditation or spiritual reading. How about 15 minutes per day on marital reading?! Professional development is one’s career is important and so too is your marriage. Please add “Reenergize Your Marriage in 21 Days” to your personal library. You won’t be disappointed!
Here’s what others are saying about the book:
“You have provided a lot of practical advice and exercises that should help the reader. If I had to sum it up in one word, 'communicate' would be my choice. Much of the advice and many of the exercises help the two partners to rekindle communication with one another.” – P.W., Annandale, VA
“Reenergize Your Marriage in 21 Days it is very informative, friendly and positive. What I like is that it gives positive reinforcement. What you are doing is great. I am thankful for people (like yourself), expressing and living their lives about what they are passionate about.” – F.A., Chantilly, VA.