Marriage Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.
Let’s take a show of hands — how long were you in a romantic relationship before you realized that keeping things upbeat required a little work? A couple months? Six months? A year? Count yourself lucky if it was all smooth sailing for a solid year.
Family therapists, of course, are privy to countless stories about how things have gone south. On the plus side, we’re also privy to many, many success stories, personal accounts of how couples have healed and gone on to build long-term, intimate and fulfilling partnerships.
Writing for Focus On the Family, Mitch Temple, LMFT offers 10 principles of success that he has culled from observing hundreds of couples.
“Happiness is not most important thing.” As many people discover as they age, happiness is usually a by-product of an intentional, meaningful way of living. Temple says that “Successful couples learn to intentionally do things that will bring happiness back when it pulls away.”
“A couple in a successful marriage discovers the value in just showing up.” It’s an axiom in business but it applies in relationships as well — and it’s alarming how many people can’t take this basic first step.
“If you do what you always to, you will get the same result.” The good news here is that you don’t have to change what you’re doing drastically to encourage a different result. “Often,” says Temple, “minor changes in approach, attitude and actions make the biggest difference in marriage.”
“Your attitude does matter.” Researchers who study memory have found a curious fact: people do not remember what you say, but they do remember how you made them feel. While a bad attitude often leads to bad feelings, the opposite is also true: a good attitude can elicit positive feelings, and that’s what your partner will remember about your engagements.
“Change your mind, change your marriage.” Truly applying this insight to your marriage requires some honest introspection. What do you really think about your spouse? It’s a crucial question because your perception shapes what you expect from them and how you treat them. If this is too steep a hill to climb, or you think this may be the root of a problem, consider reaching out for professional counseling.
“The grass is greenest where you water it.” In a twist on the old cliché about the grass being greener, this simple observation builds on simple wisdom: you can make a marriage better by working on it.
“You can change your marriage by changing yourself.” If you’re a parent, you’ve probably learned by now that you can’t change your children, you can only guide them. It should be no surprise that the same lesson applies to your spouse — you can’t change them and you’ll probably only stir up a hornet’s nest if you try. On the plus side, you can change yourself, and that very often results in a similar change in your relationship for the better.
“Love is a verb, not just a feeling.” Partners often confront a paradox early in their relationship: something occurs that make them feel quite the opposite of love. How, then, can they “be in love” if they’re not feeling love. The answer lies in this principle of success — you have to act loving despite the ups and downs of feelings.
“Marriage is often about fighting the battle between your ears.” Thoughts and beliefs can be overwhelming at times. As Temple says, spouses on the right track “remember that they married an imperfect person — and so did their spouse.”
“A crisis doesn’t mean the marriage is over.” This is a final note that is ideal to end on. In Temple’s words” “A crisis can be a new beginning. It’s out of pain that great people and marriages are produced.”