In marriage, the bright lights of the engagement, the wedding, and the honeymoon stage soon grow dim, and unbridled optimism fades. This change isn't bad. It happens to all maturing relationships.
However, if you aren't intentionally investing in the most valuable relationship you have, your marriage, it will atrophy. Conflict grows and remains unresolved. Patterns of disconnection, betrayal, or resentment take root, and the flame of intimacy that, once burned bright, becomes a dull ember.
How do you continue to keep the fire of intimacy burning?
Focus on emotional intimacy.
There is much to be said here, but for today, here are eight common pitfalls experienced in marriage and simple yet powerful remedies in the form of questions.
Try to identify the 'favorite' pitfalls you find yourself stumbling in most.
Focusing on being right. Selfishness in ideas, rather than seeking to understand.
Instead, ask, "What is my spouse saying? How can I connect deeply to their feelings and give empathy?"
Focusing on getting your way. Selfishness in action, rather than seeking to serve.
Instead, ask, "How can I serve my spouse today?"
Focusing on protecting your reputation. Selfishness and fear among friends and family, rather than on being an advocate for your spouse.
Instead, ask, "How can I be a protector and an advocate for my spouse?"
Focusing on resentment. Living in disappointment and retelling yourself the story of how you have been wronged rather than accepting your spouse where they are.
Instead, ask, "How can I accept my spouse and my situation today?"
Focusing on unmet expectations. Selfishness in self-pity, rather than tolerance, love, and spiritual understanding.
Instead, ask, "What is my expectation here? How can I love my spouse well? How can I be more accepting of my partner?"
Focusing on short-term pleasure. Fear of feeling uncomfortable, avoiding responsibility out of shame, rather than having the fortitude to take responsible action.
Instead, ask, "What's the next right thing? What small thing can I do today that will help us tomorrow? How can I train my mind to deepen my presence?"
Focusing on how you might be hurt in the future. Fear in uncertainty, rather than surrendering and concentrating on doing what you can with what you have.
Instead, ask, "What is out of my control? What do I need to let go of? How can I live today well?"
Focusing on avoiding conflict. Fear of your spouse's anger, manipulation, lies, disappointment, or rejection, rather than loving your spouse where they are at while having boundaries and being assertive.
Instead, ask, "What is needed? What is healthy? What are my boundaries? What are the opportunities in having a courageous conversation?"
"Learning to become vulnerable, share your feelings, speak truthfully, listen deeply, and bring relief to your mate will revolutionize how you love."
How we Love, Milan and Kay Yerkovich
"Today Max and I try to communicate what we feel rather than what we think. We used to argue about our differing ideas, but we can't argue about our feelings. I can tell her she ought not to think a certain way, but I certainly can't take away her right to feel however she does feel. When we deal in feelings, we tend to come to know ourselves and each other much better…
Perhaps the best thing of all for me is to remember that my serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations. The higher my expectations of Max and other people are, the lower is my serenity. I can watch my serenity level rise when I discard my expectations. But then my "rights" try to move in, and they too can force my serenity level down. I have to discard my "rights," as well as my expectations, by asking myself, How important is it, really? How important is it compared to my serenity, my emotional sobriety? And when I place more value on my serenity and sobriety than on anything else, I can maintain them at a higher level—at least for the time being.
Acceptance is the key to my relationship with God today. I never just sit and do nothing while waiting for Him to tell me what to do. Rather, I do whatever is in front of me to be done, and I leave the results up to Him; however it turns out, that's God's will for me.
I must keep my magic magnifying mind on my acceptance and off my expectations, for my serenity is directly proportional to my level of acceptance. When I remember this, I can see I've never had it so good."
Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 419-420
Would you rather be right or have a peaceful marriage and a spouse who respects you?
Will I get vulnerable and share my feelings with my spouse today?
Your direction determines your destination. Focus on developing emotional intimacy, and your relationships will continue to flourish over the long haul.