When most of us got married, we envisioned a lasting relationship that promised to protect us from insecurities, unhappiness, and uncertainties. Over time, many marriages transition farther from that sacred space where we started than any of us could have imagined on our wedding day. In my last post, I shared with you five losing strategies that lead us into an endless loop of fruitless negative spaces with our spouse. Today I’m going to share with you the five winning strategies, as outlined by relationship expert Terrence Real. Terry's work supports couples in creating and maintaining a lasting, loving, and strong union.
The following idea is called “relationship empowerment." It is an approach that enables you to honor your desires AND your spouse’s. It paves the way for you to assert your wants and needs with the goal of being productive and non-judgmental. It supports a fully respectful relationship that is based in the strength of a solid friendship.
In my Old Saybrook office, I help women identify, then un-learn, the ineffective strategies they’ve been using in their marriages. We then work to identify behaviors that will actually help them re-establish their seemingly long-lost connection. Remembering these five strategies can help you move from where you feel stuck in the negative cycle with your spouse, and instead begin to transition into a space where you connect and support each other with authentic communion.
Five Winning Strategies in Marriage:
Move from complaint to request: Most of us believe that the best way to get more of what we want from our partners is to complain about not getting it after we haven’t gotten it. Instead of using negative language that focuses on your spouse’s past behaviors, use positive language that focuses on what you want from future behaviors. For example: “Honey, its important to me that you’re home in the evenings in time to help give the kids a bath and put them to bed. It’s a big value of mine that we are both involved in the kid’s routine. Would you be willing to do that?
Speak out with love and savvy: If you’re unhappy with your spouse, take a moment to remember that the person you’re about to speak to is not the enemy. Remember love. Ask yourself: what’s my goal here? Is what I’m about to say lead me closer to or further from my goal? Think of yourself as being dedicated to helping empower your partner. You can do this by using “I” to take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings without blame; stay focused on behaviors not character, don’t use “always” or “never”, and offer your spouse clear alternative behaviors that would help you feel better.
Respond with generosity: Learn how to truly LISTEN to your spouse. Most of us engage with our spouses in the following manner: You tell me your side and then I’ll tell you mind, and then well hash it out. Let your partner know that you care about them above being right. Listen to your partner in a way that seeks to truly step into their perspective. Respond to your partner in a way that demonstrates that you respect that they are a separate human being with their own beliefs, lens, wants, and needs. You can do this by reflecting back to your partner what you think you heard them say and asking if it’s right, then asking for more information to help you continue to understand.
Empower each other: Ask yourself this question: How can I help my spouse give me what I want? Its important to catch yourself wanting your spouse to intuit your needs and wants. This sets all of us up for failure. Give your partner the tools and information they need to be successful in making you happy. Don’t hold back in helping your spouse understand exactly what it is you’re looking for. This lets them know that you trust them enough to let them care for you, and that you believe they love you enough to WANT to care for you. Express your appreciation when they do.
Cherish each other: Enjoy fully what it is you do have with your spouse. Show appreciation for your spouse, and let them know how much you appreciate their efforts and good qualities. Give yourself permission to treasure their positive attributes. Don’t wait until you’re facing down illness, a crisis, or another major issue to let your spouse know how much you value them and the abundance of your life together.
Marriage is a long and winding journey. It can be easy to get lost along the way, and most of us only vaguely realize we are lost. The sign posts seem the same, the surroundings familiar, but slowly over the long haul the map becomes unrecognizable. There is no time too late to shed your old behaviors and begin to practice these new, more fulfilling ways of connecting with and celebrating the unique bond and history you have in your day-to-day commitment to your spouse. If you feel that you are coming up against the same road blocks in your marriage, call me at 860-339-6515 and together we’ll dig deep to re-envision what you bring to your relationship so you can have the lasting connection you deserve.
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is a women's therapist and counselor, providing individual counseling in Old Saybrook, CT and online in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Call (860) 339-6515 to schedule your free initial consultation.