A successful marriage is a work in progress, as is any important relationship. If anyone thinks that making those “I do’s” at the wedding will guarantee eternal bliss they have only to check the statistics on divorce to see how it really is.
In marriage two very different people commit to a lifetime of togetherness, through any and all situations. They are bound to disagree at least once in a while. Hence a goal of long-term commitment helps couples to navigate waters that change from clear to muddy; calm to turbulent over the years.
Marriage is a delicate balance of separateness and togetherness. Much of the work entails finding the unique balance with which each couple is comfortable; one that feels right to both parties. A healthy relationship ensures a family life rich in happiness, productivity and accomplishment, where each member can be authentic; at the same time express caring and concern for the family unit.
I recently overheard part of a discussion in the grocery store, and heard the wife’s comment, “Of course, he’s the boss.” When she smiled I felt sad. They have a lot of work ahead. In a healthy union no one is the “boss.” Each partner works in cooperation with the other. Goals are discussed and means of achieving them are agreed upon. Each listens to the other with respect. To achieve such a relationship takes maturity, commitment and genuine love.
A work in progress implies an ongoing, never-ending process. Just when everything seems to be perfect something changes. Someone gets pregnant, a new job pops or an old job ends. A hurricane blows the house down. Only with commitment to stay the course can a loving couple overcome obstacles. With each crisis, and life offers them continually, couples can either recommit or give up.
Not only do situational events shape a marriage; changes occur as each partner matures and grows in wisdom. No two individuals follow an exactly parallel path, so at times one is behind the other in personal growth. The so called “mid-life crisis” offers a perfect example of this. A developmental task at mid-life is to assess where we have been and whether we want to change course. Although a normal phase, if a committed couple don’t grasp the need for mutual understanding and sharing during this important time, their relationship can seriously falter.
Viewing marriage as a work in progress provides the clarity to stay focused on the goals, and helps prevent getting caught up in the crisis of the day. Just as we experience ups and downs, highs and lows in work, school, friendships, so too we have them in marriage. Why would it be different? Marriage is simply another facet of life.
Elinor Stanton is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner on Marco Island. She has 30 years of experience as a therapist, in private practice and with a large health maintenance organization in Boston. She graduated from Boston College and University of Rochester, and is certified as a clinical specialist by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Elinor is trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and is a certified Imago Relationship Therapist. She welcomes requests for professional assistance with a variety of troubling issues, including mood disorders, trauma, anxiety, panic and phobias as well as marital problems. Comments and questions are welcome and may be submitted by e-mail to: email@example.com or telephone 394-2861.