Updated: Nov 7
Navigating the Complexities of Long-Term Marriage
So you've entered the "long-term marriage" club, and now you're faced with a huge question you never really anticipated: How do I stay in this? The irresistible magnetic force that once pulled you both together now feels like it's working in reverse. And you're facing a big decision - do you just stick with the status quo, or consider the challenging idea of parting ways?
You might turn to the internet for advice, which often simplifies marriage down to a few simple steps to; learn to communicate, have regular sex, be besties, date each other, learn each other’s love languages, squash disagreements quickly, respect each other, forgive, compromise, and grow together. But if it's that easy, why are almost 6 in 10 marriages failing?
The truth is, a successful, long-term marriage isn't about learning, but unlearning. Over time, we learn to protect ourselves, shutting down to avoid rejection or conflict. We become professionals at keeping feelings and needs bottled up. So, instead of getting closer, we drift further apart. This unlearning journey can feel as raw as scraping your skin with shattered glass. Unraveling the protective shield that has calloused over your heart, is to expose yourself to the person with the power to destroy or restore you. No wonder 58% view divorce as the less painful route.
Let's think of marriage as a complicated symphony. Initially, it feels like a beautiful melody, but as you delve deeper, you realise it's much more intricate and complex than it appears. For many, the symphony starts going off-tune, turning into a noisy, chaotic scene from an Emergency Room. Imagine both partners nursing countless small injuries, and these tiny cuts, behaviour deeply ingrained into their marriage, keep adding up, leading to immense pain and distress.
Keys to Unlearning in Marriage:
Triage - Assess the Damage: Like ER medics, evaluate your relationship's vital signs. What are the wounds? Superficial or internal? Identify the most critical injuries - the deep emotional lacerations, betrayals, and unhealed scars.
Diagnoses - Expose the Root: Dig into the root cause of toxic patterns. It might be past trauma, misunderstood behaviour, or mismatched expectations. Recognising and accepting the origin of deep rooted issues is essential to drive meaningful change.
Staunch the Bleeding - Open Communication: Dive into the treacherous maze of misunderstandings built over the years. Instead of pointing fingers, engage in open, blame-free conversations. You have to tell each other the truth. And that’s no simple thing.
Surgery - Delve into Deep Issues: Seek guidance when needed, especially for embedded long-standing conflicts or emotional traumas that may be at the core of the relationship's deterioration.
Setting Broken Bones - Rebuilding Trust: This is a delicate process. Trust is fragile. This step involves acknowledging past breaches and working diligently through consistent actions and transparency to rebuild strength in unity. Create a framework to prevent future fractures.
Rehabilitation - Healing and Growth: Repetition is key to unlearning; practice new habits, for example; invent a new response to triggers, that circuit break old patterns. Focus on nurturing your bond. Prioritise intimacy and remember shared dreams.
Discharge - Renewed Commitment: Like adhering to post-surgery instructions, commit to making essential changes and unlearning together. Without a shared commitment to change, unlearning remains a mere aspiration.
Remember these vital pillars:
Be Your Own Role Model: Be the change you want to see.
Envision Change, Inspire Community: Write a new story and invite others into it.
Express Genuine Care: And Leave no room for doubt.
Believe in Each Other's Potential: Make space for each others’ goals and aspirations.
In essence, it’s time to reframe our marriage perspective. Instead of viewing it solely as a vehicle to our happiness, see it as our coach. Where the goal perhaps is higher. The goal is the highest privilege any two human beings ever experience. To interweave ourselves into a shelter that generates our highest human endeavour. To create life and love and repeat till death do us part.