Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale helps us find the missing components that, when rediscovered, can power-up our most intimate relationship.
Marriage requires first things first. In other words, in order to have a long lasting healthy marriage it means two people placing utmost primary importance on their relationship. One of the most common complaints I hear in working with couples is, “I’m just not that important to him/her. I know he/she love me but it seems like (and here comes the list) his/her job, group of friends, or the band, the boat, and the baby, all come before me!” It is true that many of us take better care of our cars and homes than our marriages. If we neglect them, like any other treasure, they tarnish and lose their shine and value. Instead of replacing the treasure, we need to take really good care of what we’ve be blessed with.
So with that in mind, let’s break down that word: First. Each letter in the acronym stands for a topic that frequently wreaks havoc in marriage. The letter F stands for the big one…finances.
F = Finances
Money by itself is not the problem; the way we relate to it and use it is. Chances are highly unlikely that any of us married our financial match; one is typically the saver while the other is the big spender. The answer is to see each of these personality tendencies as strengths to a marriage and use them to their fullest potential. Too often we make the mistake of putting the more financially savvy partner in charge of the finances when BOTH parties should be bringing their skills to the table.
We are often so busy pulling the other towards our way of thinking that we lose out on the opportunity to go deeper in our understanding of each other’s money attitudes and where they came from. Be curious about your sweetheart’s history with money and be reflective of your own. How did each of your parents handle money? How did those money management styles affectyou? Did Mom hide purchases from Dad? Did Dad make all the money decisions? Did you ever go without or were you indulged at every turn? What are your earliest memories of fights or discussions about money in your home? Uncover the shame often attached to money – it’s important to get all the “secrets” out on the table so you can operate from an intentional, mature manner. The stories we have about money started long before marriage.
I = In-Laws
This can be another complicated matter for marriage. The goal here is to find the common ground. You already have one thing in common: you both love the same person. Maintain that focus if that’s all you can find, and remember that many parties who have welcomed your union did so with dreams of their own. A mother who only raised sons finally gets the daughter-in-law that will “make all (her) dreams come true”…unbeknownst to the unsuspecting bride. She already has a mother she is very bonded to and can’t figure out why her new mother-in-law is never happy with her. Find the hidden dreams. Ask each other, “What were you hoping my family would provide you? What were you hoping I would bring to your family? And, what dreams do you think your parents have of me or us?” I would suggest you even ask parents themselves if the relationships seem complex and fraught with tension. The most important rule within marriage is the role you play as a married person to now leave and cleave. Leave your family-of-origin and cleave to your spouse.
R = Raising Children
Again, find the strengths that each of you bring to your family of kids, pets, or roses. Too often, one partner wants the other partner to agree with their style of nurturing. However, we don’t want to turn men into women or vice versa. While we don’t want to undermine each other, we do want to allow for differences that are inherent in fathers versus mothers. I celebrate that Dad can get a bit tougher while Mom remains softer. That is an example of bringing out the best in the genders within traditional marriage. Find commonality in the end result; who are we raising this person to be? Reveal your fears and your dreams. Have each other’s back but get off each other’s back regarding style.
S = Sex
You might ask, “Really, are you sure? What do we lose along the way?” Certainly not the importance of love-making to marriage! For the time it takes to complain about our partners’ difference in drive, both parties could find themselves in a blissful state that marriage requires. No other details are needed. I read a fun study yesterday that said while the national average of married couples engaging in sex is 2 times a week, couples who increase their number to 4 times a week look nearly a decade younger! (Maybe now I caught someone’s attention!) The largest mistake women make is that we wait for desire to hit us before we’re interested. However, desire follows arousal.
T = Time
Marriage requires time spent together as well as time enjoyed apart. The best gift you give your children is a strong marriage; you are not a bad parent when you insist on your time spent together as a couple. Teach your children that they are not the center of the universe; your marriage existed before they arrived and will continue after they leave the nest.A child can enrich a marriage, and a marriage should enrich a child. A healthy marriage is the best gift you give your children, whether they are 3 or 63! We never outgrow the desire to come from a stable home life. Aim to live even better than your parents did.
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.