Redefining commitment for our generation
I’m sure you’re aware there are many articles and studies out there about commitment. From reasons monogamy is “dead” to biological markers that supposedly prove we’re not wired for one partner only, the anti-commitment research abounds. However, this is not one of those exposés. No, here I will look at commitment over the past several generations and discuss what the marriage revolution should be and why we so desperately need it.
Boy, did things change for our parents. With the rise of feminism, women began asserting their rights and their desires. No longer were they willing to be seen and not heard. If they had a problem with their husband, they could and would walk away and start over. Marriages became much more a partnership of equality. Discord was now being addressed and living miserable lives of complacency was no longer acceptable. Here, we see the quality of the relationship improving while the longevity of marriages plummeted.
So the current generation searching for love has seen the patterns of the past, but have we learned from them? Have we recognized that it’s truly a mixture of the marriages of our grandparents and our parents that we seek? If we were to combine the longevity of two generations past with the improved quality our parents demanded, we may just be able to redefine commitment for ourselves. Yes, the holy grail of marriage, our very own happily ever after. Now, don’t get me wrong, your marriage surely cannot be perfect, neither can mine. However, each of us, regardless of the stage in life or love, can choose to intentionally change the relationships we have and as a result, model healthy marriages for our children and even change the family tree forever, breaking generational cycles of dysfunction. What an idea!
Okay. I’ve set the scene and now I’m sure you’re asking, but how? Well, I’ve got a few thoughts on that. Not an all-encompassing plan, that would be a book not a blog, but a few tips if integrated could change the dynamic between husband and wife for the better.
Boundaries – I cannot stress enough the importance of boundaries in a relationship. Although it’s best to set the boundaries in the beginning of a relationship, it’s never too late to establish new parameters for healthy functioning. Boundaries are key in protecting your relationship from temptation. Most couples don’t get married thinking infidelity could ever happen to them, but studies prove it happens to more couples than you’d like to know. Having good boundaries will not only set your relationship up for success, but it will greatly improve the trust between partners. Couples therapy is the ideal venue for this conversation, as it may require prompting from a professional as well as guided compromise. Asserting your boundaries isn’t the only aspect to address during this conversation, you also need to express the feelings conjured through the upholding and breaking of specific expectations. Partners are often surprised by the emotions experienced by each other, which may not have been previously revealed.
Communication - We all know communication is crucial for a relationship to thrive. Many couples fail to confront issues due to fear of an argument or hurting their partner’s feelings. But in reality, oftentimes couples who are able to successfully navigate and overcome conflict become closer as a result. While sharing your feelings with your significant other is important, so too is asking for feedback from your spouse and actually applying it to the way you behave. If you can view this as a way to grow closer rather than just criticism, you are less likely to be defensive and fail to hear what your partner is truly saying. Both parties must identify what their needs are and communicate them with their spouse. The expectation of mindreading and then punishing for failure should be a pattern of the past. That’s not healthy for either of you. Lastly, express gratitude for your spouse, their traits, and their efforts. Focusing on the positive will do wonders for the way you interact with each other.
Quality time – How can you really know or meet the needs of your partner if you never spend quality time together? Unplug from the masses of technology, look into each other’s eyes, and enjoy one another in the moment, while you are here. Tomorrow is never guaranteed, so be spontaneous, have fun together, date each other! And please do not negatively reinforce time together by bickering or complaining. Save that for the next therapy session.
Sex – For the love of God, have sex with each other! Like, regularly. I recommend a minimum of three times weekly. If that’s not realistic for you, at least discuss desire and frequency with your spouse. You have no idea how many couples I counsel that have never discussed sex. You’re doing it, it’s totally okay to talk about it. How else is your partner going to know what you like or what you don’t like? Share your thoughts on how are you doing in this department. If your perspectives differ, which they often do, agree of a happy medium both of you will feel comfortable and satisfied with. When it comes time to be intimate, don’t suck the fun out of it by rolling your eyes, sighing heavily, or treating it like a chore. Demonstrating desire for your partner starts a positive interaction sequence like no other.
Dedication – If you’re married you likely pledged unending love and commitment to your spouse. Have a discussion about this. Recommit to that vow. Affirm your love for each other and agree to never threaten divorce. If you’re unhappy, that’s okay. Get into marriage therapy and fix things. It’s amazing how many couples later tell me, “I had no idea we could be this happy together”. It’s possible, but only if you truly want it and are willing to work for it. If your spouse isn’t there yet, forcing them won’t get them there either. Work on yourself. Schedule a couple’s therapy session, ask them to come, and leave an open invitation until they’re ready. It’s not uncommon for resistant partners to come around after they see consistent change and effort in the initiating party.
To wrap things up, yes divorce devours over half of the marriages in the United States today. But we don’t have to be part of that statistic. Instead, let’s have a marriage revolution. Let’s choose to stay together and work things out. It’s completely possible. There is still hope. If you’ve been in a rut for a while, step out on a limb and schedule a therapy session. If you absolutely hate it (which I highly doubt you will) then at least you can say you tried. But don’t not seek help just because your ego is in the way or because you think you can do it yourself. As they say, even therapists need therapists. And there is nothing wrong with needing a little help sometimes. I hope this has given you a little help and a little hope. Until next time.