union is unique, there are certain phases that most
marriages go through. Each has the potential to either
help a couple's relationship grow closer and more solid,
or to pull it apart. What's important to keep in mind
is that there is no perfect marriage and no relationship
Newly wed Bubble : The First Year of Marriage
begins with a period of excitement. Negative feelings
are swept aside by the optimism of both partners as
they begin to share a future. These positive feelings
help a couple face the often daunting issues of the
first year. Money - who handles it and how it's allocated
- is a key issue for many couples. Time apart versus
time together, division of household responsibilities,
even who controls the television remote, are among the
issues couples must begin to hammer out. This is complicated
by the fact that almost everyone enters marriage with
preset ideas of what a marriage relationshipshould be,
and often unconsciously tries to recreate their parent's
Ideas of what a marriage should be get in
the way of true intimacy, forcing you to reenact roles
instead of relating honestly to each other.
Opportunity : Acknowledge
and let go of your learned ideas of what a marriage
should be. Face down your preconceived notions of marriage
and you can decide what really works for you, forming
a good foundation for the next phases of marriage. Try
Honeymoon's Over (The Early Years) : The early
years of marriage can put both parties to the test.
What simultaneously ambushes us and gives us opportunities
to reach a new level of commitment is when we have expectations
we're not even aware of. When that doesn't happen -
because it can't happen, the past is past - we may feel
let down. The struggle to get him to conform to that
desperately cherished fantasy may be initiated at this
point - and lead to a battle without ending, for he
wants to be accepted as the person he is. Letting go
of that ideal and accepting the person you married is
essential to a healthy marriage.
Danger : Locking into a
bickering, critical relationship; holding your partner
responsible for your needs.
By taking responsibility for your own needs and desires
and trying to realize them through your own efforts
instead of projecting them onto your spouse, you'll
have more chance of getting what you want and avoiding
the resentment that goes with unrealistic demands.
Lover to Mother : To
go from being a person to being a mother is the major
psychological shift for a woman. And to go from being
a couple to being a family is also big. With the arrival
of a child, the possibilities for conflict increase.
Your needs zoom, so the chances for disappointment are
great. The changes and adjustments that come with a
baby can be overwhelming. In addition to the time-consuming
demands of changing diapers and feeding, questions of
who should shoulder which responsibilities, parenting
styles, not to mention the issue of making room in the
relationship for this seemingly all-consuming new priority,
can all become battlegrounds. Becoming parents triggers
new sets of unconscious expections, both about child-rearing
and about yourselves. Unless both partners try consciously
to create their own parenting style, there is a tendency
to re-enact the same roles as their parents. Most men
fall into the role of "workaholic" while the mother
assumes the "nurturing" role. The child may also become
an unwitting partner in an emotional triangle as resentments
and unresolved problems slink out in strange forms.
Danger : Pre-programmed
ideas of parenting roles interfere with forging a marriage
and family style that works.
Opportunity : Create a
strong healthy family that encourages all members to
grow as individuals in a loving, supportive setting.
Try this: Read and discuss
childrearing books to break out of scripted roles and
find effective ways to deal with your children's stages
of development. Agree on family rules (never let children
play one parent against the other) and consider having
a weekly family meeting to discuss problems.
Changes - New Job, Moving, Etc. : Children heading
off to college, a woman's return to the workforce, retirement...even
happy changes can shake up the equilibrium of a marriage.
Probably the toughest changes to assimilate in traditional
marriages (male as breadwinner; woman as homemaker),
is when the roles shift. When a woman goes back to work
after being a homemaker (especially if she becomes very
successful), or a husband loses his job or retires,
the couple has to readjust their expectations of each
other. "Rajesh's heart attack meant it was time for
him to retire. It's not always so easy to accept shifts
in the status quo. It can be a howl of outrage from
one partner when the other changes the fundamental agreement.
This is especially true if the change is voluntary..
But without the distraction of the children, they may
be forced to confront themselves and their own relationship.
Danger : Faced with stress
and change, couples often withdraw from one another
or blame each other for their own dissatisfaction.
Change can stir a relationship into a new
phase of intimacy as well as free each individual to
develop in new ways:
A traditional breadwinner who retires may be able to
be closer to the grandchildren; a homemaker who returns
to the workforce may enjoy achieving in a new arena.
Try this excercise!