No person is immune the pain of ending an intimate relationship, even marriage counselors. While “Divorced Marriage Counselor” may seem like an oxymoron, it is my reality. It is a reality which I have chosen to approach with the eye of a counselor, so that I can use my experience with it to help my clients navigate the storms of marriage and relationships. Each day it seems that I learn something new, and here are a few of the things which I have learned.
Like Each Other
This may seem like common sense, but I have seen this play out over and over; not only in my own marriage, but in my clients’ as well. If you don’t like each other, or if one partner doesn’t like the other, then a marriage can begin to crumble very quickly. Dr. John Gottman refers to “fondness and admiration” as one of the foundations of his “Sound Marital House.” When this structure collapses, it can bring about resentment and contempt. This is a killer of relationships, and I have seen this implode spectacularly.
Few people go into a marriage (or any committed relationship) with the anticipation that they will grow to hate their spouse, but long periods of time spent in a closed system; that is, an environment that does not bring in anything new, will lend itself to friction. Friction between spouses can wear away at the fondness and admiration system, which can then foster resentment between spouses. Resentment leads to hate, which leads to suffering, which (as anyone who has seen Star Wars can tell you) leads to the Dark Side. (The Dark Side in this case being divorce.)
So what’s the lesson? Simply put: Like each other. Find something you admire about your spouse: Their work ethic, the way they fold the laundry, the passion in their eyes as they talk about the intricacies of cross-stitch, or the fire in their belly when they explain the minute (or not so minute, I don’t actually know) differences between a ’58 and a ’59 Bellaire. It doesn’t matter if you understand it, or even if you care about it. It matters to them, and they matter to you. Appreciate the way they appreciate things in life, and it will pay dividends later on. Gottman calls this building “Love Maps.” It’s all about navigating your partners world, and it is foundational to a successful marriage.
I want to challenge you to make a list of 5-10 things that you enjoy about your partner. They can be anything from an idiosyncrasy of theirs to something they enjoy that you appreciate (Maybe they love cars but if you opened the hood you couldn’t find the engine, so they do all the maintenance. Or maybe they love the smell of laundry soap so they wash all the clothes. It can be anything!). Find a way to tell them that you appreciate these things. And beyond that, find a way to express your appreciation for them as a person.
This is part one of a series of posts. Part 2 is here.