Did your marriage start out in a blissful state? Have you been floating on cloud nine, but now thunderstorms are on the horizon?
This is normal. No married couple can stay in the honeymoon phase forever. Sooner or later, real life takes over.
All of us start out believing our mate is close to perfect. They are somewhat of a god or goddess.
But sooner or later, we must face the truth. The person we married is not perfect. They are a real human being with true needs, expectations of how we'll behave, and flaws.
"During the honeymoon phase, it's a surreal experience," says a marriage counselor we'll call Bronson. "My clients seem surprised that this can't go on forever. I have to break the news to them that marriage takes real work."
He goes on to say he's counseled people who've been married three or four times. He points out that all of the marriages failed because his clients couldn't deal with the honeymoon ending.
To cope with the uneasiness you'll encounter after the honeymoon fades, try these strategies:
— Realize that tension will rise to the surface. Two people occupying the same emotional space will lead to drama. Even your sibling or best friend will get on your nerves if you live together as adults.
— Figure out what makes your spouse happy. This likely won't change. For example, if your wife loves a clean house and clean car, accept this truth. You'll waste less time pitching in on the work than fighting about vacuuming or visiting the car wash.
— Take a look at ways to avoid boredom. Couples argue, sometimes, because they feel life itself is not pleasant. All of us can pick a fight when we're caught up in the same routines. We get a little lost and aggravated, so we take it out on our mates.
— Develop a sense of humor. Couples who can laugh out loud together can keep a lot of stress at bay. Watching a funny movie together or playing board games with other couples can get you out of a somber mood.
"I came through our honeymoon period determined to fix my husband's flaws," says a dental hygienist we'll call Connie. "I actually had a checklist on my computer!"
Connie goes on to say, "I once heard my mother say that a person's strengths and weaknesses are often the same thing. If you can adjust yourself to reality, you're going to save yourself a lot of grief."
Connie says her dad spent way too much time fishing as a young man. "My mother decided to save the arguments and support him in his hobby," Connie explains. "Mom and Dad finally bought a boat dock and seafood restaurant. They've worked there together now for many years."
While most of us find it hard to bend too much, we can find ways to be happy if life isn't perfect. Focusing on your own needs and hobbies works better than begging your spouse to change.
"Remember, you're always sending messages of some type to your mate," says a marriage counselor we'll call Tyler. "Make sure you're packaging your thoughts and feelings in a positive way."
Tyler advises that we all see our marriage partners in the best possible light. He emphasizes that our unspoken thoughts and feelings carry a lot of weight.
"Park the criticism and send out good vibes," he advises. "Believe me, your mate can read your mind."
(Judi Light Hopson is the Executive Director of the stress management website USA Wellness Café at usawellnesscafe.com. Emma Hopson is an author and a nurse educator. Ted Hagen is a family psychologist.)
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