Happily Ever After

This is the time of year that people start thinking about flowers, warmer weather, being outside and weddings. June is traditionally known as the wedding month. This is truly an exciting time for those who are hopelessly in love and thinking about “happily ever after”. When a couple is preparing for marriage they often hear about divorce statistics and single parent homes. They are convinced, however, that they will beat the odds and show everyone how strong their love is.
Those of us who work with couples know that “happily ever after” isn’t so easy. That strong, unwavering love that is present on their wedding day is often tested with the many trials that are faced. Children, finances, in-laws, religion, discipline, intimacy, and work related issues are often reported as the main stressors that lead to divorce. How is it that some couples are able to deal with these and other matters successfully while others are not?
We are told that we can find that perfect person for us that will complete us and make us okay. We get this message from movies, songs, books, and even from some professionals who work with couples. The truth is that no one can make us happy if we are not happy with ourselves and truly know who we are. If we are depending on someone else to provide our happiness we will eventually end up feeling empty, hurt, disappointed and angry. The best thing someone can do to improve their chances of not being a divorce statistic is to work on knowing their “self”. If a person has a very fragile sense of self, they are unable to meet the needs of others. Understanding any wounded parts of you and learning to love and accept them will allow you to not be so fragile and to be in a relationship with someone else in a healthier way. You will not need them to feel happy and they will not feel pressure to “fix” you or be everything to you.
There are some other basic concepts that I feel are important for a strong, healthy relationship/marriage. I tell couples that I work with that they cannot afford to be the cause of their spouses’ pain. There is enough pain and adversity to overcome in our world and we do not need it from our spouse. It is also important to give your spouse the respect that you want and that you give to others. We often take for granted those closest to us and put them on the “back burner” or give them what is left over. We talk to them in ways we would not talk to our worst enemy yet we don’t recognize that this does damage to our relationship.
Many couples come to counseling when one or both already feel disconnected and are ready for divorce. They forgot their vows and are feeling anything but love. Repeated hurts and disappointments have created walls and distance between them and they don’t know how to change it. In fact, they often don’t believe it can change. They are no longer on the same team and are pulling on the rope in opposite directions. They are ready to give up and be a statistic.
If couples are able to identify and meet the top three to five needs of their spouse, they are significantly happier than when they were meeting two or less of their needs. If couples experience the aforementioned stressors and are unable to successfully navigate through them, they will hurt each other and build walls. Their focus shifts from pleasing the other person to protecting their “fragile sense of self” and it is nearly impossible to meet their spouses’ needs.
For those anticipating all the joy and excitement of an upcoming wedding, I encourage you to consider expending some time and energy on strengthening your sense of “self” along with communicating with your future spouse about the typical stressors that you will likely face. For those who are already married I encourage you to care enough about yourselves and your marriage to take the time to learn how to heal and love yourself. Hence, you can have a strong sense of self so that you will not have to put walls up and you can enjoy meeting your spouses’ needs and trusting them so that they can meet your needs too.

-Deanna Street, MA, LPC, NCC

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