When the “Same Ole Marriage” Isn’t Working Anymore (Episode 153)
Have marriage woes gotten you down? Sometimes we can get so stuck into routine or reaction mode we fall into the "same ole'" way of doing things...and then, at some point, we realize how far away from our dreams we've floated. If your marriage isn't working, maybe it's time for a bit of a relationship reset.
Love - and the act of loving - is a daily choice.
If your Marriage Isn't working...
Unfortunately, most couples do not start out their marriage - or building a family - with a clearly communicated vision of what that will look like. And, especially once children come into the equation, we can get stuck in our routines, and, even worse, get lost in reaction mode.
Bit by bit, what started out as one veg-out night can turn into a marriage slump of simply needing to recharge between reactions, and marriage woes start to mount as your connections start spiraling more into the pit of what is going wrong vs. what is going right.
When your marriage isn't working, how do you make it right? How do you even start the shift to getting your relationship back on the path where you both are excited about the future you're moving toward together?
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First, Look Within
I cannot stress enough the importance of this element. The number one thing impacting our perspective on life has nothing to do with what is on the outside, and everything to do with our own mindset. So, if you want to see a shift out there, start in here and look at where your mindset is in the process.
Before you can even get to mindset, it can be incredibly insightful to learn about your personality style. Studying behavior has been a fascination for centuries, and studies have been able to identify different default behavioral reactions that have been proven over and over again. So learning about your default behavioral reactions can be so eye-opening.
I talk a lot about personality styles. I use a basic model of DISC to help people understand why they may react a certain way, and to better understand the responses of others.
Right now, we're at a time in history where we have all been pushed to the limits. Everyone has experienced a shift in what is "normal", and a loss of some sort - whether by death, work/financial, or simply that loss of what was. This is when our insecurities are triggered and we tend to move more into reaction-mode. And this is when, what could be our greatest strengths can be triggered into a thoughtless reaction that can do plenty of damage in a relationship.
Reaction vs. Intention
There is a huge difference between a default gut reaction to something, and us getting intentional about the process. When you learn about your strengths, you can get focused on bringing out those positive qualities in yourself. And when you recognize what triggers those reactions-without-thinking, you can better learn how to navigate through them.
This process is just a step further in the basics we teach our kids, like how it's okay to be mad, but you channel it in a positive way vs. hitting your sibling.
So again, a quick look at the personality styles can help you see some powerful strengths we can appreciate right now:
- D-wired Individuals – Those who can quickly assess, decide, and take action.
- I-wired individuals – Those who encourage and bring lightness to difficult situations.
- S-wired individuals – Those who nurture and provide an organized flow for work to be accomplished, or people to be heard.
- C-wired individuals – Those who are are gifted with the ability to address the details, plan, and follow through with quality results.
Yet add in insecurities, loss, and anxiety about the unknowns, and these same people can spiral into some pretty nasty reactions and default behaviors, like:
- D-wired Individuals – Those who steamroll others' ideas, bark orders at people and lose their temper, and seriously lack in patience.
- I-wired individuals – Those who succumb to shiny object syndrome so much they lack any follow-through and are considered flighty, impulsive and careless.
- S-wired individuals – Those who shut down and avoid, becoming apathetic and bowing out of anything that would have the slightest hint of conflict.
- C-wired individuals – Those who get so stuck in the way things "should" be they can't see any other option, digging in their heels and getting stuck on repeat of the past.
The Closeness-Communication Bias
I read an article a while back about the "Closeness-Communication Bias".
When we are communicating with one another, it's not enough to simply make a statement. It's really about ensuring that you accurately understand what they meant and the intention behind it. With our closest family members, we can often jump to conclusions before we've even asked a question. We just assume we know what they are saying or what they are thinking because of our closeness to them.
Don't assume you know what another is thinking. We are all growing and forming new thoughts and opinions daily with the new information we have. Assuming you know where another person's head is at when your own thoughts may be shifting is a risky generalization that causes more damage than good.
Come with a blank slate to the conversation. Leave all assumptions at the door and ask with an open heart where they are right now in the process.
Before you can move forward, you have to be willing to let go of the past. Forgiveness can be difficult, especially when you're beating yourself up. If you're struggling with self-love, make sure you've listened to the previous podcast episode.
We cannot change our past, yet we have full responsibility for creating our future. Forgiveness isn't just something you do in one swoop and assume you'll just go up from there. It's a process of having those thoughts and feelings coming up, recognizing they no longer serve you well, and choosing to let it go.
My friend, Nance Schick, attorney, mediator and conflict resolution coach said this about forgiving and letting go:
"Holding onto my past—no matter how much the stories justified my sad life or my stupid behavior—was actually causing the restraint I felt. Many books, seminars, and workshops later, I refer to my lifestyle as “conduitive living.” I am but a conduit for the feelings, experiences, memories, and thoughts that flow toward me. I enjoy them as they pass. I do not block their path. I allow them to move on to nourish or alter what they need to encounter next."
Give yourself grace in the process of letting go of insecurities, limiting beliefs, and pains of the past. Time can be a wonderful healer, and little by little, the sting can lessen as your soul begins to move on.
Remember to focus on what you want, not what is wrong. When we focus on the negative, we invite more of it in our lives.
Your Family Vision
So once you're getting a handle on who you are and how you tick, and you're also learning about your partner by actually asking them, now is the time to lay out what type of family and home life you're dreaming of.
I have a whole video series to walk you through the process of laying out a family vision. We do this with business, yet it's rare that a family really sits and talks through what they dream their family will look like.
And then, as work, house duties, and children are added to the mix, they fall into reaction, simply handling all the tasks, errands, and tiny human demands, and what little time is left is simply spent in trying to recover from putting fires out all day.
If you haven't had a conversation like this in your home, now is the time. Don't talk about what is wrong. Dream together about what "family" means to you. What does a healthy marriage look like? What does an ideal week look like? Have you really sat and heard what your partner envisions this to be?
Identify Your Interests
My friend Nance Schick shares in her eBook DIY Conflict Resolution: 7 Choices and 5 Actions of a Master, all about her 7 steps to conflict resolution. This is excellent if you're struggling with a conflict and aren't sure where to start. For this section, however, a key area was to identify the interests. So if you are talking family vision with your partner, and not sure where to start, try asking these questions, inspired by her book, and modified by me:
- When we first got together, what did you think this relationship would be like? What were you expecting?
- What do you really want in our relationship? Are you getting it right now?
- Are you the person you wanted to be? If not, what do you want to be that you aren't right now?
- Am I the person you thought I was? Are you getting what you need from me? What can I do to support you?
- What’s stopping you from being the person you want to be right now?
- What new actions could you take to get a result different from the one you have?
Your Weekly Challenge:
Take a hard look at your most important relationship right now. Take an inventory of what is working. Whenever we're feeling overwhelmed and at a loss, a great starting point for a mindset reset is to focus on gratitude first. Think about all you're grateful for that you have right now in your life.
Now, go through the steps we discussed here - how well do you:
If you aren't sure on these, learn more about your personality styles. Do what you need to do - through therapy, journaling, etc - to forgive and heal from the past. Come to the relationship now with a blank slate ready to hear from and learn more about your partner. Create that family vision together, and talk about how you can support one another in the process.
We each have our own strengths we bring to the table, and we're going to be motivated and recharged in different ways. Don't ever assume someone else knows what you need, as oftentimes we struggle to truly know and communicate it ourselves. Be open with the ones you love - let them get the best of you. And the more you recognize how your reactions and intention affect others, the more we can all come together and highlight how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Namaste.