During a casual conversation with a friend, I was asked if I tend to see “pretty messed up relationships” in my practice. I quickly replied that I believe that we are all a mess to some extent to which he agreed with a nod and laughed hysterically.
You might be asking yourself, what is her thought process? Well, I believe that most of us are not born knowing how to have a healthy relationship. It's trial and error for all of us. One of the reasons that I love couples work is the fact that it can be simultaneously beautiful and messy. When you have two people from two different families, different upbringing, different cultures, you are bound to have struggles. However, it can also be a beautiful experience as you allow yourselves to go through the process of self-discovery with your partner. You will begin to see you deep values when those core values are either challenged for violated. You will be able to decide which values and beliefs you want to hold on to or discard in the context of a relationship. For a relationship to thrive, each person has to walk into the relationship with the understanding that it's going to take work.
What does "work" mean?
Work is being able to put an effort at understanding your partner’s background, their preferences, values and expectations. This does not mean that their values and expectations are more important than yours, it simply gives the both of you a template at understanding each other's thought patterns and why you act and think the way you do. If you are able to achieve this first step, this knowledge will enable you to move forward in your relationship and utilize it to learn how to compromise while taking each other’s difference into account and form your unique relationship.
Now let's get back to the beautiful and messy parts. As couples we have very deep ingrained way of thinking and doing. If we are not intentionally communicating and expressing our needs, it's easy to get resentful and off track because we are sometimes unaware of these subconscious expectations that can poison our way of looking at our spouses. The same reasons why we fell in love with our spouses in the first place can become a stumbling block when we stop appreciating and being thankful for the little things. When you become close to someone, you will see him or her at his or her worst and best, especially our spouses. This is why infidelity is so prevalent because we can often think that the grass is greener on the other side but that's a conversation for another time.
When my husband and I were engaged, we went through premarital counseling and it was exciting. Reason why is because the concept of marriage was all theory at that point. We had not lived it out yet. At the time, we were thinking about our wedding, dreaming of buying a home together and having children (all the fun stuff). We were not thinking about our different views on parenting, or the type of boundaries we would have to set for our parents around our relationship. But once we got married, things got real very quickly. We began seeing some of our personality differences. Were they reasons to not have a good relationship? No, but if we were not willing to address those issues and talk through our expectations, our previous ways of doing things, it could certainly have hurt our marriage.
As I counsel more and more couples and even reflecting on my own relationship, I realized that it’s the little things that often hurts our marriages; the lack of appreciation; not feeling heard or valued; the lack of quality time. The more we understand ourselves and our spouses and being able to communicate and manage our expectations, the more fulfilling and emotionally connected the relationship will become. However, it takes intentionality to prioritize our marriages.
Our relationship can provide an opportunity for individual growth and a space for the messiest and most beautiful connection ever. If you find yourself in need of a “tune up” in your relationship, please feel free to contact Nardine at TheWellnessStar.Com
Nardine Staroverov, LMFT
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
The Wellness Star Counseling Services