Honeymoon's over: 4 hard truths about marriage

A study released in September by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the majority of marriages don't last past 25 years. Only 49.5% of men and 46.4% of women married between 1975 and 1979 made it to their silver anniversary. In the study, baby boomers and adults in their 50s, had the highest divorce rates. It's obvious marriage can be great, but that it also has its challenging obstacles. Dr. Dale Atkins, author of “Sanity Savers,” takes a look at some of the hard truths husbands and wives learn over the years, from understanding intimacy to dealing with couple identity:

Agreement in marriageThere are many women who are disappointed in their marriages and relationships because they feel they are neither known nor understood. It is important to realize that if you hide your true self, avoid the risk of criticism, it will be difficult to be known or understood. Often partners walk together on the road of least resistance, avoiding areas where they disagree. Sometimes this is smart when you get to a point where you can agree to disagree, with respect and compassion.

Over time, however, if your true opinions, ideas, thoughts and feelings become more and more private instead of more and more shared, you may be withdrawing from your partner and cutting off the chance to be open and known. This is the person you chose to go through life with. If you stop expecting your partner to validate and agree with you but rather accept you, you will do much better as a partner. If you want to be loved, you must give love. If you want to be known invite your spouse into your heart and share your life.

Sharing a life with someone who is different from you does not have to be isolating or lonely. Share your views and opinions which are based on your life experience and values. Do not be concerned about defending yourself but rather expressing yourself in a caring and loving way. Being with someone different from you does not necessarily mean it needs to be difficult.

Couple identity  We all have our own individual identity, which has been developing from the time we were children.  Since before we were married to our mate, we began developing another identity: a couple identity; one that is growing simultaneously, and often, is both complementary and in opposition to our individual identities.  One of the challenges of marriage is finding the balance between these two identities.  We need to be aware of how we think of and care for and about ourselves as well as how we think of and take care of and for our partner. So we consider who we are alone as well as in relation to one another, as part of a couple. You may be a person whose couple identity is helpful when dealing with the world.

At times, the strength of your couple identity may interfere with you being your true self.  Consider how your couple identity enhances or inhibits your best or worst self from emerging.  Consider the impact it has on your ability to develop and maintain an intimate relationship with your spouse or significant other.

Take a few moments and consider how you define and describe yourself and your spouse. Think about how this description and your sense of yourself and of him or her have changed since you have been married. What are the factors that have influenced the consistencies and the changes.

Encourage each other to be your best selves, no matter what stage of life you are in at this time. Pay attention to which aspects of yourself you want to retain, regain, or forgo. Imagine which aspects your partner would retain, regain or forgo. You may have been a beach lifeguard in your youth and that may no longer be a possibility but spending time at the sea and helping others develop a love and appreciation of the ocean and marine life may satisfy this part of you. Your partner may have been a star basketball player who longs to be back on the court but whose knees make that impossible but who and can make the time to coach youth who do not have a positive male role model in their lives. Marriages get better when the spouses fill their relationship with love, respect, encouragement and support. Knowing that your partner has faith in you can help you achieve that which you wonder is possible. Believing you can be your true and best self will often help you to feel more satisfied in a relationship. 

Terms of endearment in marriage
Do you ever really look at couples who have good relationships and wonder what their secrets are? One of the things you will probably notice is there is a playfulness about them…a privacy that is reserved just for them (now THAT you will not notice.) They refer to one another by pet names, they have a few key words or phrases whose unique meaning is reserved just for them or they talk with each other in playful voices, again, reserved just for them. This lightheartedness allows you to be youthful forever, have a sweet connection, and provides for a very special closeness.

Why not communicate with your significant other using a pet name that is just for your partner? Nobody else gets this name — it is private, and, truly, a “pet name.”

Even if you feel uncomfortable at first, having not done this before, and your kids are grown, use it as an enticement to revitalize your relationship.

Special terms of affection and endearment can make you feel safe and special in a relationship whether you have been together for one year 50 years.

CommitmentCommitment is rooted in respect, patience, caring, realistic expectations empathy and understanding. Couples who have good marriages know there are ups and downs, times of total involvement with each other and times when they feel distant from each other, they grow on their own and together, they learn about life and the world through their own and their mate’s eyes and they accumulate a lifetime of experiences. Many challenges occur in life that give a couple opportunities to cry and to laugh together. Because couples endure challenges they have the opportunity to feel stronger as couples because they have relied on each other and become closer. Marriages constantly change. Wives and husbands constantly change. We all deal with change differently. For sure, marriage gives you the best opportunity to learn about yourself better than any other. Your partner can serve as a mirror.

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