Do You Feel Motivated in Your Marriage?

By Dr. Keith Witt
March 21, 2013
iStock_000000472825XSmallIf you’ve followed my blog for the past couple weeks you’ve noticed quite a few “Therapist in the Wild” videos. These videos are general rules, packaged in a short format, for maximum therapeutic impact. In many of the episodes I cover topics that help strengthen marriages, like child rearing and complicated sexual problems. I cover it all. If you’re interested, please head over to my YouTube page when you’re finished reading this wonderful article from Psychology Today. It’s a good read. Enjoy! ~ Keith  

Are You Motivated to Have a Better Marriage?

Marriage shouldn’t be that messy and complicated. But in real life it is. When we share a living space with another person, tie our finances together, negotiate sexuality and the countless decisions that daily life demands—well, of course things can go badly. Then there’s the baggage we bring from our first family, and all the unresolved issues of the past, to say nothing of all the stresses that pile up as we move along the life cycle. If we make or adopt a baby (never mind adding stepchildren to the picture) it’s more difficult still because nothing is harder on a marriage than the addition or subtraction of a family member. In fact, it amazes me that all marriages don’t fly apart by the baby’s first birthday. The older I get, the more humble I am about marriage. When anxiety spirals high enough, and lasts long enough, even the most mature relationship may begin to look like a dysfunctional one. To paraphrase the novelist Mary Karr, a dysfunctional marriage is any marriage that has more than one person in it. I always remind my readers that even the best marriages get stuck in too much distance, too much intensity, and too much pain. Our automatic tendency toward fight or flight is hardwired, and marriage is a lightning rod that absorbs anxiety and intensity from every source. In case you haven’t been around long enough to notice, stress will always be with us. Life is one thing after another, so it’s normal for married folks to yo-yo back and forth between conflict (fight response) and distance (flight response). And just because the universe hands you one gigantic stress, it doesn’t mean that it won’t hit you with others while you’re down. So your mother’s health is deteriorating, your dog dies, your son drops out of drug treatment, and your husband is laid off–all in the same year. Unless you are a saint or a highly-evolved Zen Buddhist, intimacy with your partner may be the first thing to go. It helps to know the rules for a good marriage. The ones you’ll find in Marriage Rules look pretty simple. But it’s not simple to actually make a change and it’s especially challenging to maintain it over time. With marriage, as with learning a language or establishing an exercise routine, nothing is more important than motivation. To be a true agent of change in your relationship, you need to have these four things: 1.Good will and a genuine wish to create a better relationship. 2. An openness to focusing on your self. (This does not mean self-blame, but rather the capacity to observe and change your own steps in a pattern that is bringing you pain.) 3. A willingness to engage in bold acts of change. 4. A willingness to practice, practice, practice.
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