My wife, Marie, and I will be married 24 years this October. It has indeed been a wondrous journey and not always an easy one. I cant emphasize enough to our readers the importance of a good marriage to becoming, as Wayne Sotile, PhD, labels, the resilient orthopedic surgeon. The quality of our lives is clearly related to the quality of our marriages period. No case, no financial incentive, no acclaim or award will ever approach the happiness that a strong marriage can bring. As I have discussed previously, great marriages dont just happen they are the result of commitment and conscious effort. The work of marriage is indeed worth it as committed couples enjoy the fruits of personal growth, maturity and a legacy to their children.
I would like to share four pearls which have helped me stay on track over the years.
Own what you bring to the relationship.
When the relationship is rocky, it is very easy to play the blame game and ascribe all the difficulties toward your partner. Truth is, relationships are really a 50/50 dynamic. You cannot be 50% of the composition and only 10% of the problem. We all bring baggage to relationships baggage chiefly derived from old childhood hurts. When we can bring consciousness to any negative behaviors we demonstrate, we are on the road to building intimacy. Listen to your spouses complaints. Even though they are usually linked with great emotion, there is always at least a grain of truth in what they say. Our spouses are truly our best teachers. No one knows us as well and can give us the same quality of feedback. If we listen without defensiveness to the concerns our spouse has, there is usually a gem of personal growth contained. Marie has helped me be more attentive at home and present to my family.
It is better to be in the relationship than right.
Your marriage is your most precious worldly possession. Dont let petty arguments interfere with the closeness you could share. It is vital we take off the surgeon hat when we walk through the door at home and relinquish control. Even when we know we are right about a trivial matter, the relationship not the urge to defend our ego and prove we are right is critically important. When in doubt, eat it and move on. It is simply not worth damaging the relationship. Great marriages are founded on humility from both partners.
Look for the good and you will find it.
There are certainly many things our spouses do to irk us. They, like us, are imperfect beings. They also have many traits that are noble and admirable. These characteristics attracted us to them in the first place. We have a choice. We can dwell on all they do to bug us, or we can focus on the positives. I have compiled a gratitude journal in which I list the many attributes about my wife that I find positive. I try to refer to this every day. This exercise keeps me positive and helps me to become a love finder rather than a fault finder. It is our decision as to how we want to direct our attention. When we can cultivate the habit of looking for the good, we will indeed find it.
Separate the pain from the person
There are truly times when our spouses hurt or offend us. Often this is done unknowingly. Only constant dialogue and communication will reveal this. Other times our spouse may be really having a bad hair day and we may be on the receiving end of their inner anguish. I have learned that every offensive behavior is a cry for help. Anothers pain causes them to act out their anguish and project it on another. When we can recognize that offensive behavior is truly pain projected outward, we will be on the road to healing the relationship. We usually are quick to judge and condemn our partners for their behavior. This leads to further separation. Whenever your spouse is out of sorts and you may be treated in a less than kind way, try giving him or her a hug. This requires great strength of character, but believe me: It is the most powerful way to diffuse a bad mood.
We have chosen the most wonderful of professions; a profession which indeed is laden with its stressors. Why go through it alone? Invest in your marriages now. No other investment will yield greater dividends.
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