by guest blogger Pam Fullerton, psychotherapist and writer
Would you hire an untrained plumber? An IT support person without any training? How about an untrained surgeon? (Yikes, that’s a scary thought!) It’s unlikely that you would hire someone who is unqualified his or her field. But how does this connect to marriage? Read on…
Marriage is hard work, period.
The myth of marriage: If your marriage is hard, it means that you’re working hard.
Let me explain! You may feel like you’re working hard, but there’s a big difference between just enduring a challenging marriage and working hard and growing in your marriage.
Think of a person attempting to fix your plumbing without the tools, skills, or acquired knowledge to do it. He or she may try to fix your faulty pipes despite not knowing what to do, and may put in a lot of time and effort. But the hard work isn’t productive until the tools, skills, and knowledge necessary to do the job are applied.
The best part is that when you do have these things in place, you begin to see the rewards. There is a payoff.
Someone who tries to fix your plumbing without the tools, skills, and knowledge will become frustrated—hopeless—and will wear down and quit. I would, wouldn’t you? And that’s just what happens in a marriage.
Many go into a relationship without understanding that we need relationship knowledge. Maybe it’s because we’re in relationships our entire lives that we don’t recognize that in romantic relationships or marriages, we need to study. In my eBook, I state that we need to study these relationships in a lifelong course. Again, the rewards are there for you if you do.
It’s a funny thing that when we want a plumber or surgeon or other professional, many will research to find the most skilled and reliable person for the job. But in marriage, how many of us research the skills that are needed for a long and lasting relationship?
It’s easy to fall in love. It might be challenging to find our significant other, but once we do, falling in love is simple. Awesome, really. Unfortunately, many stop there. Relief sets in that you found the one you love, and you settle in with one another.
And then it begins…
Your partner hurts you.
You hurt your partner.
You don’t like the person you’ve become.
And/or you don’t like the person that your partner has become.
You find yourself doubtful and, at times, unhappy.
You question whether you’ve made a mistake.
You wonder if you should leave.
You ask yourself, How could I go from being so happy to feeling so miserable?
But then things improve. Whew! Relief sets in, and the doubt is pushed away. You feel relieved because you don’t want to leave your relationship.
But then it’s back again. Fear and doubt return.
No one enters a relationship or falls in love thinking, “I sure hope this doesn’t work out and comes to an end soon.”
So… Now what?
I recently saw a quote, “A relationship is a lesson or a blessing.” That quote should read, “A relationship is a lesson AND a blessing!” The best and most painful part of a relationship might be the lessons we learn. The lessons we learn about our partner and ourselves. And it is these lessons that will help you and your relationship grow.
So what can we learn?
You can learn about the challenges that you bring to your relationship (self-awareness). You can learn about your emotional triggers (insight). You can learn about your partner’s emotional triggers. You can learn how to engage productively in conflict. You can learn what creates connection and disconnection between the two of you. There is so much to learn!
I know I make it sound overwhelming. But the end result is wonderful. The process of learning, well, I can do without. It’s painful. There are times when I’ve wished I could stop growing. However, I always remind myself of the payoff. The more self-aware I am, the easier it is to be in my relationship. Actually, it’s the learning that makes it easier for both of you. All of us crave and need connection; we just need to learn how to keep that connection with the one we love!
One more thing… I really would love for you to share your thoughts with me. I know it is not easy to do! Believe me, I know. It took me a very long time to work up the courage to begin blogging! But I want to get to know you. When you feel ready, please feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comment section. Thanks for reading!
Pam Fullerton has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for the past 19 years. Although she works with a variety of life issues that are presented to her in therapy, her passion is to understand the vast complexities of all relationships. She believes that healthy connections with others are what promote personal growth. Keep up with her writings on relationships, mindfulness, and more by subscribing here.
Details of the any stories told in my any of my blogs have been changed to protect the identity of people I work with in therapy.