Monday, August 24, 2009
What keeps them together? What makes the difference? Is it more than a toss of the coin? Absolutely!
When Greg and Susan came into my office last week, they were trying to decide upon which side of the coin they would land. Should they stay married? Should they divorce?
Both wanted to tell me all about the faults and problems they had during their 11 years of marriage. Frankly, while I politely listened, where they had been was of relatively little interest to me. I was much more interested in where they wanted to get to!
Problem is, Greg and Susan had both decided that the solution to their problems was in their past. They thought that they needed help communicating better. Greg thought Susan was controlling and needed to change. Susan thought Greg was lackadaisical in his approach to life. More importantly, neither felt loved or appreciated.
So, I decided it was time to stop this cascade of pain and useless dialogue. "Greg, Susan, please stop shooting at each other! You both say you want a good marriage, but I have heard neither of you make a positive contribution to where you want to be!" Greg started to respond, but by the look on his face, I knew he was only going to make a defensive statement.
I stopped him, "Greg, hold on for a minute. I can tell you, if you want to know, what the secret is to saving your marriage, and to not only save it, but have a marriage you can treasure!"
Now I had their attention! My answer was going to be deceptively simple, but would take them a lifetime to work out. I continued, "The secret to a successful marriage is following the 2 'C's.' Fail in doing that, and you will be in trouble. Follow them, and I promise success."
Greg and Susan had relaxed a bit, but I could tell they were listening intently. "Now, the 2 'C's' are not complicated, but they require some action and dedication. But mostly, they require you to do something you already said you would."
By now, they were looking a bit perplexed. What had they already agreed to?
It was time to let them in on the best marriage advice I could give them. Two simple steps that would lead to a lifetime of happy marriage. I slowly told them about the 2 C's: "The two pieces of the puzzle are Commitment and Connection. If the two of you accept your commitment to the marriage and work on being connected, you cannot fail!"
Let me say a bit about each. First, Commitment: this is the cornerstone of any marriage. It sets the backdrop to a marriage. In most weddings, we promise to stay committed to our spouse, regardless of what the future holds. So the first C is just following through on that promise. Even when things are tough, we rely on having made that commitment. That means we are faced with working it out when there are difficulties. After all, a lifetime commitment requires resolution.
Second, Connection: this is what keeps us wanting to be married. Commitment keeps us married. Connection is the joy. Nurturing connection is a daily activity. It is partly mental -- thinking about a marriage and a spouse in loving and respectful ways. It is partly action -- finding ways to carve space out during the day to connect and reconnect. This is where our priorities show. If we cannot make time to be connected (even 15 minutes per day!), then our marriage is clearly not at the top of our priorities.
Greg and Susan left the office more relaxed, recommited to working on the relationship, and with some thoughts on how each might work on connection.
What can you do today to deepen the commitment or the connection?
More marriage saving information can be found in my ebook, SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE HERE.