A great way to maintain a healthy and happy marriage is to nourish it. To help understand common reasons many marriages are malnourished and for tips on nourishing your marriage, I have interviewed therapist Jan Voshart, LPC.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a life-long learner with a passion for human growth and possibility. Having had multiple careers, I have learned and integrated as much from the world classroom as I have from academia. My undergraduate degree, with majors in Foods and Nutrition and religious studies, was from the College of St Teresa, in Winona, Minnesota. I received an MA in counseling, with a marriage and family focus, from the University of Missouri in Kansas City. I have worked for an agency for almost 10 years and am currently in private practice. I am licensed as a professional counselor in Missouri and an LPCC in New Mexico.”
What are some common reasons that marriages are malnourished?
“For most of us, it is related to the stress of daily living. A life style that has us on the go from the moment we wake up until we crash at night is not conducive to a balanced and nourished life. Many of us are emotionally bankrupt even as we are busy about good and important things'”our jobs, our children'”daycare, school and activities'”an aging parent, our church, friends, moves and promotions, and transitions of all kinds. When children are small, most of our time and energy goes into their care and nurturance. It is hard to think about romance when all we want is a little sleep. When we are both running on empty and we each need a little support'”it’s a problem when there is nothing left to give to one another. This creates distance in relationships. As the weeks pass, judgments and assumptions are made about the meaning of this distance, which causes the gap to widen. Before long we each feel like we are living life alone'”getting more tired and resentful. With each passing day it gets more difficult to trust one another and to value the primacy of that couple relationship. Before long we begin to grow apart'”taking each other for granted, criticizing one another, focusing on our differences, and perhaps losing the ability to talk about the un-resolvable issues, which is an important maturation process for most couples.”
What are some tips for nourishing marriage?
“While there are many distractions that pull us off course, if we are in a committed relationship, the daily decision to practice loving our partner is a stabilizing anchor that can set the course for our lives. The more we know and experience this terrain, the more solid we become as a couple. John Gottman, of the Gottman Institute, described this process as making a Love Map of the relationship. The following suggestions are designed to help you explore and map your unique expressions of love as a couple. To do it well doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time but it will take consistency and attentiveness. This is a mindfulness process of practicing loving care for one another. Doing one of these suggestions over time, will be more effective than trying them all once or twice.
1. Get to know what is important in your partner’s world'”friends, major events, problems, ways they are growing, what brings them joy and pleasure. This will change over time so be sure your love map is current.
2. Have couple time every week'”perhaps it’s after dinner one evening, or after the kids have gone to bed, or during a family quiet time as children practice entertaining themselves .
3. Make a list of 10 things you would enjoy doing with your partner. Exchange lists and surprise your partner by doing an activity together from the list.
4. If you’ve had a frustrating day'”sometimes a good hug is more useful than sharing 1000 words of frustration.
5. Focus on the positives by taking time everyday to notice something that you appreciate about your partner. We all grow and respond more to encouragement than criticism. On a regular basis compliment and express gratitude to your partner.
6. Develop nurturing rituals. For example: In the morning, take 5 minutes to prepare for the day. Have a solid embrace and leave the house knowing the most important thing on your partner’s plate that day. Take another 5 minutes at the end of your day to reconnect.”
What type of professional help is available for a couple that is having a difficult time nourishing their marriage?
“Based on the particular needs of the couple, there are a variety of marriage enrichment options available. Some couples may prefer the do-it-yourself approach and choose a marriage enrichment DVD program such as The Art and Science of Love, www.gottman.com . Others may benefit from participating in a professionally-led, marriage enrichment workshop with other couples. These workshops are often available in weekend, day-long, or evening formats and are offered through churches, family counseling centers, or therapists in private practice. For couples with more complex issues or those for whom problems have been building for years, couple’s counseling would be the most effective approach. When seeking help for your marriage, remember that it is always easier to nourish the relationship initially, than to repair longer-term damage.”
Thanks Jan for doing the interview on 6 tips for nourishing your marriage. For more information on Jan Voshart or her work you can check out her website on www.tenderpresence.com .
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