Anyone can create and maintain a happy marriage if they have the desire to do so. To help understand what are common reasons for unhappy marriages and 7 tips for maintaining a happy marriage, I have interviewed therapist Denae L. Barowsky, M.A., LPC.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and Marriage and Family Therapist. I earned my masters degree in psychology, with an emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy. I have the privilege of maintaining a private practice in beautiful Boise, Idaho. I offer therapeutic services for individuals, couples, and families, as well as, providing life coaching services.”
What are some common reasons for unhappy marriages?
“Just as diverse as individuals, marriages struggle with unique dysfunctions and maladaptive patterns. In my work with both individuals and couples I believe most unhappy marriages struggle individually and/or collectively from a profound sense of hurt. From this place of hurt; infidelity, mistrust, anger, fear, jealously, codependency, abuse, and lack of emotional connection can arise.”
What are 7 tips you can give for maintaining a happy marriage?
“My parents were married for over 30 years, before my mother’s untimely death; together they modeled a marriage full of happiness, love, connection, and meaning. The essence of their marriage remains with me today. The 7 tips, I share with you today come from my education, professional experience working with remarkable individuals but most profoundly from my personal experience being raised by remarkable parents.
1.Spend~ Spend time together. We frequently SPEND more time caring for our vehicles than we do our marriages. We add fuel regularly, wash, vacuum, rotate the tires, and change the oil. Some of you overachievers also wax and invest in preventative maintenance to ensure your vehicle looks and runs well. Tip: Spend, more time caring for your marriage than your vehicle. Each time you fill your vehicle with fuel, go home and fill your spouse with love.
2. Invest~ Invest in you! We cannot expect a long term relationship as complex as marriage to be healthy if the two individuals participating in it, are not. We must seek to be our best selves individually so that we may contribute to our marriages in healthy ways. At times, we can forget who we are as an individual, which can lead to less to invest in the marriage. Tip: Invest and take good care of you.
3. Willingness~ Be willing to give more than you receive. I know this may sound and indeed can be difficult. Amazingly, as we give more, we get more! Give more hugs, kisses, time, energy, thought, romance, eye contact, compliments, and so on. My mom was a giver. Be a giver of time, patience, energy, thought, and love. She modeled this in her marriage with my dad. Through this willingness to give more, she received more from him. Tip: Be willing today.
4. Clear~ Clear the slate, each day, a brave and bold tip (and perhaps the most difficult). Start each day new by forgiving the wrongs of yesterday. As Buddha once said, ‘Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.’ Note: In some instances such as infidelity, or abuse, therapy and other forms of intervention may be advised. Tip: In the day to day matters of life and marriage, practice clearing the slate and filling your heart with love.
5. Laugh often and much~ Science backs the myriad of benefits of laughter to the body. Laughter is great for the soul and perhaps even better for our marriages. When we laugh, we change our physiological state, we have fun and most notably we create a positive connection with our spouse. We all could use a little more laughter in between taking the trash out, and paying bills. My parents would spend the entire day together, and I would often find them laughing at night long after they had gone to bed. Tip: Search for some funny jokes and instead of simply asking, ‘How was your day?’ tell your joke. Or, my fun favorite, try creating a secret hand shake with your spouse.
6. Perspective~ Marriages and life have peaks and valleys. Know that when you are in a valley, in time a peak will surface. With knowledge that this is merely a phase, the difficult times seem more palatable. Tip: I often ask my patients, ‘In five years from now, will this issue be of significance, or what will you remember most, about this chapter in your marriage?’
7. Seek~ Seek the good and you shall find it. Recognize how easily, we focus on how our spouse does those things that annoy us. And Stop it! Focus on the good, all the things that our spouses do right. Tip: Make a long list of all the things that you appreciate about your spouse, and focus on these items. Seek and find your spouse doing things right and compliment him/her!”
What type of professional help is available for couples that are having a difficult time maintaining a happy marriage?
“My dad often says, ‘You cannot fix it, if you do not know what is broken.’ Sometimes we become resistant to seeking help. Please know that there is help and that you can feel better and improve your relationship. When working with couples, I focus upon strengths. My therapeutic perspective, in therapy and coaching is to clarify what is ‘broken’, so that we may: rebuild, reconnect to ourselves and each other, and reenergize the relationship. Some contemporary avenues of help for troubled couples include: individual and couples counseling through therapy, counseling through your church, books and seminars. Research suggests that when we are fulfilled in our primary relationships often other areas of our lives are better. My wish to your readers, is if you are struggling with yourself or your marriage, consider one or more of these avenues to provide a catalyst to a healthy and meaningful marriage. Having a happy marriage can launch one into a place of living life fully verses simply existing!”
Thank you Denae for doing the interview on 7 tips for maintaining a happy marriage. For more information on Denae L. Barowsky or her work you can check out her website on www.boiseidahotherapy.com.
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