Marriage nowadays is nothing like the type of marriage our grandparents experienced. We now face multiple challenges that can become opportunities and help us strengthen a relationship.
Gloria Hurtado, clinical psychologist with Coomeva Medicina Prepagada.
It’s a never-ending topic. Every now and then a new expert comes along promoting their secret to a lasting marriage, or quick easy courses to achieve the promised marriage: a love nest close to paradise. Maybe it is best to say the truth from the beginning: marriage isn’t easy. No form of coexistence is easy, isn’t this also true of our work life? Success lies in using your common sense.
For example, it has been said that contemporary marriages are going through a crisis, that most couples are not the way couples used to be -they don’t have to be-, that our grandparents knew how to endure, tolerate, suffer and live through day-to-day married life. However, times have changed and it is important to conduct an analysis that allows us to understand where we stand as couples. Do you feel like things are going well with your spouse, partner, etc.? Have you thought about jumping ship before it sinks? Maybe it is time to take a deep breath and study your situation from a different perspective.
This first principle seems like an obvious fact, however most couples tend to infringe it: couples need to have their own space, intimacy. In the words of Gloria Hurtado, clinical psychologist specialized in couples, not everything is meant to be shared, you don’t always have to go out for lunch together, or dinner together, or drinks together. You need to have friends of your own, as well as mutual couple friends. “There has to be an ‘I’, a ‘you’, and a ‘we’. Those are the three legs holding the table. Having your own space is very important. We all need our intimacy, our own world”.
And of course, amongst her recommendations, there is one critical topic: money. It is a well-known fact that money is the culprit responsible for breaking up so many couples. It can break up relationships that have lasted years and years from one day to the next. Our expert recommends something that is not to be taken lightly: you must have separate accounts. Share nothing. Her sentence almost makes you want to frame it and put it up on the wall: “I did not get married in order to stop being a person”. She explains it by saying that the plural, “we”, cannot erase the singular, “I”. “I cannot renounce to my self. A lot of people want to have shared accounts. But one of the biggest problems that can put an end to a relationship is that each spouse has a different way to manage their own finances; and when you decide to share them, one of them is renouncing to their way of doing things. So you should always have separate accounts. I shouldn’t have to explain to my partner how I manage my own money”.
Most couples who attend counseling complain that their spouse is no longer who they used to be, that they have lost their essence. But they must understand that everything changes. No one can love the same way all the time, so our emotional rear view mirror must eliminate all prior relationships and move forward, focusing on the present.
Have you ever heard the expression “mother before wife”, or “father before wife”? No one can deny that when your partner’s family comes into the scene, everything becomes more complicated. There is not one single mother who will look at her son or her daughter and believe that they are guilty of anything. Never. Their boy or girl is the poor victim of whatever is happening in their home. And yet if things are going well, he or she is clearly responsible for it.
“In-laws can end any relationship, destroy any couple. Your mom and dad should always go second, your partner should always come first”, says Hurtado, in what turned out to be a secular version of the text in the Genesis: “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife”.
Think about this: it’s not just your mother in law who can be the problem; your own parents can also affect your relationship. So make smart choices.
And then there’s dialogue. Talking is what couples do most. Sure, they talk about debt, food, sex, but at the heart of it all is dialogue. The conversation can sometimes be friendly, or it can be about your day’s routine, but on other occasions, it is also the common ground for us to solve our differences. Conversation should be anything except for a boxing ring where there is a winner and loser. “When we talk to each other, it shouldn’t be about convincing the other person, it should be about telling them how we feel. It’s not a political campaign. We talk to each other in order to listen to each other, not to convince each other. It’s not about imposing; It’s not about making the other person do what we want them to do.
In any case, the point is to be happy, right? The important question is, what makes us happy? Who makes us happy? Our psychologist´s answer is always the same: no one is responsible for our happiness, not even if they are our partner. “The less expectations I have, the better the outcome. That doesn’t make me a bitter person. It simply means that my happiness is my responsibility. I build my own happiness”. And this issue is connected to another everyday issue, but can also become the source of many problems: spouses who like to think that they are their partners’ savior, or who try to become their spouse’s parent. A spouse’s mission is not to raise or educate their partner.
We need to give up on the romantic idea of love, one based on feelings and emotions, which are so transitory. Love is a decision we make every day, the decision to understand the other, Instead of trying to change them.
10 habits of happy couples
You can’t keep fighting in your dreams. Make up before you go to sleep.
One call a day to say “I love you” will keep your connection alive.
Whatever you’re thinking or feeling needs to come out. Don’t bottle up your feelings.
Promote dialogue without imposing your ideas.
Go back to basics. Little details never lose their charm.
Seek happiness within yourself, not within your couple.
Solve your problems without involving your family.
Share common hobbies, without abandoning your own private interests.
Always remind yourself of what made you fall in love with your spouse. Don’t try to change them.
Keep the physical contact and sexuality alive.