Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Coping With the Death of the Marriage You Wanted

Broken heart

You fantasized about how marriage would be. These fantasies may have begun many years before you married, but certainly accompanied the decision to marry. Just as you would picture yourself in a new job, you can picture yourself as a partner in marriage.

The image you have of your upcoming marriage is based on the experience you’ve had dating your partner. You have each connected in a special way. You have attracted your partner emotionally, physically and sexually. You imagine this connection continuing to build throughout the marriage. Your partner expresses delight in having you in his/her life and you like being so pleasing.

Unfortunately, dating behavior does not predict your marriage relationship. Dating is a process of assessing whether you are attracted and attractive to your partner. It’s an effort to attract your partner’s heart by giving him/her the message that you are safe. Marriage has a different agenda.

After you are married the negotiation begins to determine how much you must give to keep your partner satisfied. While you want a satisfying marriage, you also want other activities in your life. You have a job, individual hobbies and interests, and perhaps you have children. Now you are balancing each of your priorities.

With this new reality comes the eventual death of the marriage you fantasized having. The death can be gradual but is often rapid. Many couples describe their relationship deteriorating almost immediately after they married even though they dated for several years.

Accepting this death is much like accepting the death of a loved one. At first you tend to deny that your relationship has changed. Then you begin to negotiate with your partner for what you are no longer experiencing in the relationship. When this is unsuccessful strong emotions arise. You become frustrated and angry. This may be displayed aggressively or passively, but you are mad!

Eventually, successful couples are able to reach a mutual acceptance. They accept their relationship will not fulfill their fantasy of marriage, but that it can be fulfilling nonetheless. To reach this point of acceptance you must not get stuck in denial, trying to change your partner or in anger.

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