One month after their honeymoon, a couple, each in graduate school (he in law, she in business) consulted me. “Wow, is the honeymoon ever over!” said Paul. Cynthia’s description of what she called “our fall from Paradise” followed: “As soon as we settled into our new apartment, and the pressures of school, our part time and evening jobs to make things work financially, and keeping our home livable set in, we turned on each other.
The fighting and bickering has not stopped.” Cynthia continued, “We made our wedding a fantasy, and our honeymoon continued our dream world, but the pressures in the real world are more than we expected.” Paul continued Cynthia’s thought: “ We’re stuck! We work constantly, and when we are finally able to carve out time to be together, constant fighting has replaced our sex life, that not very long ago had been just wonderful.”
These sentiments are those I hear so often from young married couples. Most do not realize that marriage takes work and planning, and in fact, marriage is work and planning. Partners had fallen in love, had fun and joy together, and withstood the pressures (and yes crazies!) of dealing with families and guests as they planned their wedding. Throughout the engagement period through the honeymoon, they did their utmost to be there for each other and discovered the joys of intimacy and sexual sharing.
The fall from ‘paradise’
And then, to quote Cynthia, there was a “fall from Paradise.” But there are ways, despite enormous pressure and responsibilities, to keep romance, sexual intimacy, and love thriving – to protect each couple’s piece of paradise. Working with couples, I have seen that Six Approaches do a great deal to preserve marital happiness. These approaches involve work and planning, but, as said, successful marriage is work and planning.
Here they are:
1. Kiss: Every morning, no matter how rushed, kiss your partner, express your love, and wish each other a good day. Each evening, no matter how exhausted, kiss your partner and express your love. If you have had an argument that you have been unable to solve, put it aside for the night, and remember the importance of the kiss and expressed love.
2. Kindness: Remember the importance of kindness. So many are kind and thoughtful toward colleagues, friends and neighbors, but are extremely nonchalant toward the one who should matter the most.
Also watch: How to Find Happiness in Your Marriage
3. Responsibilities: Divide household responsibilities in an equitable way. Some couples decide it best to divide everything (such as shopping, cooking, cleaning, bill paying, etc.) or do as much as they can together. Others take on the responsibilities they find the most natural to do.
4. Date Nights: If at all possible have weekly or bi-weekly “date nights” – a pleasant dinner, a concert, a film – if possible away from home.
5. Priority: Make your partner “number one” in your world of relationships. This does not mean that he or she can dominate and control you, for relationships with other people can and must continue to be important in your life. It means that you care deeply, and no one can threaten or shake your loyalty to each other.
6. Get help: If you are having trouble incorporating the above approaches in your married life, get professional help. Early professional help can establish the road to achieving a fulfilling marriage. If you are experiencing any abuse and/or you are questioning if you have selected your partner wisely, professional help must be an urgent priority.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
SaraKay Smullens, MSW, LCSW, CGP, CFLE, BCD is a certified group psychotherapist and family life educator. She is devoted to highlighting destructive societal forces through communication, advocacy and activism. In her work she illuminates the impact of abuse, not only on individuals, but on the attitudes and behaviors that destroy marriages, families, friendships, work settings, communities and societies. She is known in the U.S. and abroad for her work in recognizing, addressing and healing what she has called "the invisible and lethal epidemic of emotional abuse." SaraKay is also a best-selling author and award-winning writer. Her latest book deals with the toll of burnout in our fast paced society and the necessity of self-care. Although it is written for mental health professionals, her findings and explanations can help us all. Visit her website: www.sarakaysmullens.com