~ Mathew Meyers, MA, LMFT
This October Laurie and I will celebrate our 10-year anniversary. While I am so grateful for these 10 years together it hasn’t been without it’s challenges. When I have led workshops for engaged and married couples I often share with them that I have been married from almost 10 years and 8 1/2 of those years have been wonderful! There have been several months here and there that were really hard.
The wedding was a piece of cake but I had a lot to learn about being married! The first few years we wonderful and difficult. And then we added a child! And another one! And then… ANOTHER ONE! Now not only were we trying to figure out how to be married, but we were trying to figure out how to be parents and all that comes with that title… Our job as parents is, not only protecting them and making sure they are fed and clothed, but also being responsible for helping them learn manners, cope with disappointment, learn responsibility, help them with homework, counsel them when they are in distress, bandage their ouchies, help them discover their passions, and help them to have healthy self-esteem! With all of the ups and downs of marriage my wife and I got very intentional about taking steps to move our marriage in a direction of health and wellness instead of waiting for something to send us over the edge. A friend of mine, whose relationship ended in divorce shared with me this very helpful metaphor. He said, “One day I was watering my lawn trying to get the grass to grow again because the grass had died over the course of a very dry summer. All summer long I just kept waiting for the rain to come and bring my grass back to life. And I thought, ya know, that is what we were doing with our relationship… We just kept waiting for the rain to bring our marriage back to life and it never did.” My friend nailed it.
We find that on average couples in distress have been struggling for 7 years before they reach out to a counselor and at this point for some, it is too late. At that point hope is lost for one or both. When hope for the relationship is lost it can be difficult to help the grass grow again. Many try other interventions; reading relationship books, working harder at the marriage/reprioritizing it, talking to friends and these interventions can be very helpful before a relationship gets highly conflicted or devitalized. If only we had a marriage maintenance plan that would help us to stay focused on keeping our marriage lawn growing even when it is a dry summer, like when kids come along, or a new job takes all our energy, or a parent passes away, or we move to a new city or town, or… A marriage maintenance plan might include: going to a marriage counselor once a year, going on a couples or family retreat with other couples, going on a short walk together in the morning or evening after dinner, setting aside weekly or monthly time for just the two of you, reading a relationship book together and discussing it, or… What is your maintenance plan?