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Nurturing a Marriage

Air Date: 09/16/10 Dr. Rebecca Jankovich, PhD can be reached at 322-1839.Nurturing a MarriageWhen marriages work, there's a sense of comfort and safety that comes from having it be so secure, and well, easy. This is the kind of marriage we think we want something that just flows along on its own without strain or frequent disagreements. But, the down side to this kind of easy marriage is that it's also easy to take for granted, to assume you don't have to do much to keep it rolling along at this comfort level. No matter how satisfying a marriage is, it takes attention to keep it that way. We all know when a marriage is in trouble, it takes work. When there's arguing, a lack of team work, unilateral decision making, or distance, it gets our attention and if we want to keep the marriage, we go to work trying to fix it. This is a warning that even though your marriage might be one of those wonderfully "easy" ones, it still requires tending. There's no standard formula you can follow to nurture your marriage. Every couple is unique and their requirements to remain close vary; but, most marriages need some time time spent with the couple one on one without the kids, without friends or family, and time the couple spends together as a union with others. Time is a resource that's lacking for most married people. They're both trying to work, be it out of the home or in the home; there are children to be raised, bills to be paid, chores to complete. There rarely seems to be enough time left over after running one's life, to invest in sustaining one's marriage and if there is time at the end of the day, one or both partners are too tired to be engaging companions. All you want to do at 9 o'clock at night is sit and watch TV, or crawl into bed and read a book. One of the many ingredients a relationship needs to generate connection is quality time spent together. That means spending time doing something that fosters closeness, and that "something" can be anything, as long as it works for both partners. Women usually want some time spent talking while solely focused on one another; most men don't need as much time spent talking to feel close but would enjoy more time being sexual. Women want the talking to come first, before they feel like being sexual. Figure out what activities spark closeness. And figure out how often you need to spend this time together in order to sustain the type of connection you want. Some couples need several points of connection every week; others thrive with once a week or even less. For sure, you will have a pattern as a couple for how much together you time in order to feel close. The challenge is carving that time out of the rest of life to invest in the relationship. You have to communicate as a team to make the together time happen; to make up time together that's lost due to other commitments that supercede it. I work with couples who say they want to spend time together, but can't manage their lives sufficiently to carve out the time and hold the priority of saying "no" to others so they save the time to be together. To sustain a good marriage, to repair one in trouble, you have to be able to set time together as a priority and follow through. And, what about the spouse who's taken for granted because they're so easy? They often store resentment at being last on the list, and raise a fuss over it every now and then--you change and make them a higher priority, for awhile, and then you're back to taking them for granted until they raise the next fuss. To stop that cycle, you have to cue yourself to not lose sight of the goal of making them a higher priority. Put the goal in your PDA, or write it down somewhere, and refer to it often enough to change your mindset so you "hold" the awareness you must make them a higher priority. Set an alarm once a month to remind you they're the first priority. Easy or difficult, marriages take tending and that tending in part comes from time.