What Makes Marriage So-Called ‘Hard Work?’

Those of us in a committed relationship have heard the old saw, “marriage is a lot of work.”  Sure seems like it, doesn’t it?  Maybe there is another way to think about marriage that is more positive, perhaps more realistic.  

Typically, when things aren’t going as smoothly as we would like, our first thought (at least for most of us) is to ruminate on our partner’s behavior, wishing they would change or cajoling or demanding they change. This is what I refer to as “other oriented” conflict thinking and behaving.  That type of conflict management IS a lot of work.  And here’s why:  IT DOES NOT WORK.

So, how about this: what if we changed our focus, and put it on that which we have the greatest chance of changing:  OURSELVES-ME-MYSELF-I. Yea, that’s right, yourself, instead of your partner.  What if each partner shifted their attention to their own behavior, and made decisions to make small changes that might alter long-standing, painful, patterns?  The results might surprise you.

I know it might sound silly on one level, but on the practical level, it makes sense. How? Because the odds of successfully altering something about yourself are much higher than changing your partner’s behavior.  I have seen couples who experimented with this reduce their level of intensity in, and frequency of, conflict by 50% or more in a matter of days or weeks.

I think it’s true:  the so-called hard work of a relationship is your individual self, not ‘the marriage,’ per se.

Contact Dr. Hutt

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