Marriage is when two people come together because of a mutual attraction and desire to spend their lives together. The problem is that situation is not always as easy as it is portrayed on TV and in romance novels. The marital relationship is much more difficult than we can ever imagine for a number of reasons. It is helpful many times to helps “reframe” some of the ideas about marriage if we are to make it work.

Physical Attraction

When we first meet someone, we find that we have a physical attraction to that person which “pulls us” toward them. We find that this physical attraction is very important in the “initial bonding” that happens in any relationship. What we are looking for is someone that we feel will “enhance” our sense of self along with attracting us to them. This physical attraction also creates a “certain feeling” of comfort and excitement in being with this person. As important as initial physical attraction is to a relationship, it is on the surface level of any “real” relationship.

Emotional Needs

We are also attracted to other people for many unconscious emotional reasons. Sometimes, however, we find ourselves in similar relationships over and over again wondering why we are “picking the same type of person” when we know that they may not be good for us. At other times, we are aware that we are looking for a “particular type of person” who will meet what we feel is something deep inside of us.

What happens is that when couples meet, there in an unspoken interchange of “one’s unconscious needs speaking to the unconscious needs of the other.” These needs are shaped early in our lives though our relationships in our families, the people we look up to, those we have been close to, and many times in the image of the opposite sex parent. Sometimes we tend to “create” similar relationships (either functional or dysfunctional) depending on these past relationships. Sadly, those who do not know history are bound to repeat it. We repeat what we know in hopes of “making it better”… all the while making the same mistakes over and over again!

Hopes and Dreams

We also have our dreams of what we hope someday we can have in life and for our relationship. We dream that we will be adults and able to control our own lives. We know that we are going to do things differently than our parents did in their lives. We hope, dream, want, desire, and push to make it different. So why, then, do we find ourselves trapped in old patterns that “ruin our dreams?”

Fears That Interfere

Many times our fears get in the way of our being able to relate appropriately to others. We set up “approach-avoidance safety relationships” where we desire, yet fear, getting close to others. We also find ourselves thinking that we did all the work to get the relationship and then we forget that we have to continue working on it. We get into the relationship and then “shut down” in order to continue to protect us from the very thing that we want. We set up arguments, disagreements, focus on other problems, and do anything to avoid just working together and making it work.

A Joint Partnership

What helps is to see the relationship as a “joint business partnership” that two people are entering for the purpose of “creating a dream and future” that both of them are working on together (and spending time together) to make it happen. It is having mutual respect for each other and treating each other with respect. Partners in business come together in order to use the different skills and approaches of each person in order to insure that the business “really takes off and is successful.”

With this approach, each partner realizes that they each contribute something different and special to the relationship. They take the time to talk out and plan the future and where they want the business to go. They also take time to have meetings to see that they are attaining their goals. Each member serves different functions in the partnership because of their different skills and what has to be done in the business. They each respect each other and do not expect that they should have the same skills, strengths or weaknesses. They are committed to making sure that the business goes because it is to the benefit of each individual. They become a team that works together; sharing a focus toward a common goal.

Developing a Marital Business Plan

Good business partners sit down and write out a business plan that says what they want to create and the goals that they have for the business. These goals have a future focus and are focused on how the partners can make it work.

Partners in a marriage have the same interests as do those in a business except that marital partners rarely take the time to sit down and plan the steps and the future. In marriage, we frequently live for the moment and forget about the future and what needs to be done to make it successful. Just like a business plan, marital couples would be wise to sit down and develop the
strategies for the future in writing so that they can track their progress toward their mutual goals of what it is that they are creating together.

Partnership Agreements

Business partners develop a legal document known as the partnership agreement before they start into business together. This agreement defines the partnership, the reasons for the partnership, how each person is to be compensated, what the expectations are of each partner, how disagreements are to be handled, and what they are to do if either, or both, decide to dissolve the partnership and separate.

Marriage contracts are legal documents that also have this “force of law” about how they relate to each other as “equal partners.” The problem is that marital partners rarely sit down and write out how they are developing this partnership and what needs to be considered as they “go into business together.” The lack of a written agreement is what causes many interpersonal arguments because the couple has no defined way of relating to each other! They only have vague expectations of what each person wants of their partner and what we want in the relationship.

  • It might help to write out goals and directions even if they are not as formal as a business agreement.
  • It also might help to spell out how each of you are to handle monies, disagreements, goal setting, children, household duties, etc.
  • While seemingly boring, this simple step effectively stops, or at least leverages against, future arguments and disagreements.

Failed Marital Partnerships

Some people form partnerships with people that they never fully intend to get that close to or work cooperatively with in the relationship. There is a sense that we will “live together” but we are each responsible for our own stuff! Nothing is shared except the living area. They seem to be together but they are not partners because they have not developed a
“vision” of how the partnership is developing a “joint venture for the future.” Such arrangements provides “safety and distance” so that no one gets hurt or controlled by another.

It is though one of the couple is the “hired hand” and is the one to handle things while the other does their thing separately except when it is convenient to do things together. This is usually the result of past hurts and bringing unresolved issues and fears from the past into the present relationship.

These are the “marital business ventures” that are destined toward failure, frustration and anger. There is a lack of focus on a “team partnership.” They are relationships of selfishness, distance, and “living marginal existences” because there is nothing better to do for the moment. A lack of awareness of the needs of the other person. They are “fuzzy relationships” that have little clarity and leave each person frustrated and resentful. They happen because one, or both, feel that they are above the rules and that they are “special” and they do not have to do anything that anyone wants.The only hope is one of making a decision to sit down and let go of fears and old issues and start to focus more on competency, trust, and developing a joint venture plan that has a future focus for both of the partners.

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