I remember hearing people say during my childhood, “marriage is work”. As a kid that meant something bad. Work was something to get out of, and it never changed. If marriage was work would I just try to get out of it because it never changed. As an adult after over thirty years of marriage I have come to realize that the work of marriage is Compromise and Connection. The good news is that they can get easier and they do change.
Seeing compromise as work makes sense because you are both different. You have to compromise if you want to have any peace, and you can’t always get your own way. Read the blog post 6 Arguments Every Couples Has to understand more about compromise. The connection part surprises most. What starts out so easy becomes hard. The ability to connect and stay connected as a couple comes from shared experiences. These shared experiences answer questions we ask consciously and unconsciously.
Every marriage has emotional question around security and connection. Susan Johnson in her book Hold Me Tight, suggests three basic questions:
- Are you accessible when I try to reach out to you?
- Will you be responsive to my needs?
- Are you engaged in this relationship?
The best way to look at Accessible is “do you make your spouse a priority”. When they need you are you available. The focus of this is not physically accessible but emotionally accessible. Can your spouse get your attention when they need it and keep your attention.
Responsiveness is trying to understand their needs and meet them. It is not mind reading but it is trying to be aware of your spouses needs. It can be as simple as comforting them when they are hurting or celebrating an accomplishment. It is knowing what makes them tick and what ticks them off and responding to both. It is creating a safe emotional connection based upon their needs.
When a couple is accessible and responsive it creates a couple that is emotionally present and connected – Engaged. This is the couple that emotionally compliment, understand and support one another. They develop a confidence that the other is their for them and they can depend on them for emotional and physical support.
When all three of these are present the couple becomes more calm, less needy and unsure.
When these processes work together the couple feels supported and connected and they become less unsure and needy. The couple begins to support and reinforce the others strengths. They stop creating insecurity and drama in the relationship.
How have you done in these areas in your relationship? What things have you done to help your spouse feel supported and loved?