How many times have you heard the question…”What’s the secret to a good marriage?” You’ve probably heard this or thought about it 1000 + times. How often have you heard an answer that makes sense to you? If you’re like me (and I see couples all the time), rarely! The dreamy answer of “Never go to sleep mad” lingers with me in a romantic kind of way; but then I think about all the people who are up all night because they don’t want to go to sleep mad and then my brain gets fuzzy and I get fuzzy and my brain jumps to a new topic. Then, I’m left one more time with no answer to this burning question.
After many, many, ma (I get 1 “many” for every 10 years) of practice & training, I have settled on a few things when it comes to marriage / relationship:
1. All marriages go through tough times. This isn’t saved for the crappy ones.
2. When marriage / relationship gets hard, this isn’t a universal indicator that it’s time to bail.
3. Divorce / separation doesn’t end pain. It just morphs it for a while.
4. Never going to sleep mad takes super human determination that may be only available to superheroes & cheesy movie characters.
5. Couples feel more understood and connected when they talk (to each other :-).
In the beginning, of a relationship, we’re often more generous with our time and more thoughtful with our words. But, there are times in all marriages when things get tough, when we want to run away. So what do we do? We go silent, we fight and sometimes, we run away. This strategy may work a few times, but it’s not the recipe for a “Happy Marriage”.
It turns out that happiness is only sustainable through connection and conversation. To be heard and feel known - to be understood by the person you love, that creates happiness.
When a topic is tough or times are hard, you may find yourself avoiding significant conversations in your marriage. You find yourself “leaning out”. You can’t bear the discomfort, the sadness or maybe the anger. So, you wall off and over time disengage, maybe just one topic at a time until you feel alone in your relationship. (And this is where trouble can come knocking.)
The statistical research on couples shows, and I see it everyday in my practice, that the greatest indicator for success in a marriage / relationship is the couples’ willingness to have tough conversations. The willingness to “lean in” to the discomfort; take a chance; to move slowly. When couples “lean in” to the tough conversations, they are essentially saying to their loved one: “I care about you / us so much that I’m willing to take a chance, a roll of the dice – that we’ll find our way through this and be strong on the other side.” It says “I have your back and I don’t want you to feel alone in this world.” It says, “You’re worth it. We’re worth it”
So the next time you hear the question, what’s the secret to a happy marriage? And you hear the answer “Never go to sleep mad,” you can interpret that to mean: don’t clam up and ignore the tough stuff. Don’t “lean out” when things are hard. “Lean In” to the tough conversations; the rewards are immense.