Hearing marriage advice from happy couples is like reading and eating a fortune cookie. Nice thoughts, but they’re a tad stale. We’ve heard them over and over and over again, and while we’re glad they work for these typically compliant folks, they’re not realistic for most of us. Our flaws and human nature get in the way of our playing by relationship rules.
“I don’t care if we’re not supposed to go to bed angry, I don’t feel like talking to you.” “That’s not 50-50 compromise!” “We’re supposed to forgive and forget!” “Never be mad at the same time? Well, stop being mad because I am mad now!” “Ya, I promised I’d never lie to you, but you don’t make it easy for me to be honest with you either.” “We’re supposed to help each other but your help feels like criticism.” “The marriage counselor wants us to do what? Are you serious?”
There are myriads of marriage therapy methods, all attempting to get couples to understand each other, communicate their feelings and change their behaviors to achieve harmony. But, in my humble opinion, most of them get far too complicated to work for the vast majority of beleaguered couples out there. Here’s why:
1. In most cases, only one spouse wants to put in the effort to go to marriage counseling.
2. Marital problems often stem from individual personality issues, and those are deeper issues.
3. Changing one’s ingrained attitudes, habits or behaviors doesn’t come easily.
4. Marriage counseling methods or programs often have rules and guidelines that feel like work and/or the reduction of personal free will.
The Easy Way
Anyone who reads my articles knows that I am a huge fan of Anthony Robbins, motivational guru, because he simplifies human behavior down to one basic fact: People are hard-wired to avoid pain (negatives) and seek pleasure (positives). Every single human act is based upon this principle. Once you understand this, you can see why people behave the way they do in every situation and can interact with them more effectively.
Of all the branches of counseling, marriage counseling has the lowest success rate, and the reason seems to be that regardless of the counseling method, people are asked to change their outward behavior in order to get along with each other. Change is hard. People avoid what is hard (pain)…unless there is greater incentive (pleasure) to do so.
A person tends to hang on until the pain of being married is greater than the pleasure of being married. It is as simple as that. Some might disagree because they endure bad marriages because of the kids or finances, but those incentives to stay represent some positive (pleasure) benefits. When there is great pain in marriage and zero benefits to staying--divorce.
How to make this work for you
Be sure your mate finds benefits to being married to you. Be sure he or she understands this principle so there will be mutual benefits. Increase the pleasure: Spend fun times together. Laugh. Play. Boost each other’s esteem. Enjoy a satisfying sex life. Provide loving support and approval. Allow each other free will. Do things for each other than increase each other’s happiness. Enjoy life together. Reduce the pain: Stop the criticism, nagging, guilt. Ease up on the demands and expectations. Don’t dredge up the painful past. Let go of bad feelings. Don't be controlling. Help, protect, console. Let your marital happiness rise to the top of your priority list.
My approach to marriage improvement works because it never places demands on anyone to change or robs a person of his or her free will. Each person does what he chooses, but knowing this principle should encourage him to keep the balance on the positive side. When you increase the pleasure, you don’t notice the pain as much. At least, your tolerance level goes up.