By Debra Gould, MS
Third Article In The Four-Part Series
In “Growing Together Part Two,” I gave some advice on growing as a couple even when your life is hectic. But I know that for some couples, the simple solutions of direct communication and being positive – while an important place to start – might not be enough to make the changes you truly need to enrich your marriage.
There are times in almost every marriage where partners must commit to growing spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and even physically as individuals and a couple (and if you already have children, as a family). Very often in these cases, one or both partners are caught in the trap of “if only.” Does any of this sound familiar?
If only my partner would do this (or stop doing that).
If only we had more money.
If only I could lose weight.
If only we didn’t feel so stressed.
If only we weren’t so tired.
If only the kids would listen.
What we’re really saying when we say ‘if only’ is ‘this is out of my hands, it will never change.’ In certain cases, that may even be true – ultimately, the only things we can control are our own thoughts and actions. But then again, in many cases, with forethought, effort, and a plan, we can overcome each obstacle that is holding us back.
To begin, be honest with yourself. What do you need to do to improve your marriage and family life? Are your short and long term goals realistic? What will you have to do, and what will your partner and family have to do, to achieve them? Do research if needed, and write down your thoughts to help you work them out.
Next, make sure your partner is on board. This might mean tweaking your ideas, and negotiating areas of compromise. Agree on the final goal, and discuss how you will face possible set-backs. Or make a back-up plan. However you do it – even if the goal is primarily focused on one of you, such as a career change – working together for a positive outcome can be an awesome bonding experience for a couple.
Then, discuss and evaluate – but never recriminate. As you work toward your goals, one or both of you may lose focus. That’s when it’s time to regroup and discuss what’s working and what’s not. It’s also a good time make sure you’re still on the same page and to recommit to your goal. Never forget that you are partners; however you do finally come to terms, the most important thing is to figure out how to do it with respect.
Finally, celebrate your achievements. Remember that with every success – no matter how small – you are naturally enriching your marriage by growing hand-in-hand.
Debra W. Gould, MS is the president of Debra Gould & Associates, Inc. based in New Orleans and provides management consulting and training services to commercial and government clients. Debra is one of the founders of The Ebony Speakers and co-author of the book, Real Women, Real Issues - Positive Collaborations For Business Success.
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