If we were to give any word of advice or an honest reflection on how to save a marriage it would have to be the need for maintenance. It is all about maintenance.
If you own anything with an engine or moving parts, you are smart to have a maintenance plan. If you have a job that requires any thought or action (name me one that doesn’t), you should have some training or education to keep up. Maintenance. Our own health requires personal care and ‘well’ visits to our health care provider. Maintenance again. Raising children? Yep. Lots of maintenance needs there. Pets? Maintenance. Do you see where I am headed here?
It is standard operating procedure to maintain the things and skills important to us. Why don’t we do the same for our relationships? Especially our marriages?
Marriage maintenance – it’s a novel idea.
When my husband and I embarked on our remarriage, we added a caveat to our marriage contract. We added the maintenance plan.
It was during our post divorce counseling sessions that the discussion focused on what we would have or should have done different during our marriage to prevent its demise. I realized that we had done the pre-marriage preparation (Pre-Cana, Catholic pre-marriage counsel with our church and a couple who volunteered to guide us through the process), but by the time we searched out help, it was for a referee not marriage counsel. The missing piece was to go for some kind, any kind, of marriage maintenance. Post marriage counseling. Kind of like a maintenance plan.
So, how does that look? Well, for us, we attended a couple of marriage seminars, retreats and we facilitate a 12 week marriage group study in our home a couple times a year. I can’t say that any one of them worked better than the others, however, they all have contributed to our marriage maintenance plan with success.
Marriage is not always easy or effortless. It definitely is not for the weak either. Like anything important to us, we need to nurture and care for it. We need to value it and celebrate it too. Sometimes we even need to sacrifice for it. I assure you, it is worthwhile.
It was enlightening to learn that there are psychological phases to our relationships. I didn’t know this until we were in the rebuilding phase and it made so much sense. These phases explain so much of why our first marriage fell apart the way it did.
The challenge for any relationship is to make it to phase 5. I encourage everyone to strive for that. I am thoroughly enjoying that our marriage is there finally and vow to continue our maintenance plan.
List borrowed from another site-
|Phase 1: The Honeymoon
This is the romantic, passionate, stars-in-the-eyes phase. The sex is good and there is never enough of it. This doesn’t happen for all couples but as a rule, this strong attraction stage is laced with thinking about and wanting to be with, your new love.
Phase 2: Accommodation
Even Romeo and Juliet had they been married, would have had to deal with the day-to-day realities. In the Accommodation Stage roles are established, expectations are set and compromises are made. It is here that disillusionment sets in and power struggles become evident. The other person’s habits, needs, anger and withdrawal patterns become uncomfortably clear. Intense conflict has the potential for developing during this stage. It is most advantageous to learn about problem solving, conflict management and communication during this stage.
Phase 3: The Challenge (Trouble in paradise)
A couple doesn’t really know how strong a relationship is until they deal with the challenges that life brings. Whether it is starting a new job, unemployment or the unfortunate occurrence of an accident or family illness, we all face challenges in life. The Challenge Stage lets the partners know what they can expect from each other during these demanding times.
Children and family crises are important factors during this stage. Each partner sets their own rules and expectations for raising children and how extended family issues should be handled. The challenge here is to be aware of this fact and find a successful compromise in meeting each other’s rules and expectations.
During the Challenge Phase there is a certain amount of disillusionment. The relationship is not what it was dreamed to be and one or both partners may be increasingly attracted to other people of the opposite sex. Sometimes, there is fantasizing about past loves. This is a time when the relationship is very vulnerable to unfaithfulness. How couples deal with this phase will determine the direction that it will take in the Crossroads Phase.
Phase 4: The Crossroads (What do I do at this stage of my life?)
Once couples reach this stage they have already experienced some challenges (e.g. medical or money problems) and now other life decisions will have to be made (e.g. to have children, where to live, how to spend money). This stage is different from the Challenge Phase because a number of challenges have already occurred and the couple has learned how each other responds in these situations. The emotional patterns of each are clear and they have established patterns of dealing with their differences. It is common for problems to arise in this stage, but because you have already experienced a great many shared challenges, you stand the best chance of working through these issues and getting to the Rebirth Stage. The three most common negative patterns for individuals to engage in during this stage are:
Phase 5: Rebirth (New marriage)
It is estimated that only 15% of all couples reach this stage. At this point, folks have figured out “the real person” they have married. To achieve it they will have successfully dealt with the Accommodation, Challenge and Crossroads Stages. In this phase, couples learn how and when to compromise and they truly (not on the surface) accept areas of differences with minimum resentment. In this stage couples learn to re-appreciate and re-love each other and:
• Focus on what is right with each other;
As for us, we look forward to continuing to share our story, to pray for marriage (ours and others), and to participating in our marriage maintenance plans.
God Bless Marriage and the Marriage Maintenance Programs!