Has your marriage felt like the end of the road?

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“It all started so well we loved each other had fun together and all was sweet and rosy … now things are different I can’t seem to make him happy, he also can’t seem to make me happy. We keep fighting over everything. I love him but how can I make it work? What am I to do … I think I have tried everything…”

Many couples come with this line and they seem so frustrated and deeply worried what they need to do. They are hurt by the turn of events in their relationship and they feel like they are in a hole which seems impossible to come out and also very uncomfortable to stay in.

One thing I must say is that I have been there, where I didn’t want to see my hubby everything he did or said was like smearing pepper on my hurting heart, and for sure I was not in the mood of working on the relationship. However I decided I needed a change and I started looking for answers. The first place was prayer, here I could cry and tell God all I felt and He would comfort me. The next place was reading the word of God where it was clear to me that I was not also perfect in fact I realized that I had hurt him so many times. This made me see things differently and answer some questions that I had.

During my search on fixing things up, I also realized he was also searching and we came across some truth that made us realize that all was well, we were going through development stages of marriage… it was a relief to know that we were not the only ones going through the turmoil of the ndoa.

I wish to share with you the truth that changed our down ward curve to an upward one … it was the ….

Marriage map

Like people, marriages also go through different developmental stages and predictable crises. We pass through the stages or development milestones and it leaves us bonded or unbounded with each other. Just like a child grows and has several milestones so is a relationship, it passes through several stages to be mature and endure the storms that comes along.

One thing is that Ndoa grows because we in the relationship also grow and we also change, our tastes and preferences change, we are more mature and we handle things better as we grow, we have serious pressures from life in our work places and demands of family. We therefore must adjust accordingly so that we don’t lose ourselves or the Mapenzi in our Ndoa.

The marriage map is meant to give you a broad overview of the experiences most couples have when they negotiate the marital terrain. As you read through these stages and developmental passages, don’t get too hung up on the timetable. Some couples move through these stages more quickly than others, and some bypass certain stages entirely.

When passion prevails and nothing else seems to matter

Everyone is familiar with the infancy stage of marriage the “honeymoon period” but what happens after that? Because people are unfamiliar with the emotional terrain, the normal hills and valleys of marriage, predictable transitional periods are often misunderstood, causing overreactions. Those who manage to weather these universal stormy periods usually come out the other side with greater love and commitment to their spouses. That’s why I want to offer you a marriage map.

Ohhh…am so in love …. We can all remember these sweet words or are in it right now and it feels heaven has come down. Head over heels in love, you can’t believe how lucky you are to have met your one and only star-crossed lover. Everything other than the relationship quickly fades into the background. Much to your amazement, you have so much in common: You enjoy the same hobbies, music, restaurants, and movies. You even like each others friends. You can finish each others sentences. When you pick up the phone to call your partner, s/he is already on the line calling you. You are completely in sync. When little, annoying things pop up, they’re dismissed and overlooked

At no other time in your relationship is your feeling of well-being and physical desire for each other as intense as it is during this romantic period. The newness and excitement of the relationship stimulates the production of chemicals in your bodies that increase energy and positive attitudes, and heighten sexuality and sensuality. Never, never, have you felt this way before.  “It must be love”,  you tell yourself. While in this naturally produced state of euphoria, you decide to commit to spending the rest of your lives together. “And why not,” you reason, we’re perfect together.” And marry, you do. Unless you elope or opt for a simple, judge’s chambers-style wedding, your euphoria takes a temporary nose-dive as you plan and execute your wedding. Once you get past the superhuman challenges of dealing with family politics and hosting a modern-day wedding, your starry-eyed obsession with each other re-emerges and takes you through the honeymoon period. And for a period of time, nothing could be more glorious. But soon, your joy gives way to an inevitable earth-shattering awakening; marriage isn’t at all what you expected it to be.

What was I thinking?

In some ways, this stage is the most difficult because it is here that you experience the biggest fall. After all, how many miles is it from bliss to disillusionment? Millions. What accounts for this drastic change in perspective? For starters, reality sets in: The little things start to bother you. You realize that your spouse has stinky breath in the morning, spends way too long on the toilet, leaves magazines and letters strewn on the kitchen counter, she’s not a good cook like your mum, he never fixes things in the house, leaves  his socks anywhere, and to top things off, snores. There are big things too.

Although you once thought you and your spouse were kindred spirits, you now realize that there are many differences between you. Although you share interests in hobbies, you disagree about how often you want to participate in them. You like the same kinds of restaurants, but you enjoy eating out often while your partner prefers staying home and saving money. Your tastes in music are compatible, but you prefer quiet time in the evening while your mate enjoys blasting the stereo. You have many common friends, but you can’t agree on which nights to see them. You’re confused about what’s going on. You argue. You knew life wouldn’t always be a bed of roses, but you never thought all you’d get was thorns. You feel disillusioned and you wonder if you made a mistake.

Ironically, it is in the midst of feeling at odds with your once kindred spirit that you are faced with making all sorts of life-altering decisions. For example, it is now that you decide whether and when to have children, where to live, who will support the family, who will handle the bills, how your free time will be spent and how in-laws fit into your lives. Just at the time when a team spirit would have conic in mighty handy, spouses often start to feel like opponents. So they spend the next decade or so trying to “win” and get their partners to change, which triggers stage 3.

Everything would be great I you changed

In this stage of marriage, most people believe that there are two ways of looking at things, your spouse’s way and your way, also known as the Right Way. Even if couples begin marriage with the enlightened view that there are many valid perspectives on any given situation, they tend to develop severe amnesia quickly… how fast we forget that even with ur own siblings ther is no way they did everything u told them to, you had to agree on the best way as a team or rather disagree to agree. In this stage all the spouses think is how they are Right and how the other is Wrong, and that their way is the way and only way to do things. Rather than brainstorm creative solutions, couples often battle tenaciously to get their partners to admit they are wrong. This because every point of disagreement is an opportunity to define the marriage. Do it my way, and the marriage will work, do it yours and it won’t.

When people are in this state of mind, they have a hard time understanding why their spouses are so glued to their way of seeing things. They assume it must be out of stubbornness, spitefulness or a need to control. What they don’t realize is that their spouses are thinking the same thing about them! Over time, both partners dig in their heels deeper. Little or no attempt is made to see the other person’s point of view for fear of losing face or worse yet, losing a sense of self.

Now is the time when many people face a fork in the marital road. They don’t want to go on this way. Three choices become apparent. Convinced they’ve tried everything, some people give up. They tell themselves they’ve fallen out of love or married the wrong person. Divorce seems like the only logical solution. Other people resign themselves to the status quo and decide to lead separate lives. Ultimately, they live unhappily ever after. But there are others who decide that it’s time to end the cold war and begin to investigate healthier and more satisfying ways of interacting. Although the latter option requires a major leap of faith, those who take it are the fortunate ones because the best of marriage is yet to come.

That’s just the way any partner is

In this stage we finally come to terms with the fact that we are never going to see eye to eye with our partners about everything and we have to figure out what we must do to live more peaceably. We slowly accept that no amount of reasoning, begging, nagging, yelling, or threatening changes our partner’s minds. We look to others for suggestions; we seek religious counsel, talk to close friends and family, attend marital therapy, read self-help books, or take a relationship seminar. This really helps the relationship and heals wounds that have come from the previous stage, however there is need for commitment to change the way things have been and work on a solution that will bring positive grow in your marriage.  Those of us who are more private look inward and seek solutions there.

We more readily forgive our spouse for his/her hard-headedness, and recognize that we aren’t exactly easy to live with either. We dare to ask ourselves whether there’s something about our own behavior that could use shaping up. When disagreements occur, we make more of an effort to put ourselves in our partner’s shoes and, much to our surprise; we have a bit more compassion and understanding. Fights happen less frequently and when they occur, they’re not as intense or as emotional as in the earlier years of marriage. We know how to push our partner’s buttons and we consciously decide not to. When we slip, we get better at making up because we remind ourselves that life is short and very little is worth the pain of disharmony. And because were smart enough to have reached this stage, we reap the benefits of the fifth, and final, stage.

Together, at last

It is really a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to stage 5, when all the pain and hard work of the earlier stages really begins to pay off. Since you are no longer in a struggle to define who you are – you release that defining who you are is not the solution, or what the  marriage should be, there is more harmony. Even if you always have loved your spouse, you start to notice how much you are really liking him or her again. And then the strangest thing starts to happen. You realize that the alien who abducted your spouse in stage 2 has been kind enough to return him/her. You are pleased to discover that the qualities you saw in your partner so very long ago never really vanished. This renews your feelings of connection.

By the time you reach Stage 5, you have a shared history. And although you’d both agree that marriage hasn’t been easy, you can feel proud that you’ve weathered the storms. You appreciate your partner’s sense of commitment and dedication to making your marriage last. You also look back and feel good about your accomplishments as a couple, a family, and as individuals. You feel more secure about yourself as a person and you begin to appreciate your differences. And what you don’t appreciate, you accept. You feel closer and more connected. If you have children, they’re older and more independent, allowing you to focus on your marriage again. You have come full circle. The feeling you were longing for during those stormy periods is back, at last. You’re home again.

I’m certain that if more couples realized that there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they’d be more willing to tough it out through the downpour. The problem is, most people fool themselves into thinking that whatever stage they are in at the moment, is where they will be forever. That can be a depressing thought when you’re in the midst of hard times. And in marriage, there are lots of hard times’ unexpected problems with infertility, the births of children (marital satisfaction goes down with the birth of each child), the challenges of raking a family, children leaving home, infidelity, illnesses, deaths of close friends and family members.

Also, it’s important to remember that people generally don’t go through these stages sequentially. It’s three steps forward and two steps back. Just when you begin to feel more at peace with each other in stage 4, a crisis occurs and you find yourselves slipping back to stage 3. But if you’ve been fortunate enough to have visited stage 4, sanity sets in eventually, and you get back on track. The quality and quantity of love you feel for each other are never stagnant.

Copyright (c) 2001 by Michele Weiner Davis

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11 responses »

  1. Pingback: Has your marriage felt like the end of the road? | Kenyan Patriot

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