“We are most alive when we’re in love”
Dr. Laura Bokar, LMFT, LCPC, ACS
“Life is Difficult” reads the opening line of Dr. M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled. As a marriage and family therapist, I wholeheartedly agree. In regards to relationships, I would add the phrases: messy and complicated. Yet a healthy relationship is worth enduring struggles and working through the complications.
Many experiences in our lives make us feel happy and sad. Our relationships have the ability to allow us to enjoy happiness and find fulfillment. With marriages being the most important relationship in our lives, we need to know more about how to design the relationships we desire and not solely rely on what we learned from our parents.
When we set about designing a beautiful home with our spouses, we discuss all the details. These details include the size, paint colors, floors, ceilings, rooms, stairs, entry ways, as well as windows, lighting, curtains, door knobs, hooks, furniture, and landscaping. We share with our partner, our desires, likes, and dislikes. We discuss each room, and the exact way we want it to look. We spend hours each day over the course of months creating our dream home. I mention this example, because I find that couples spend more time designing their homes, careers, and debating on the model of their cars than they do investing time into designing the marriages they desire.
There is a belief that a good marriage will fall into place “naturally”. Now if we believed that the homes we are designing would be created “naturally,” I don’t think many people would be pleased with the outcome. Guess what? Not many couples are happy when they think about the outcome of where their marriages are going. That is a good thing. When they take the time to recognize the marriage is not heading in the direction they’d like, they can decide to change it. When one decides it is time to make a change – that is the first step!
There is a plan one can follow when they decide they want to redesign their marriage. The next step is to make certain we are first taking care of ourselves. Yes, it may sound strange that we need to focus on ourselves first to improve our marriage, however it is true. To have an extraordinary and healthy marriage, it needs to start with two extraordinary and healthy individuals.
To start, one needs to assess five areas of their lives; health and fitness, emotional intelligence, intellectual growth, character, and spiritual development. In the assessment, one needs to honestly review each area and determine if changes need to be made. The main question should be – How do I want to be different in each area in order to be the person I know I can be. When we are feeling healthy, emotionally intelligent, learning new things, strong in our character, and feeling spiritually fit, we are in a better place and capable of being a better spouse.
After one has designed a plan for themselves, then the design for the marriage can occur. This would be the time to come together and decide what you want your marriage to look like in all areas. How do you want to grow as a couple? What are the things you want? What experiences do you want to share together? What type of environment do you strive to create? What is the vision of your marriage – romantically, intelligently, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Start investing the time and energy designing the extraordinary relationship you know you want.
This may be the first time many start to think about designing their marriage. Yet, if we think about it, it does make sense. Initiate a conversation with your spouse about the desires you have for your marriage. It would be important to make this into a regular conversation each week and to create a Marriage Design Book. Add, change, and create more to your book each week. It keeps it fresh, alive, and in the forefront of your mind. By doing this, you will make your marriage YOUR design. Take the time to create the marriage you desire or life will do it for you!