Life after Marriage

Life After Marriage

While every union is unique, there are certain phases that most marriages go through. Each has the potential to either help a couple's relationship grow closer and more solid, or to pull it apart. What's important to keep in mind is that there is no perfect marriage and no relationship without conflict.

The Newly wed Bubble : The First Year of Marriage begins with a period of excitement. Negative feelings are swept aside by the optimism of both partners as they begin to share a future. These positive feelings help a couple face the often daunting issues of the first year. Money - who handles it and how it's allocated - is a key issue for many couples. Time apart versus time together, division of household responsibilities, even who controls the television remote, are among the issues couples must begin to hammer out. This is complicated by the fact that almost everyone enters marriage with preset ideas of what a marriage relationshipshould be, and often unconsciously tries to recreate their parent's marriage.
Danger : Ideas of what a marriage should be get in the way of true intimacy, forcing you to reenact roles instead of relating honestly to each other.
Opportunity : Acknowledge and let go of your learned ideas of what a marriage should be. Face down your preconceived notions of marriage and you can decide what really works for you, forming a good foundation for the next phases of marriage. Try this exercise.

The Honeymoon's Over (The Early Years) : The early years of marriage can put both parties to the test. What simultaneously ambushes us and gives us opportunities to reach a new level of commitment is when we have expectations we're not even aware of. When that doesn't happen - because it can't happen, the past is past - we may feel let down. The struggle to get him to conform to that desperately cherished fantasy may be initiated at this point - and lead to a battle without ending, for he wants to be accepted as the person he is. Letting go of that ideal and accepting the person you married is essential to a healthy marriage.
Danger : Locking into a bickering, critical relationship; holding your partner responsible for your needs.
Opportunity : By taking responsibility for your own needs and desires and trying to realize them through your own efforts instead of projecting them onto your spouse, you'll have more chance of getting what you want and avoiding the resentment that goes with unrealistic demands.

From Lover to Mother : To go from being a person to being a mother is the major psychological shift for a woman. And to go from being a couple to being a family is also big. With the arrival of a child, the possibilities for conflict increase. Your needs zoom, so the chances for disappointment are great. The changes and adjustments that come with a baby can be overwhelming. In addition to the time-consuming demands of changing diapers and feeding, questions of who should shoulder which responsibilities, parenting styles, not to mention the issue of making room in the relationship for this seemingly all-consuming new priority, can all become battlegrounds. Becoming parents triggers new sets of unconscious expections, both about child-rearing and about yourselves. Unless both partners try consciously to create their own parenting style, there is a tendency to re-enact the same roles as their parents. Most men fall into the role of "workaholic" while the mother assumes the "nurturing" role. The child may also become an unwitting partner in an emotional triangle as resentments and unresolved problems slink out in strange forms.
Danger : Pre-programmed ideas of parenting roles interfere with forging a marriage and family style that works.
Opportunity : Create a strong healthy family that encourages all members to grow as individuals in a loving, supportive setting.
Try this: Read and discuss childrearing books to break out of scripted roles and find effective ways to deal with your children's stages of development. Agree on family rules (never let children play one parent against the other) and consider having a weekly family meeting to discuss problems.

Life Changes - New Job, Moving, Etc. : Children heading off to college, a woman's return to the workforce, retirement...even happy changes can shake up the equilibrium of a marriage. Probably the toughest changes to assimilate in traditional marriages (male as breadwinner; woman as homemaker), is when the roles shift. When a woman goes back to work after being a homemaker (especially if she becomes very successful), or a husband loses his job or retires, the couple has to readjust their expectations of each other. "Rajesh's heart attack meant it was time for him to retire. It's not always so easy to accept shifts in the status quo. It can be a howl of outrage from one partner when the other changes the fundamental agreement. This is especially true if the change is voluntary.. But without the distraction of the children, they may be forced to confront themselves and their own relationship.
Danger : Faced with stress and change, couples often withdraw from one another or blame each other for their own dissatisfaction.
Opportunity : Change can stir a relationship into a new phase of intimacy as well as free each individual to develop in new ways:
A traditional breadwinner who retires may be able to be closer to the grandchildren; a homemaker who returns to the workforce may enjoy achieving in a new arena. Try this excercise!

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