The Eight Steps –Pain-2-Power for Marriage (Steps One and Two)
With Valentine’s Day approaching, there’s no better time to learn how to use the pain in one’s marriage as a guide to creating a more powerful marriage. The first two steps of my 8-step program follow:
Describe what you want to change.
The key here is to describe the area of areas of your marriage you think could give you more joy if they changed. This step is about clarity, about distilling your needs and emotions into a clear-cut goal you can work with.
Let’s take a familiar lament: “I want more passion.” Build this out. Why isn’t there more passion? Is it because you and your partner don’t communicate? Is it because you can’t share what moves you romantically? Is there a physical problem, with pain, with level of desire, with becoming satisfied? Suppose you thought, “I feel like this relationship keeps me from moving forward in my life.” Again, take this deeper. Is it perhaps because you are afraid of sharing your dreams, ideas and plans? Or because your partner dismisses them? Is there a feeling that you moving forward means that you would have to lose time with, or create some distance from, your partner?
Here are some focused and direct statements about what might need to change in a relationship:
- I want us to be able to discuss our careers and future plans without fighting.
- I want us to find ways to spend more time alone – time where we can talk about our lives and feelings, separate from children and family dramas.
- I want real information about our money, assets and liabilities so that I can become a full financial partner in this marriage.
I believe there is a silver bullet to most problems. The likelihood of finding it depends on your thorough examination of the problem, the root of the problem, and the emotions behind it. It also depends on keeping an open mind. The open mind part is crucial. Here are some questions to get you started:
- Without thinking too much – what do you want to change about your marriage?
- What emotions does this problem bring up for you?
- When you and your partner discuss this problem, what tends to happen?
- What is your ideal outcome?
- Look at your ideal outcome. This is what you want in your marriage.
Assume that today’s marital challenge or conflict is no accident. It was built into your union from the day you met.
This step is about acceptance. When crisis hits a marriage, it is easy to look upon it as something wholly destructive. Your marriage was the foundation. Your problems and issues are the tornado that knocked it down.
This is not accurate. To move forward, you must accept that this conflict was built into your relationship from the very beginning, and that what you’re encountering isn’t a reason to terminate the relationship, but an opportunity for the relationship to become richer and more satisfying. You chose each other for good reasons. You chose each other because you complement each other and you can help to heal each other and to move beyond the conflicts in your family of origin. It is not only inevitable that these problems were going to come to the surface, it is good. And you shouldn’t reject the fact that you’re feeling discomfort and unhappiness, because your mind is telling you something is wrong and you need to fix it.
Here are some questions to jumpstart step 2:
– What were your reservations about your spouse upon meeting him or her?
– What about your spouse made your either ignore or accept these reservations?
– What were the conflicts you had at the beginning of your relationship?
– Do the conflicts at the beginning of the relationship bear any similarity to what you now want to change about it?
These two steps are a beginning to understanding your marriage and working to make it better. Please check back for an ebook of all 8 Steps of Pain-2-Power for Marriage, which will be posted by February 14, 2021.
Dr. Keith Ablow