And the secrets work with any significant relationship
We all want to know how much time, energy, and money it will take for lasting improvements in our marriages. But many don’t think to ask other questions. And there are three remarkable secrets you need to know to transform your marriage. If you’re not married, the secrets work with any significant relationship.
Secret #1 — It takes about 90 days to change anything
Some of us have quoted and believed the proverbial, “it takes only 21-days to change a bad habit into a good one.” But this is not backed by reliable research.
I tell my clients that any change in their relationships or moods will likely take more than a session or two. Instead, it takes about 90 days for new neuro-pathways in the brain to form new associations. Different ways of thinking, behaving, and relating takes consistent practice. This about regular workouts in the gym. We train our muscles for strength and tone. In the same way, it takes a regular workout to train our neuro-connections. That’s how we transform our thoughts, behaviors, and relationship patterns.
Whether you’re learning a foreign language or ballroom dance steps, it takes about 90 days to learn a new skill.
Empathic communication with your spouse may be like learning a foreign language. If you ever tried a new skill like dancing, you know how challenging it can be to keep a beat along with the steps. But when you practice over and over again, you can learn. Your brain is designed to learn new things.
Muscle memory and mental associations in our brains are made to connect.
We are all wired to grow, connect, and continue growing in relationships.
Secret # 2 — None of us are stagnant
None of us are stagnant. Like riding a bicycle, we’ll either pedal with balance, or we’ll fall down. Few who marry “until death do us part” will experience their authentic and growing selves intact.
I’ve listened to stories of seemingly “happy marriages.” Some spouses bear heart-ache and chronic stress of the other. Many have low or no coping skills. Co-dependence is a term used when one person enables another in their addiction. But it applies to one spouse enabling the other to be irresponsible for their own growth.
Secret # 3 — Don’t buy into the “happy marriage” mentality
Who doesn’t want a “happy marriage?” We watch others at church or social settings. Or we look at their Facebook posts and make conclusions. “They must have a happy marriage. We should be happy.” And the pressure’s on.
Instead, we caught them in a happy moment. Most people don’t display their verbal fights or mean looks at each other. But we’re all human. And we all have impulsive moments of meanness.
Keep in mind that happiness is a temporary emotion like other emotions. Given circumstances and stages in a marriage, it’s inevitable you won’t be happy all the time. Or, you may have a “happy marriage” in one stage and a miserable one in another. The key is learning how to quickly recover from the ruptures in a relationship.
As I’m writing my book, Beyond Messy Marriages, I’ve had some revelations. And I’ve come to exchange the term “happy marriages” with “growing marriages.” The “happy marriage syndrome” can cause problems that stagnate the relationship. It sets up toxic patterns of shame and isolation.
I’ve worked with a few who’ve learned to have an inter-dependent relationship. They are open to growing together. None of them have perfect relationships. But they’ve developed mostly satisfying and reliable marriages. They’ve experienced pain and have learned to lean into each other. Some experience more trauma than others. But the “masters” at marriage become resilient.
Soulful marriages require both partners showing up as adults.
Both husband and wife learn to take responsibility for their own issues and emotions. They respect the others’ individuality without trying to control them. They’ve learned how to love, honor, and respect each other and themselves. Also, they’ve learned to accept themselves. And they’ve learned to accept their partner at various seasons throughout their lives.
For most of us, it doesn’t come naturally. Embrace the three remarkable secrets you need to know to transform your marriage.
Take 90 days to change
None of us are stagnant
Don’t buy into the “happy marriage” mentality