Second marriages fail at a higher rate than first marriages partly because people answer NO to the first 2 questions above and YES to the second two. While there is an endless list of situations that cause marriages to disintegrate, there are a few researched tried and true methods for keeping the flame alive under any and all circumstances.
If you and your spouse are honest and real with each other, conflict will be inevitable. That is not the problem because in truth real intimacy cannot live and breathe in a conflict free zone. In fact, allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a challenging crucible with your partner and genuinely resolving it, will create some of the most intimate moments between you. Once you have learned the skills to resolve conflict constructively you will be free to be your best and full self and you will be less fearful of having marital conflict, less inclined to bury negative feelings under the rug.
1. Be open to your spouse's feedback.
While your spouse can push your buttons like no one else, his or her feedback serves as a mirror for you. Be willing to look into this mirror with minimal defensiveness. Both positive and negative feedback is a gift, as it points us in the direction of our growing edge, that place where we instinctively feel uncomfortable and where we are usually about to learn something powerful about ourselves. The old adage that when we point a finger at another there are 3 pointing back at us, is so true. No matter what shape your marriage is in now, your spouse remains your best teacher.
2. Be willing to change.
Yes, I said it, in order to make your relationship great you must be willing to change throughout your lifetime together. Here are some reactions I have heard to this…
3. A willingness to learn new behaviors.
This is an aspect of changing. Old dogs can learn new tricks, including old dogs like you and your spouse. If you have an unwilling, stubborn spouse who is at least willing to give therapy a try (even if he/she thinks you are the whole problem), well then I believe you have a chance to improve things. You may be locked in unhealthy patterns with your spouse. In therapy with me you can learn how to get what you need from your partner in loving and non manipulative ways. The bottom line as I see it is this: If you are both truly committed to looking honestly and deeply at yourselves and if you truly value your marriage, you can be taught the skills that will allow you to stay together happily and permanently. One important caveat: Pathology including active addictions and untreated mental illness make healthy intimacy impossible. You will frankly be told that the marital work cannot move forward until that is under control first.