Recommitting can never come too late or too often. With Spring around the corner, it reminds us that life can come out of the harshest of seasons, even when you think there is no life left. Seasons will come in marriage that make you feel that you’ve taken a detour or worse, lost and can’t find your way back. The power of marriage is that it has the ability to empower and renew even the coldest of relationships.
As I work with couples who wish to “start again”, I often remind them that every day is a chance to start again. In order for your marriage to strengthen over time, a couple must be willing to continuously choose to renew their commitment to grow. The ideal is for both people in the relationship to simultaneously want new things and be willing to do their part to make it happen. Of course this doesn’t always happen. Renewal can happen even if you are the only one who wants it, however, you must know where you end and someone else begins.
Boundaries in marriage takes some people by surprise. We often assume that once we say “I do” we are to own everything including our spouse’s choices. In reality, we can only control ourselves. Understanding that we each decide how we behave and that you can’t control your spouse is the first step to empower real change in your relationship. If you are unhappy with the current pattern, begin by owning your part of the pattern. Is there something your spouse has asked you change and you haven’t? Is your spouse’s negative behavior triggering something in you? Map out the unhealthy pattern, then take ownership of you by choosing a healthier path. It will not be easy and will take some time, but it is definitely possible start a better pattern. The good news is that only three things can happen…
- The other person will cause chaos (quiet or loud) to pull you back into the old pattern. This almost always happen first. It is natural because all of us get comfortable, even with unhealthy patterns we despise. The question is, can you hold the new healthy pattern long enough to outlast the chaos. You will most definitely fall into the old pattern by habit at some point in the process, just start again. If you outlast the chaos, then only two things can happen…
- They can abandon the relationship or
- They will join you in the healthier pattern.
Of course no one wants the other person to abandon the relationship. We must overcome that fear and realize we never had control over their choice to begin with. Do you want change enough to risk it? In all of my years of counseling, the only ones who have abandoned the relationship were the (very) few that had already done so in their heart and never planned to change. Some complex situations may be more difficult so please find support from a professional. Everyday boundaries can be done with love and kindness. Some examples are:
- Having dinner at a scheduled time even when a spouse is notoriously late
- Allowing the natural consequences of a parent’s distant relationship with the kids instead of fixing or explaining it away.
- Choosing to end conflict by providing a warning then calling a “time out” instead of having a yelling match.
It turns out, you have more power than you think. You have the power to a healthier you. A healthier you has incredible power towards a healthier relationship. For more, consider reading Boundaries by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.