So many of us think that marriage means being able to constantly lean on one another, supporting each other in good times and bad. But that picture may be a bit faulty. Imagine two people leaning forward and holding one another up. The problem with this approach, says marital therapist Corey Allen, PhD, is that its success is dependent on the other’s actions to balance the relationship. If one slips up, the other feels it and blames his/her partner for the error.
In an excellent “Marriage Manifesto,” Corey (blogger extraordinaire at Simple Marriage) explains the importance of each partner standing on his or her own two feet. It’s not that you shouldn’t be ready and willing to support your partner or catch them if they’re falling. Instead, we need to be responsible for our own contributions to life and to marriage. I highly recommend you read the manifesto; there’s a wealth of advice explained simply. Here’s a snippet:
“When a person shows up in their intimate relationship, takes responsibility for setting the tone for himself or herself, and takes the lead for their life with love and integrity, both them and their partner have the greatest opportunity to experience what they both most deeply desire,” explains Corey.
So, how do you stand on your own two feet?
- Be honest and transparent.
- Learn how to be 100% present.
- Set healthy boundaries.
- Create a great life for yourself.
- Begin to do what is challenging rather than what is expedient.
An example of how I might support myself better is by attending to my own physical and psychological needs. I would allow time for exercise and for the enjoyment of a good book or a walk outside. I might ask my husband to run an errand for me instead of pretending he is the reason I am stressed and out of time. I would work on fulfilling my own dreams instead of blaming my partner for stifling them. These activities make me a more attractive partner and one who can bring more love and positivity to the relationship. Being self-balanced also allows me to better support my partner when needed.
Corey goes on to explain what it means to be grown up in your marriage. I’ve read some interesting discussion in marriage forums lately (see ProjectM) about what growing up means today and whether it’s required for a great marriage and a successful life.
I appreciate that Corey explains what being grown up in a relationship means and what it doesn’t mean. It involves having a strong sense of self, but it also allows a stronger relationship with your partner. It doesn’t mean you have to do things your way, or that you need your space because you’re seeking independence. There’s no fear in being mature in love. Corey says, “When you have solid core beliefs and values, you can adapt and change without losing your identity.”
It may take courage and effort, but you can lead your relationship to a new plain where each of you is self-fulfilled, and you are able to better fulfill one another in love. The bonus is that when each of you is standing straight and tall, you can become much closer.
How do you picture your current relationship—leaning forward and holding one another up, or standing solidly on your own two feet while holding hands?
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