Hang In There And Work On Your Marriage
Written By: Mark Smith
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The holidays are a time for family, memories, connection, and tradition. The foundation for this wonderful family system is our marriages. As I'm musing about the holiday season I think about some of the choices that I observe people making that complicate their holiday season. Keeping a marriage connected and vital over years and decades is extremely difficult. Few of us a given the tools in childhood to even come close to pulling off a halfway fulfilling marriage. When a marriage is disconnected there are temptations all around - the temptation to make life all about work, success, money and toys, the temptation to make life all about being the perfectly (overly) devoted parent, and of course the temptation to fall into an extra-marital affair. Such temptations are commonplace but they have their consequences. Work is a safe mistress as mistresses go. You won't ultimately be embarrassed by your addiction - far from it. They actually will crown you with impressive titles; give you power and lots and lots of money. You will get your name in the paper in a good way. There is a dark side to the workaholic thing though. They have abandoned themselves, their spouses and their children. Every year I love to watch any rendition of A Christmas Carol that I can get a hold of - what a magical story! I wish that the ghosts of our pasts, presents and futures could haunt us all. That would be terrifying, wouldn't it? What an intervention! Most of us are trying really hard to not know the truth about us. It is painful to watch old Ebenezer yell at the foolish young Ebenezer as he let his beautiful fiance slip away. What a fool he was. My favorite part of the movie is when old Ebenezer repents and then dances in the street with glee and thankfulness for his ghostly interventionists with the words "thank you very much, that's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me". To be quite honest I frequently go to dancing at that point myself. Workaholics anyways tell themselves and their spouses that their work schedules will get better soon but they never do. At home a wife is sadly crying like an abandoned child and the kids starve for just a scrape of precious Dad's attention. Work and money aren't the answer. They are addictive substitutes for what really matters.
If workaholism and cheating are poor choices, focusing on being the parent of the year surely must be the answer. After all these are our children. What could be healthier and more worthwhile then giving all that you have to your kids? Well, it turns out that this can be a destructive addictive mistake as well. I have observed this pattern many times - a woman who was abandoned by her parents who is then on a mission to give everything to her children that she didn't get. The children then get the message that they are the center of the universe, which ultimately is actually destructive to them. The marriage runs a very distant 4th or 5th in such families. There is no time or money for dates, romantic weekends or marital therapy. If marriages aren't maintained they will ultimately fall down all around you just like an unmaintained home will. The best thing that you can do for you kids is to stay madly in love with your spouse. I've worked with many women who wished they had had insightful visits from the ghosts of the future to wake them up from their marriage-killing pattern of child worship.
OK, on to the ultimate no no - affairs. I work with a whole caseload of nice folks who have cheated. Let me play the role of the scary ghosts of Christmases present and future while I deliver a message gleaned from the experiences of those who have tasted of that forbidden fruit - DON'T DO IT! The pain and devastation is not worth the goodies gained. Cheating is not all it is cracked up to be. If you aren't happy get your marriage into therapy this week, don't play with temptation. Affairs = broken hearted children, out of control behavior, financial disaster, lying, wounding someone you love, a ruined reputation and lots of regrets. Let your spouse know how your needs aren't being met with a direct, needy, non-reactive voice. Let them see your pain. Once you cheat it destroys the innocence of the marriage and you can't ever go back.
When you are 68 years old and you are walking on a beach the best person to be holding hands with is your current spouse. You'll have so many memories, children, grandchildren, and a lifetime of connections. Think about it. Merry Christmas. See you next week.
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