Marriage Takes More Than 2

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Sitting on a plane last weekend, my friend Mallory leaned over to me and said “I just love my husband. Marriage is pretty amazing, isn’t it?” Amid the overpowering hum of the jet engines and the flight attendant’s explanation of oxygen masks, Mallory and I began an in-depth conversation about how stabilizing marriage feels. I told her about my first year and a half of marriage and described to her how comforting and secure it feels to have someone who is “my person.” He is always on my team; Jacob and I are in it together! I’m not going to lie—we can get pretty heated in our arguments at times, all my insecurities come up and I’ll jump down his throat! But even through misunderstandings, hurt feelings, anger, and disappointment in each other, I know he’s beside me. As we talked and I realized how much I’d missed my husband over our 4-day trip to Minneapolis for a Family Relations conference, it dawned on me how helpful it is to feel understood and supported by another married woman.

My three college roommates and their husbands have remained some of our closest friends over the last few years. We’ve been like a “family” to each other through all kinds of challenges: one couple moving overseas, one couple dealing seriously with infertility challenges, another couple facing financial hardships, births of children, deaths of family members, and not least of all challenges to our marriages. Life brings many hardships and stresses. It is difficult to prevent these challenges from damaging our relationships. We can’t face them alone!

Our individualistic society makes it very easy to busy ourselves with career, personal/family issues, and private stressors. This gradual isolation of our marriage/family can be harmful! Research shows that the less outside support a couple has, the more destructive the effects of normal life challenges are on their relationship. When you feel secluded, you may become lonely, feel misunderstood, and distance from your partner. It is also easier to engage in secretive, hurtful behaviors when partners don’t have external accountability and support systems. Other couples/families can help ground your relationship and remind you again of why you chose each other and how important your commitment is.

Many community services and churches offer marriage mentors for interested couples. This is a fantastic way to connect with people, genuinely open up about real-life challenges, and feel supported. How have you found ways to keep your relationship healthy and to avoid isolating yourselves? Who has become your “family” or your support system?

“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” – George Eliot

-Kim Gregson, M.S., LMFT

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