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How to Create happy Marriage

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Rebecca Jorgensen
Did you ever wonder how happy marriages are created? Some people just seem to be in sync with another and really in love.

Abigail and Eric are a couple who are obviously happy with each other. Still, at times, in order not to hurt each other feelings, they backed away and didnt share hurt feelings or deeper fears. Sometimes Abi would get mad, nag and then go tearfully away. Eric would respond by waiting for her to get back on an even keel, and eventually it seemed to blow over.

After learning the importance of sharing intimately and deeply the more vulnerable feelings that are under anger or distancing to maintain closeness, one day Eric decided to have a different kind of conversation with his wife. Instead of keeping emotional distance Eric moved toward his wife for more.

Heres how Eric described what happened when he initiated a deepening conversation with his wife of 17 years.

I knew Abi had some fears or hurt she covered up, sometimes with anger or demands. I would see her flip from angry to tearful. When this happened, I felt confused, helpless and guilty (and often put off) by these dramatic interactions that often flared up quickly.

When I began to understand how important it is to build closeness by taking the risk to share, I took the risk with her by starting a conversation about what she might be truly concerned about underneath her harsher or harder responses. I asked her questions, letting her know I really wanted to understand and know more about her feelings. It was scary and a little dramatic, and hugely enlightening. While we were talking though I sensed she was incredibly afraid to share the parts of her she deemed as unlovable or needy.

As I kept gently asking her to share, reassuring her I truly wanted to know, she began to share her vulnerable feelings, which was really new information for me. I really wanted her to share these softer parts, rather than the anger or distance I sometimes ran into. Her vulnerable part was exactly the part that I want to draw closer to. I let her know what that was like for her to share with me, that I felt relieved that she trusted me enough to share like that...then it was my turn. My turn, because marriage is an equal partnership, I wanted to not only be fair but I wanted her know more about me too.

I shared my feelings of inadequacy, which usually strengthened into feelings of failure when we are distance from each other. And I let her know that in those times of tension, because I love her so much, that if I felt I was failing her and couldnt make her happy, then it seemed like it was my duty to back away. I would emotionally back away so far that in my mind, I would even allow her to find happiness with somebody else. Thats truly how much I want for her happiness. This was very deep sharing, and it moved us both to tears.

This was really new information for her. She always thought I just didnt care when I pulled away. And she was confused because shed never imagined me being, or feeling like, a failure. As she shared her response with me I felt reassured and loved, despite (or maybe because of) that vulnerable part of myself.

The conversation was quite an experience, thrilling like a rollercoaster ride! It was more depth of sharing than either of us had ever experienced. It was so exhilarating, it took hours to wind down from, really it was just HEAVENLY!!! Its amazing how after 17 years of a good healthy relationship, we have deepened our understanding and love for each other through a conversation based on sharing fears. This new understanding has changed our view of the world; its liberating.

What Eric describes above is the development of emotional closeness or openness that helps partners feel deeply secure and loved.

Secure connection is developed and maintained by specific moves, or interactions, that denote accessibility, responsiveness and engagement. I call these moves the Rs of Healthy Relationships. In healthy couples, each person is able to emotionally reach, receive, reveal, recognize, request, respond to requests, report and reconnect.

Adult Love is Reciprocal

As couples heal, Ive noticed not only is each person accessible, responsive and engaged, but they have a combined ability to execute distinct 2-step dance moves. These moves are an interpersonal or interactional sequence. For each two-step move the lead/follow role is executed by each partner, thus making the 2-step reciprocal. Its the reciprocity that seems to maintain balance and make the couple healthy. When theres reciprocity, both partners are not only able to execute each move, but they are able to take turns in the lead and follow positions. So, there is not one partner who is the only initiator in the 2-step move. In reciprocity both partners share the role of initiator.

If you combine the Rs into a 2-step move you can see the roles each partner needs to take to complete the sequence. For there to be movement, signals need to be sent and received. As one reaches (leads the step) the other receives the reach (follows the move). Wives need to be able to reach and have the husband receive as well as have the husband reach so the wife can receive, and vice versa. Each needs to reach, and each needs to receive the others reaching for connection to happen. But, for the relationship to be truly reciprocal (balanced and healthy) both members of the couple need to be able to lead and follow each 2-step move.

Here are the roles and moves that create these 2-step sequences of healthy relationships:

Lead - Follow

1. Reach (Lead) and Receive (Follow)

The first two-step move begins when one partner is distressed, hurting, and in need of attention or comfort. The other partner reaches out, unsolicited, to provide comfort or support. To reach is to move towards with compassion, having seen the need. It is a giving from the heart to assist the distress. The reach could be in the form of a hug, words of acknowledgement, understanding or sharing the burden. For the couple to complete this move successfully, the other must receive the compassion and accompanying acts of kindness.

2. Reveal (Lead) and Recognize (Follow)

The second two-step is reveal and recognize. When one partner reveals primary emotion, the other is able to recognize the gift of sharing. When couples are becoming healthier their ability to reveal and recognize the revealing continues to grow.

3. Request (Lead) and Respond (Follow)

The third two-step move is also one I emphasize a lot in couples therapy. Requesting for unmet emotional needs to be met and the partner then responding to the request. The request is about unmet connection needs such as acceptance, belonging, comfort or safety (what I call the ABCS of attachment). In happy couples each are able to request and respond to attachment/emotional love needs much easier. Couples who are able to do this grow together and their relationship gets stronger as time goes on.

4. Report (Lead) and Reconnect (Follow)

The final two-step, report and reconnect, is a move that shows up in John Gottmans research in happily married couples. This is more of a head level than a heart level 2-step. Its the sharing of status updates, such as, whats happening in our lives and maintaining a mental map of each others activities. Reporting and Reconnecting can also become an attachment ritual that gets developed as couples heal from distress and stay connected.

Rebecca Jorgensen

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