It was our first Valentine’s Day as a couple. My wife was off to her college class. I wanted to surprise her with a fancy dinner. I had candles lit, cooked crab and had wine ready to go. Then she walked in an hour early.
She was sick — puking sick.
Sometimes marriage is messy, really messy. Life after Valentine’s Day can be hard. Here are a few thoughts to help us reconnect.
In marriage, there is always something next. It can be kids, retirement, a new job, or a new home. Marriage expert John Gottman talks about how couples begin to live “parallel lives.” When we are always focusing on what’s next and not on one another, we sometimes drift into living like roommates rather than people that want lifelong intimacy.
The Big Goals
When we were newly married, I thought I had to address everything. “I’m living with this person the rest of my life, she has to learn now that I don’t want the trash there,” I would think. I focused on my immediate needs and wants instead of the long-term goal of marriage. The goal of marriage is to have a deeply intimate and rewarding life with another. If we didn’t think our lives would be better because of the other person, we wouldn’t get married.
Live in the Now
Whether it is Jesus, Buddha or a TED talk, over and over research, theologians, and common sense shows us that when we appreciate the here and now and focus less on the past or future, we’re happier. If we’re thinking about something and it is better than where we are currently, we’ll be disappointed. If it’s worse, then we’ll feel bad about it. In essence, not appreciating the present actually robs us of the full joy of the moment.
In marriage and relationships we will be happier if we stop thinking as much about what is next, focus on the big goals, and live in the present. In a post-Valentine’s Day world, we live with the puke and messiness that is life. In embracing those moments, we truly find happiness.
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is the owner and a counselor at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He will be speaking about marriage at Bay Pointe Church on Sunday, Feb. 23.