If you could find more joy in your marriage, how would that change your life?
This month's Newsy Neighbour is dedicated to weddings, and I thought it would be appropriate to try to speak to you as a member of one of the most sacred and challenging partnerships – a marriage.
I have been married to my wonderful husband for 12 years this summer! And, I think like most marriages, it has truly spanned the spectrum of the best of the best all the way to the worst of the worst. There has been times in my marriage that I was sure there was no one happier, more connected to their mate as I was. And there has also been times when I have struggled to find a valid reason to stay a part of such a miserable union. And that spectrum has happened way more than once over the course of the last decade! If you are married, perhaps you can relate to this?
One thing you can do to help support your marriage is to begin to notice, daily, the joy that is a natural part of a union. If we begin to practice finding the joy we have in being part of a partnership and a family, the better we will be able to ride the roller coaster ride that comes with being married.
Here are a few practices I do to help me find joy in my marriage each and every day.
Practice Being Present:
· This is truly one of the simplest and most difficult of all of these. It is, however, the one that will make each of these following ideas work. Giving your full attention to your partner when you are with them is a simple (not easy) key to finding joy in each moment. We spend a lot of our time wrapped up in our heads - reliving the past, mentally working on a project, thinking ahead to the future, mulling over expectations - and end up spending a lot of our time together distracted.
· Try this: Next time you are with your partner, give them your full attention. Start with your breath. Breathe in, and breathe out, and be aware of that process. Notice when your mind is somewhere else, or you are thinking of what to say next, or if you are bored. And then give all of your attention to your time together. Try it. Repeatedly.
Cultivate a Beginners Mind:
· When you first begin your life together, there is a sense of innocence and discovery that is so joyful. But the six hundredth time you have woken up to morning breath staring you in the face... that is a little less exciting. Cynicism and boredom are the bane to joyful experience.
· Try this: Every experience you have with your partner today, pretend it is the first time you have ever had it. Whatever it is that you do together – be it greeting one another at the door, cooking a meal, putting the kids to bed, or driving somewhere together – pretend that you have never done it before – and notice the joy you will find in even the most mundane of activities. There is power in this practice.
Feel it All:
· You know you have heard it enough; it is a cliché... you can’t feel joy without pain. Yet it is so very true. I heard this not too long ago and it has sat with me since - when you dull the experience of pain you also dull the experience of joy. I think that forgiveness is one of the most important qualities of a marriage, if not the most. Until you have acknowledged your pain or hurt, how can you let go of it? In our society we are often encouraged to ignore or dismiss or cover up the uncomfortable parts. And in this day and age, it is all too prevalent to see a marriage end because of hurt and anger and fear left for too long.
· Try this: When you are next overwhelmed with emotion, give yourself the permission to FEEL it. Find a quiet place, give yourself a time limit if you need, sit or lay quietly with attention on your breath and then give yourself the time to truly allow the emotion to move through you. And then, when you are ready, practice letting it go. Your marriage does not need to be defined by the emotions you have; you are having an experience. Give yourself permission to experience hurt and you will more easily give yourself room to forgive and to experience joy.
· Gratitude is medicine for the soul. We tend to take for granted the abundance that already exists in our life, because we are so focused on that which (we believe) is missing, or wrong, or out of our control. When you tune into the good that exists in your life and experiences, even in those that hurt or are uncomfortable, you will experience more joy each day, lower stress levels and increase your own esteem of yourself and your life.
· Try this: Spend 5 minutes each evening writing down 5 things about your partner/marriage/life that you are grateful for - even if it's as small as a putting the toilet seat down or as huge as being grateful for the forgiveness extended to you for a hurt you incurred. Make it a habit, and your habit will change how you view your partner and your marriage.
I sometimes look around at my life in wonder: this life partner that loves me despite my faults, the hard times that we have stuck through to emerge back into the light, the family that we have created together. Daily life as a married couple is often made up of the mundane aspects of life. All of it is made more joyful when I take the time to practice these four things. Practice being aware of it and this joy can be there for you, even when times are hard... Joy that has the potential to fill out all the corners of your life and lift you up like hot air filling a balloon.
Please give these a try today. Share with me if you have tried them in the past, if they help you or where you struggle with it. And if you have other things that you do that help you to find joy in your marriage, let me know! There is a vast repertoire of tools out there, these four are only a few. We need only to find the ones that work for us and put them into practice. Joy already exists - we need only to tune into it.