Do You Want Your Marriage To Survive Or Thrive?

Relationship Design

Do you believe that happiness is attainable?
Do you also believe that happiness is attainable in your current relationship?
After you answer these questions, your response might be – How?
Research shows that “there are few stronger predictions of happiness than a close, nurturing, equitable, intimate, lifelong companionship with one’s best friend.” ~ David Myers
Relationships continue to be an important part of life – in fact, there is no other topic written about more in books and poetry or discussed more in coffee shops, schools, or online than romantic love – yet with all the talk and desire for relationship with another, real work is usually only done when in crisis.
This is the same philosophy as driving your car day after day and only having work done after you break down on the highway.
Relationships are living organisms that require care and upkeep to thrive – but this isn’t necessary to simply survive. To survive, all you need is two people willing to settle on life and marriage as is. And a vast majority of marriages today are in this category.
Is yours?
What would it look like if your marriage went from surviving to thriving?
What would you be willing to do to help make this happen?
What I’ve discovered is that when a person works on making their marriage and life better, everything else gets better along with it.
So why don’t more couples take advantage of sites like Simple Marriage or other resources in order to work on making their marriage better before crisis occurs? Why do so many people settle on marriage and life as is?
I think the answer can be boiled down to this… school and early life prepare us to “paint by numbers.” Growing up you quickly learn what you have to do to achieve the next step. Take these courses assigned to you, jump through these hoops in order to achieve the thing, and on it goes. Life while in school and college is all mapped out for you.
Then relationships and marriage enter the picture. And after graduation, real life enters the picture as well.
The problem is – relationships and marriage are anything but paint by numbers.
In relationships, especially marriage, you are given a blank canvas and expected to create a masterpiece. Up to this point you’ve painted by numbers, now you’re looking at a blank canvas and it’s likely that deep down you’re terrified. So in order to reduce some of the fear, you do what you have to to survive.
After several years of surviving, it’s easy to believe that surviving is as good as it gets.
The first step is to believe that you can live a life that thrives, that you can have a marriage that thrives. One of the greatest impediments you face in your pursuit of a thriving marriage and life is often a feeling that you are somehow unworthy of that type of life. And because of this feeling, you actually sabotage and undermine a thriving life.
Why would anyone actively deprive themselves of a thriving life? This quote from Marianne Williamson provides an answer:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?

There are external and internal factors, cultural and psychological biases, and even political and societal beliefs that conspire against a life and marriage that thrives. But the biggest limitations are often self-generated. Fear keeps us from moving out from survival mode and into the unknown. Fear keeps us from living a life fully alive.
And even if you do begin to thrive, you may receive push-back, be it internal or external, that leads you to feeling guilty because there are other people less fortunate. The implicit, and false, assumption underlying such push-back is that thriving is a zero-sum gain – that your thriving necessarily deprives others of theirs.
Williamson responds to this by saying:

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people the permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

It’s when we live a life that thrives that we can best help others to do the same.

Photo courtesy sara.atkins