It's lovely to think of your husband as your soul mate -- your best friend, the one who knows what you're thinking before you say it, who shares your same interests, always has your back, and will share a single strand of spaghetti with you. But new research shows that if you think alllll that, you're probably setting yourself -- and your husband, and your marriage -- up for failure.
Here's the deal. We live in an Era of (Frightening) Efficiency. If we're going to do something, we're sure as hell going to do it right. That goes for everything from getting a bikini wax to running a PTA fund-raiser to "maintaining" a marriage. We're all in, baby. But that type-A approach is probably hurting us more than it's helping.
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So says new research out of Northwestern University. Researchers point out that marriage used to be a union of convenience. We merged workloads and/or finances, we were better able to survive. Now, we marry for love (at least most of the time).
It's sweet to not say "I do" until we feel overwhelmed with romantic fireworks and heart-shaped feelings. But the nasty side effect is that we now expect -- nay, demand -- too much of our spouse.
And we're actually spending less time than ever to achieve it. From 1975 to 2003, for instance, the time couples with kids spent exclusively with each other dropped from 13 hours a week to a kinda pathetic 9.
What that means: we're so busy helicoptering over our kids that we're leaving our marriage in the dust.
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So what's the solution to all this makes-sense-but-is-still-depressing research? Luckily for us, there are a few, says Jeanette Raymond, PhD, a Los Angeles–based licensed clinical psychologist, relationship expert, and author of Now You Want Me, Now You Don't!
Step back from your kids.
Stop chauffeuring, chaperoning, and championing every playdate and homework assignment. If you're supportive without being pushy, you won't be depriving your kids, assures Raymond. "You'll have a chance to develop the emotional intimacy that solidifies [a] marriage, AND get your kids to develop their resilience," she says.
Get some "me" time.
Take up tennis. (By yourself.) Go biking with girlfriends. It's important you follow your own interests and encourage your spouse to do things on his own, too. Doing so won't only help you feel more content (hey, you're doing what you want!), but will give you more energy to bring into your marriage. "If you don't have separate interests, then you are not 'a' person, but an extension of your spouse," says Raymond.
Do "date night" right.
"Date night doesn't work when it's used as a ritual to pretend all is right for your marriage," Raymond says. (Or if you see it as having a captive audience who'll listen to you complain or criticize.) Arrange some couple time once a week and treat it like a real date. "You need to be curious about each other's feelings, listen without judging, and be grateful that you're included in the intimate life of your partner," says Raymond.
In other words, thinking of your partner as less of a husband and more of a boyfriend may really help you live happily ever after ... -ish.
How do you prevent your marriage from falling into this trap?
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