Guest blog by Linda Miles, Ph.D. and Robert Miles, M.D.
Author of The New Marriage: Transcending the Happily-Ever-After Myth
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog
Our granddaughter, Merritt Miles, was the inspiration for, 8 Keys to Lasting Love. When Merritt was five years old I read a fairy tale to her and was very disturbed by the ending, "And they lived happily ever after." As she could not read yet, I took the liberty of changing the ending to "They began the work of creating a very good marriage." I didn't want Merritt to think that marriage was so simple or that it just happened that you lived happily every after, as so many of our clients believed. As a marriage and family therapist for thirty years, I have seen the pain people experience on their honeymoon when they wake up and realize they have married a mere mortal. In creating this, it is my hope that my granddaughter Merritt, as she enters adulthood, as well as many other people, will avoid the pitfalls and pain of those who succumb to this "happily ever after" myth.
§ Stop blaming and start living. It is your responsibility, and not your partner's, to feel better and to heal. Your partner will be responsible to you, but not for you. So it's useful to ask yourself, "Why did I draw this person into my life and what is it that I need to learn from this instead of blaming?" A good marriage grows you up.
§ Avoid the fixer-upper syndrome. We think we can fix up our partner and shape them up to perfection, our perfection. So many people marry for potential. Never marry just for potential.
§ Made a promise to keep integrity. Do not hold onto victim hood like a prize. This doesn't allow one to grow. Work on behaviors that make your partner want to change by being kind and loving. Vent what you are feeling without being out of control.
§ Eliminate attack thoughts. These thoughts are incredibly destructive over time. If you attack other people and attack yourself and your thoughts, it really interferes with your happiness and with your peace of mind. Learn to find joy even in difficult times. As Mother Theresa once said, "Our best protection is a joyful heart."
§ Do not hold onto anger. Holding onto anger is like drinking Drano. Turn attack thoughts into something constructive. Think thoughts that are appreciative of your partner and express them often. Build up an emotional bank account so you have positive emotion currency when angry times come.
§ Wake up without makeup. On soap operas I see women wake up first thing in the morning with all their makeup and false eyelashes, and that's not real. What we need to do in a marriage is to learn to be more and more real, and more and more safe to be who we truly are.
§ Wake up and make up. It is very important for couples to learn to repair after a fight. Keep trying to find solutions. Do not get stuck rehashing the past. Live in the present, and find ways to keep your marriage buoyant and alive.
§ If you want to change your relationship, change yourself. Reinvent yourself, because you're not going to be able to change your partner. Learn to love in a mature way without trying to control or manipulate. C.S. Lewis once said, "To love without control or manipulation is to be surprised by joy." You will be truly surprised by joy when you can live in the moment with that other person.