Starting something new, together or apart, can be good for a marriage

Published 10:03 am Monday, February 17, 2014

QUESTION: We’ve been married a long time and are committed to our children, but we’re pretty disappointed with each other: any recommendations other than divorce?

ANSWER:  Good people struggle with marriage and often become disillusioned because their expectations are so far from reality. Some couples suffer in silent withdrawal; others resort to yelling and painful words. The longer we are married, the more we need to mature and change, and find new ways to spark interest in our relationship.

Explore new interests and develop new passions separately and together. It’s energizing to engage in something different together. It’s also energizing to be engaged in something new that we can talk about with enthusiasm.

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Remember what first attracted you to your partner and be realistic. When you think, “Why can’t he be more adventuresome and romantic?” realize that you may have married an engineer and that’s who he is. His core attribute of stability and his analytical mind made you feel safe when you were starting a family; you really can’t expect him to be some creative chatterbox who does things spontaneously. When you think, “Why can’t she be more carefree, funny and sexy?” realize that she has been pregnant three times and may take care of most of the tough emotional and practical issues with the family, while you grumble when the kids don’t do what you say and then you disappear to the bar or the golf course.

You depend on her strength of character.

Be aware that it’s not too difficult to connect with a new person when you have no shared history or baggage, when everything you discuss is new and interesting, when you assume the best and don’t have resentments built up. However, that’s not real life!

We need to focus on changing our own attitudes toward our partner, rather than changing our partner. The quickest way to change the dynamics in our relationship is to focus on our own behaviors. Even if our partner doesn’t change, we’ll have clarity to make some tough choices.

Check out Calm Couples Marriage Makeover CDs through the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street S.E., Austin) or public library. If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about family challenges, call the WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1- 877-434-9528.  For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Go online at