How to Have a Thriving Marriage Part 3: How Emotional Connection and Sexual Satisfaction go Together
Today’s post is going to be on the Serenity Prayer. Most people have probably heard of it, maybe even memorized it. It’s been around for a long time, and it’s been a part of a lot of self-help or recovery experiences.
What is The Serenity Prayer? It states,
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”
You don’t have to be religious, or believe in God to have the philosophy of this prayer to impact your life. And, that’s what I teach a lot of people in therapy. I go over this quite a bit, in a lot of different life challenges. Whether it’s addiction, stress, anxiety or any other unhealthy emotion. Let’s look at it one section at a time.
The first sentence says “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” What is serenity? Serenity is defined as “the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.” Don’t we all want more calm and peace in our life? We live in a hectic world that is stressful and has a lot of challenges. Having calm and peace is really important to each one of us and our personal happiness and well being.
How does the Serenity Prayer help us be calm and peaceful? In this first part, we’re trying to accept things we cannot change or control. It is my experience that a lot of people come into therapy with stress and anxiety, and they are stressing about and having anxiety over things that are completely out of their control. You’ve probably experienced this in your life, too.
Just think about the things that cause you stress and anxiety, and ask yourself, “Do I have control over this right now in my life?” Usually the answer is “no.” We have to be able to learn to accept the things we cannot change or control, and be able to let them go.
If you’re religious you may also use the phrase, “Let go and let God.” Or having faith and trust that these things will all work out.
If you’re not religious you can have the attitude of, “This too will pass” or I can’t do anything about it, so again I’m going to let it go and not spend the effort and energy in worrying about something that I cannot change. It does not do well for our emotional well being, our mental well being, our physical well being or our spiritual well being to spend time and energy on those things that are out of our control. It really can effect us in all areas of our life if we spend a lot of effort and energy worrying and stressing about things that are out of our control.
When we learn to “accept the things we cannot change”, we are going to have a greater sense of serenity, therefore have more calm and peace in our life.
The second part of The Serenity Prayer is, “Courage to change the things I can.” Now, we can take a look at the aspects of our life that may be causing us stress and anxiety, and ask ourselves, “Is this something I can change in my life?” And, if it is, then having the courage and the willingness to put forth the effort and energy to change it. If it is something we cannot change or control, then we refer back to the first part and accept we cannot do something about and let it go.
If we examine the first two sections of the serenity prayer, serenity to accept the things we cannot change and courage to change the things we can, and we really take the time in different circumstances and different situations, to really evaluate the situation and to be aware of which part of this prayer or philosophy we’re dealing with, chances are we are going to be significantly less stressed, and we’re going to experience serenity, calm and peace in our life.
The final part to The Serenity Prayer is, “Wisdom to know the difference.” Now, this may seem simple, but I think it does take wisdom to really know what I can control or change in my life versus what I can’t. I think we get on autopilot, and we automatically assume or think this is something I can’t change or control. When, really it is. Or, we think we can control it. We think we have some control over a situation, when we really don’t. Being able to look in the mirror, and being able to admit to ourselves if we can or cannot change or control the situation is an essential component of the Serenity Prayer. Control is really an illusion, isn’t it?
There is not a lot of things that we can control in life, except for ourselves. So, if we think that we can control the outcome of a situation that is outside of ourselves, I think that we are fooling ourselves. This will cause ourselves to have more stress and anxiety that is ultimately unnecessary.
Being able to know what we can or cannot control or change in our lives is about being honest with ourself. We have to be honest with ourselves whether we can control a situation in our life, and then we have to be willing to do something about it. That’s where the courage comes in. Or, we have to be honest with ourself and know I can’t change this, admitting this is something I cannot control. This can be difficult, because a lot of us have a need to control other people, or things that we don’t or can’t have control over. This really causes a lot of stress and anxiety and discomfort in our lives.
So, here’s my challenge for today. Really take a look at your life and ask yourself if the things that you stress over are things that you can change, or you cannot. If it is something you cannot change or control, be willing to let go of it. If you can, then take the time to make the change you need to make to bring peace, calm and serenity into your life.
I also challenge you to memorize the Serenity Prayer. Memorizing it will help you when you go into stressful situations. It will be easily retrieved and easier to apply when you need it the most.
What Ruins Marriages and Relationships
As a marriage counselor, I get asked a lot what the biggest reasons marriages and relationships fail are. Although there are big ticket items such as infidelity, addictions and abuse, I would say more marriages and relationships end because of less drastic issues. As I have thought about this question, I have come up with 5 common habits that make marriages and relationships fail.
Although they are not listed in any particular order, nor are they all inclusive, I would say at the root of most marriage problems is selfishness. When one or both individuals in a relationship is selfish, it makes it impossible to have a successful relationship. Selfish is defined as “lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one's own personal profit or pleasure.” When we choose to be in a committed relationship, I believe we also commit to being considerate of our partners thoughts, feelings, opinions and beliefs. Even putting them ahead of our own often times.
This is challenging because we live in a world that places such an emphasis on doing what we want and when we want as long it makes US happy. Just take for example the ideas of YOLO (You Only Live Once) and “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I believe these mottos promote the idea that selfishness is positive and good for us. For they truly are “concerned …with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”
Now, I am not saying that we don’t need personal self-care. We need to do things for us and us only sometimes, but no healthy self-care should be a wedge in a committed and loving relationship.
Another bad habit that ruins relationships is being mean to each other. This could be as serious as emotional and verbal abuse. (I do not include physical and sexual abuse here because those are beyond being mean and will be a topic of another post). The meanness I am talking about for purposes of this post are being critical, judgmental, overall sarcastic, and other ways people are emotionally and mentally mean to each other. I am reminded of a bumper sticker I saw years ago which stated, Mean People Suck!. That is so true!
There is no place for meanness in a relationship where two people have committed to love and care for each other. Over time, this can drive a wedge between two people that cannot be repaired.
The next big issue that tears couples apart is probably the most common relationship problem that couples come into counseling for. When I ask couples during a first session what brings them into therapy and what they want to get out of it, they almost always say they do not communicate well and they want to learn to communicate better. Poor communication skills is a huge relationship killer.
This is such a huge topic, that there will be many more posts on communication skills in the future. I stress that communication skills are a “skill” and need to be learned and practiced continually to be effective.
Another really bad habit is laziness or a lack of effort. I find that people get complacent in their relationships. They seem to put all their effort into pursuing the other person in the beginning. Then, once they got the other person to “fall in love” with them, they think they don’t have put that same amount of effort into the relationship to keep that love and passion alive. Then they are surprised when the other person is not happy in the relationship and have “fallen out of love”.
Thriving marriages and relationships take continual effort throughout the relationship. It seems that most relationships are in what I call Surviving mode. They are not train wrecks and they are not thriving. They are just “getting by.” If you want a thriving marriage and relationship, be willing to put the continued effort into it.
Finally, I find that not understanding the opposite gender gets in the way of a loving and happy marriage and relationship. Men expect women to think like men and women expect men to think like women. Neither is going to happen! Each have a unique way of thinking, viewing the world and solving problems. Neither is right or wrong, just different.
When we can respect and honor each others differences, we can then be more understanding and patient with each other. We know those difference are a part of who each of us are, and we then cannot take it personally when they do not think and feel as we do. We can work together as a united partnership instead of opponents, trying to win a battle.
Questions to consider:
Where are you at in each of the areas?
Which one can you choose to work on today?
What will you do to improve in that area?
Commit to working on one of these areas for the next 30 days consistently with real effort and see how your relationship improves.
There are a lot of theories on how one changes something about their life. This post and video discusses a few principles that need to be understood and applied to change effectively. Changing a habit or life style is hard. If change were easy we all would be who and what we exactly want to be.
However, if we understand the principles of effective change, we can change anything about ourselves that we want to. So, what does it take?
We need self-efficacy if we want to change something about ourselves. Self-efficacy is believing that we are capable of change. In my private practice, I find that lacking self-efficacy is probably one of the primary stumbling blocks to change. You can put a lot of effort into change and apply a lot of good techniques to make that change possible, but if you do not believe that you capable of changing or accomplishing what you want to change or accomplish, you eventually will fail.
Once you believe you are capable of making a change, you have to be ready to change. Readiness to change means you ready to take action. But action is not the first stage of change. There is a great book on change called Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward. It is important to understand what stage you at when beginning to change something about your life. (There sill be an entire video and post on the Stages of Change in the near future.) For purposes of this blog, I will only list them with a brief description of each.
Questions to Consider:
1. Do you believe you are capable to change what it is that you want to change?
2. What stage of change are you in?
3. Are you willing to do what every it takes and put in maximum effort to make the change?
Share with someone the answers to above questions and start the change!