Examining the Long-Term Marriage
When it comes time to review the strengths and weaknesses in your marriage, The Marriage Self-Test may be a useful tool to use to jump-start the process. As you assess your marital communication, ask yourself whether sex with your partner is meeting your needs, and ponder if you are still stronger and better as a couple than you would be as an individual.
You must also find out whether both or one of you is interested in improving the marriage. It's an important time of transition, but if only one of you is willing and ready deal with the need for a change in the status quo, it can be an even more delicate and challenging time.
As discussed, one partner's emotional growth can sometimes be enough to change a marriage for the better. It also may lead to that partner's restructuring of the marriage. For example, you may make a decision to spend more time apart pursuing independent interests, which enables the relationship to continue while making room for internal changes.
Ideally, both of you wish to invest new energy in your long-term marriage, with the twin goals of ensuring its duration and quality. If you've taken the Marriage Self-Test, you can use the data you've collected to draw up a set of new emotional and practical objectives for the relationship — not unlike those you drew up to structure a working partnership and to compare money values and plan the next decades of your lives — together.
Forgiveness means forgiving yourself for the dreams you have not managed to fulfill, both within your marriage and alone. This is an essential step before you can let go of those dreams, along with any resentment you may be holding toward your partner for her possible role in bringing about your disappointments.
Here are some questions about the current state and future of your marriage for the two of you to answer — as a team:
Examine the strengths of your marriage. How much do you enjoy each other's company and/or share common interests?
Next, take an honest look at its weaknesses. It may be that you don't make time to enjoy the things you're both interested • • in. Or, you have stopped expressing affection, leaving one or both of you feeling lonely or unloved.
Name your top three goals for the marriage. You want to travel together. You want to revitalize your sex. You want to work another ten years and save as much as possible for retirement. You want to make room for each of you to do things apart that both have been yearning to try. You want to take a walk together every morning.
If you treat this process seriously, tackling differences and affirming similarities, you'll end up with a working agreement that can guide you through the next phase of marriage.
Moving Beyond the Tried and True
Couples at any point can face feelings of boredom, or relationship doldrums — that sense that the two of you have the same conversations over and over and have nothing new to talk about. Yet, there are couples who never run out of things to say to each other.
What these couples often share is a burning curiosity, not just about each other but also the world around them. One source of this curiosity and sense of aliveness is one's desire for self-knowledge and self-growth, as well as the potential for growth in relationship to his partner.
There are many ways to foster this quality in your long-term marriage. How often do you suggest a new topic of conversation with your partner? Do you ever invite him to join you on a trip to a museum, or try a new sport or activity; how about golf, bridge, or poker? This is also a great time to consider taking a couples' workshop together. In a group therapeutic process you can receive support by watching other couples go through similar struggles and receive feedback and guidance on your own.
The Marriage Renewal Ceremony
Many couples, upon reaching their silver or any other meaningful anniversary, use this occasion to mark a milestone and plan for the future. After reviewing and releasing the past, and drawing up an agreement for the next phase of marriage, they choose to memorialize these actions with a marriage renewal ceremony.
If you would like to incorporate this ritual into your marriage, you can invite family and friends and recite your vows in front of them, just as you did for your original wedding. You may also choose to hold a celebratory reception.
Like a marriage, or the christening of a newborn child, the purpose of such a ceremony is twofold: to assist the couple to take in the importance of the passage they've marked, and to ask for and receive the recognition and support of the larger community for their renewed marriage.