When was the last time you looked at your wedding day photos? It’s truly a trip down memory lane and an opportunity to transport yourself back into the moment. These beautiful images make two things very clear to me:
- We look like babies. Oh wow we look so young.
- We had no idea what marriage was and what it would take to make it work.
This month George and I will be married 18 years. Honestly, there were fleeting moments in our early years when I thought, “How can we keep doing this? We are so different.” We’re still different in many ways, that hasn’t changed, but now I say, “Well, we’re going to have to work through this.”
I view each anniversary just as special as the first because it’s a reminder of what we’ve accomplished together. Year over year we’ve built a ritual of reflecting and adjusting to keep us focused on one another – on what the purpose of our marriage is and how we can continue to nurture our relationship. Just because we hit 18 years doesn’t mean we’ve made it and can hit cruise control – it just means we managed to love each other and work together to have a healthy marriage for another year, which is definitely worth celebrating.
The relationship my husband and I have built is far from perfect, but it’s ours. This acknowledgement from us, two couples therapists, has never been more important. We’ve put the work in and will continue to put the work in. And along the way we’ve leaned into a few key questions that help us reflect and adjust.
- How have we changed this year?
- What obstacles have we gone through individually and how has our relationship weathered them?
- What hardships have happened in our relationship? Did we resolve them? Or are there things we still need to work through?
- What turns me on about you after all these years together?
- What do we want to accomplish individually this next year? And as a couple?
- What three things do I appreciate about you?
These questions are meant to guide you and your partner to define and evaluate your purpose together. There are multiple benefits to asking these questions, and your anniversary is a great time to do so. This is your opportunity to tune in and listen to each other, hopefully distraction-free. You might be pleasantly surprised at the little ways you excite your partner! You’ll also be keenly aware of the strengths your relationship has exhibited and the resiliency you tapped into over the past year. Lastly, these questions are meant to foster gratitude – you can do hard things together and love isn’t the only thing that your relationship is made of.
If you attend one of our couples workshops, you’ll hear George and I talk about Viktor Frankl. He was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher and a Holocaust survivor, known for a bestseller book called Man’s Search for Meaning. What I take from Frankl’s work is it makes a tremendous difference when one has a purpose and it influences one’s motivation; having a purpose can help you endure some of the most difficult experiences. When it comes to being in a long-term, committed relationship, it is guaranteed that you and your partner will endure hardship. If you lack meaning in why you are together and what you are striving for, it will make it that much harder to get through the hardship together.
When therapy can help
It’s common for couples to get to a point in their relationship and wonder how they got there – it’s like when driving to work and not remembering each step of the way. Be it career or raising children, your attention can easily and understandably shift to other priorities. However, there are risks to not having a clear focus on and purpose for your relationship. Not having a clear purpose could increase feelings of disconnect and over time, disconnect can begin to feel unbearably lonely.
If you could use help getting clarity on what direction your relationship should go, a licensed couples therapist can help you and your partner create a clear and concrete map so you don’t lose your way and you have something to work towards purposefully, together.
If you are ready to schedule an appointment and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started. We offer virtual sessions only right now, but we are beginning to schedule in-person appointments starting in July.