July 23, 2008

Couple Aim for Renewed Relationship


I read your column recently and except for the "small kids" to worry about, it could have been written by me. We will become "empty nesters" in the fall, and it just magnifies all the issues we have.

We've been married more than 20 years. We're both good people but don't know how to deal with each other. What do you recommend to get us on the right track?

I see that Community Marriage Builders has an upcoming four-week class but am not sure a group setting will help us get to the core of our issues. We've been to counseling in the past. Things are better for a time, but the resentment is building.

R.H., Evansville

Congratulations on more than 20 years of marriage! If you have been like many "good parents" today, your lives have been centered around and devoted to the nurturing of your children. If so, the two of you will need to rebuild the love and devotion you had for each other that brought you together.

Start the process by having a special date night only with your spouse.

The point is to spend time together, holding hands and just being by yourselves with no pressures or outside influences. This should help you to learn to relax and enjoy each other once again.

Community Marriage Builders offers excellent workshops in communication and conflict resolution.

There may be a few couples in the session, but each couple works only within the confines of their relationship. There is no public sharing of information unless you choose to do so.

You both will learn new techniques and practice new skills with each other. There are almost a dozen new skills that you can learn and you will use the ones most comfortable for you.

When you learn new communications skills, it will help to talk about the issues you are facing. Talking and listening help you avoid resentment.

When resentment becomes a main focus, we tend to overlook the positive traits of our spouse. Learning healthy communication skills will enhance your marriage and your relationship. These skills also will be valuable when communicating with your grown children.

You also may want to reconsider going back to marriage counseling. This may help you realize that a 20-year investment is worth a little work for both of you. Your children and possible grandchildren deserve the legacy of a healthy marriage example. You and your spouse can make the second 20 years the best 20-plus!

Every person in a marriage has room for improvement because no one is perfect. Working on your marriage together is worth all the effort.

Ann Gries is executive director of Community Marriage Builders. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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