Several times this week I’ve heard someone say, “My, how time flies.”

It’s a common cliché and certainly is the truth. Time flies as days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, month to seasons and seasons to years.

All the while, you are in relationships. Some of your relationships have lasted a lifetime. Some have lasted a few years and perhaps some are relatively new. Your marriage, however is a special relationship and deserves special attention. This relationship, more than others, deserves special treatment so it can stand the test of time. This relationship, more than others, deserves a focus on the special moments that can be woven together to strengthen it.

As I sat recently with a couple at The Marriage Recovery Center, I couldn’t help wondering about the truth that time flies, and what should be done during those flying months and years to ensure you are not missing opportunities. Time must be treated as a special commodity and during this time—these special moments that you have-- you must enjoy every day, together!

This particular couple was typical of most that come to see me. Married thirteen years, Carrie and Stephen were at odds with each other when they arrived. Actually, they were more than at odds—they didn’t enjoy each other’s company at all. They came to The Marriage Recovery Center “as a last ditch effort to save things.”

While thankful they had found our Center, and certainly hopeful for them, I wondered about many of the thirteen years that they said they had spent bickering. While much of our work focuses on helping couples work through conflict, an equally important skill is learning how to truly enjoy a mate. After listening to their history of conflict, which took several hours, I broached the following question:

“What do you two do to enjoy each other?” I asked.

Both seemed incredulous that I might ask such a question, given that they made it clear they had been fighting for years.

“We don’t enjoy each other,” Stephen said solemnly. “She doesn’t really want to be around me. I guess she’s so mad at me most of the time that we pretty much do our own thing.”

I looked over at Carrie who was nodding her head.

“I hate to say it, but he’s right,” she said. “I am upset with him so much of the time that I don’t care to spend much time with him.”

“Didn’t I tell you?” he said sarcastically.

I continued to press.

“Folks, I understand you have problems needing to be addressed,” I said, “and we will do that. But, there are still reasons to celebrate each other. There are parts of every person, every day, that can be appreciated.”

They both stopped and considered what I was saying. This seemed to be a concept they had not fully explored. Conflict, after all, had become their primary focus.

I had already heard of the various complaints both had about each other—some very legitimate reasons to not feel close. Yet, in spite of the issues that had separated them, and the issues that separate many couples, I believe efforts must be made to make the okay times good and the good times better. Like seeds in the ground needing fertilizer, small niceties between a couple must be reinforced and appreciated.

Here are a few additional considerations on this topic: 

First, every person has qualities that can be appreciated. While you may legitimately be upset with your mate, you can still find aspects about your mate to appreciate and value. Success in marriage requires that you discover ways to appreciate your mate, even in the midst of conflict. We must remember, even in the midst of conflict and concern, that we are children of God and worthy of respect and dignity.

Second, enjoy every day together. If you are fortunate enough to be married to someone you love, you’re fortunate indeed. Don’t spend too much time focusing on the weaknesses in your marriage, but rather focus on the strengths. Find something about every day to celebrate. Reflect on what your mate has done that you appreciate, and hold those moments dear. Considering these moments will cause you to see your mate in a more favorable light.

Third, enjoying your mate will likely cause them to enjoy you. Yes, just as hurtful emotions are contagious, so are joyful emotions. When we celebrate our mate they are likely to celebrate us. When we enjoy others, they enjoy us. This is a simple but profound truth of relating. As you enjoy your mate, you will likely bring out their favorable qualities. In this sense you actually have some control over the quality of your marriage.

Fourth, contain your conflict. When conflict occurs, which it will inevitably do, make an agreement to keep it limited. Don’t allow it to ruin your day. Don’t allow the conflict to spill over into every aspect of your relationship. Contain it. Limit it. Keep it in perspective.  

Finally, make an agreement with your mate that you will practice enjoying each other every day. As you enjoy him he will enjoy you. As you enjoy her she will enjoy you. One good comment from you will likely lead to a positive response you’re your mate. Agree together to celebrate each other and to find parts of every day to enjoy together.

mrc2Which is better, connection or separation? The choice is easy. Do you long for caring connection? We are here to help. Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles.  Please send responses to me at drdavid@marriagerecoverycenter.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.

Publication date: January 20, 2014