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Price: How to properly care for a marriage

Ron Price
Special to The Daily Times
Ron Price

Marriage is a living, breathing organism. That may not be the most romantic, or even scientific, definition you have ever heard, but I believe it to be true. And, like all living things, marriages can get sick if not properly cared for. That’s the point of our column today, guest written by Dan Trathen.

I first learned of Trathen through his book "A Lasting Promise," co-written with Scott Stanley, another former guest columnist. Trathen is a licensed clinical psychologist, international co-author and national speaker. He has a counseling practice in Parker. Colo., outside of Denver, Colo. Trathen has such a formidable reputation for helping marriages that several couples in our area have made the trip north to benefit from his assistance.

You can learn more about Trathen and his practice at his website. I’m also please to say that he will be my guest on "TWOgether as ONE" at 6 p.m. Monday on KLJH 107.1FM.

Dan Trathen

Protecting your marriage from the negatives

Country living has its pluses and minuses. Our first country home came complete with several pluses and a septic tank and a well.  One spring day, I caught the familiar smell of "sewer gas." Several days later, the odor returned, accompanied by liquid covering the septic tank lid. A few weeks later, I flushed the toilet and it came up in the bathtub. My concern was that the septic system would back up into the 25-feet deep "point well" and make it toxic.

Unfortunately, this is a similar process to what happens in marriage. Problems that do not get resolved store up and infect the good aspects of a relationship. Unresolved anger can lead to resentment that can lead to bitterness. What are the signs of this progression polluting the life giving "well" of marriage? Here are two signs of marital toxicity and what we can do about it in order to have a better smelling marriage.

The first sign is when we name call, blame each other or judge one another. This becomes evident through using labels like, "you’re just like your father or mother," "you always say things are going to get better"  or "you never give me compliments." These can be strong forms of invalidation that question our integrity and character. Statements like, "you’re a slob," rather than, "It bothers me when you throw your socks on the floor at night and do not pick them up" only leads to further anger and defensiveness.  

The second sign is making a mountain out of a molehill. When the behavior pattern of the other is so frustrating that we tend to say things like, "you never help around the house," "you never initiate asking me out on a date," "I always have to do all the planning" or "you always want to spend time with your friends, but never want to spend time with me." Communication between couples at this level is emotionally loaded and is likely to lead to more reactivity through behaviors like escalation, invalidation, negative interpretation or withdrawal and avoidance.

A married couple is a team and even though some problems in marriage are due to one or the other of us, we each have responsibility in the marital problems we face. Intentionally seek to respond versus react. All couples need to be able to protect their relationship from the "negative" and express concerns and issues constructively.

Here are a few suggestions in protecting the "well" of marriage. Be respectful, constructive and polite. It is sad, but true that we are least polite with those we know best. Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Seek to keep in mind the bigger picture of your relationship and what you appreciate about each other. It is always more productive to be to our partner what we want them to be to us. At the end of the day, it is love that wins out and helps our relationship experience sweeter well water.

How far is your septic tank from your well? We are the ones who have to abide in and enforce our own relationship codes to protect ourselves from a toxic relationship and experience the sweetness of love in marriage. The takeaway for all of us is that daily prevention keeps the negative aspects of relationship from infecting what we really say we want — to be respected, trusted and truly loved.

Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.