I live with my best friend. His name is Anthony and well, he's my husband. Believe me when I tell you we weren't always as close. You can ask him and he'll tell you that I'm not the easiest woman to live with. (Our son, Ryan, will vouch for him). However, I've been changing and so has Anthony. We both started taking responsibility for our own behavior. (What a novel idea, right?) Nevertheless, when we started doing that and becoming honest with each other- our relationship changed.
In my line of work, I hear about many marriages on the brink of divorce. Some of the problems that are shared are similar to what Anthony and I experienced early in our marriage. Let me give some examples: putting the other spouse down, criticism, etc.
What made the difference?
Why can I sincerely say he's my best friend?
Honesty. Truth. Sincerity.
I'm not talking about just with the other person, but with you. How many times have we gotten in a fight with our spouse over something when it really was about something else? We yell at our spouse for not helping around the house but we really are yelling at him or her because we don't feel respected or loved. We feel threatened by some past fear (abandonment, lack of security, lack of significance, etc) and we get in a fight. Instead, if both people could actually say what is going on, then intimacy could blossom. It takes two people willing to get past their own fears and hang-ups to actually be real with each other.
Here's a self-test of how you are communicating with your partner. Dr. John Gottman (2007) calls it the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Test because if you score more than two true items, there is a chance your marriage is heading for the end. You and your spouse should take the test and answer true or false.
When We Discuss our Issues...
I have to defend myself because the charges against me are so unfair.
I often feel unappreciated by my partner.
My partner doesn't face issues responsibly and maturely.
I am just not guilty of many of the things I am accused of.
My partner has a lot of trouble being rational and logical.
We keep hurting each other whenever we discuss our core issues.
My partner has a long list of basically unreasonable demands.
I don't feel respected when we disagree.
My partner often acts in a selfish manner.
When we discuss our issues, my partner acts as if I am totally wrong and he/she is totally right.
This test may be an eye opener for you (or your spouse). Yet, there is hope. Change CAN happen. Are you ready? It starts with you...start getting real.
Gottman, J. & Schwartz Gottman, J. (2007). And Baby Makes Three. NY, NY: Three Rivers Press.