A recent online story caught my eye in Reuters news. Warner Brothers surveyed 2,000 British adults in steady relationships and found that three years is the benchmark time when stress levels in marriage peak. The title of the article is "The 7-Year Itch Is Now the 3-Year Glitch". www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/08/us-relationships-itch-odd-idUSTRE7274LE20110308 The results showed that 67% of those surveyed said that the small irritations of marriage grow into major irritations at about the three-year mark. When couples first fall in love, the report said the participants received an average of three compliments a week from their partners. After three years, the average is once a week. Three in ten of those surveyed who had been in a relationship for five years or longer reported that they never receive any compliments from their partners.
Maybe our talk about customer service and passionate caring for each other in marriage doesn't resonate with you. That doubting voice inside your head is telling you that passionate care and sustainable love don't exist in your world and aren't likely to.
You've never experienced anything like what we are talking about and don't expect to. You may think we are hopelessly naive or must not lead very complicated lives.
You might think you would be willing to reciprocate if it actually led somewhere, but you can't imagine your partner going along with the idea. You think it would be silly to even try to discuss it.
What happens in business when we give and give and don't get anything back? Do we remain silent and let the bills pile up? No! We send collection letters and make collection calls.
Here's what to do to prepare a collection call to your spouse:
1) Think carefully about the outcome you want and structure your communication to work toward that goal. Talk as partners and show respect. ("Hey, Jerkoff...Get up off the couch and take out the trash!" may get attention but not cooperation.)
2) Be positive in your preparation and delivery. You want this to work! (And by positive, I don't mean "positive that it won't work!")
3) Start the talk with a headline and then give some supporting evidence.
4) Focus on the facts. Avoid a long rambling tale of everything that has happened in the last week.
5) Be flexible. Give a drop-dead ultimatum only if you are willing to accept that you may lose your customer.
It is always a risk to tell our spouse something we don't think they want to hear. But the marriage will be at greater risk if we don't try to make it work, and it can't work if we have expectations that are unspoken. If nothing else, the conversation will show the investment each of you has in your marriage. An even more important conversation may follow that opens up all kinds of opportunities for you to make your marriage better than ever. If you aren't willing to take the risk, you can pretty well predict that no one will reap a rewarding relationship, and the resentments will just keep piling up.
If we use the routine grind as an excuse to stop caring and loving, the passion that drew us together will surely fade away.