In the March newsletter from the Association for Couples in Marriage Enrichment (ACME), Gerald and Barbara Brunworth have an interesting article on "Remodeling Long-Term Relationships." They note that after a home has been lived in for several years there is usually a need for remodeling. Appliances become outdated or malfunction. And walls seem less bright than they were.
Not everyone, however, needs to move out of the house to make the environment more pleasing. Some changes simply have to be made. Barbara and Gerald Brunworth likewise suggest that marriages may have to be restructured after several years. They note: "Initially, we entered our roles as husband and wife with excitement. We made relationships adjustment for career goals toward which we were striving. Then we moved from coupleness to the expanded demands of parenting and bought a house in which to raise our family. Now our children have moved into their own homes."The Brunworths further suggest that after several years of marriage many couples' original goals, dreams and tasks have been accomplished. In the process, however, there has usually been some wear and tear on the relationship due to occupational pursuits, financial strains, parental demands, and perhaps illness of various kinds.
Once the children have left home, or are in the process of so doing, life becomes a little less hectic on the married couple, and Barbara and Gerald suggest the time is ripe to reorient in the marriage. Of their own marriage, they write, "as a young couple, we could not imagine ourselves at age 50 and beyond. Visualizing children leaving home and retirement together were only vague images. For those of us who have now `gained the silver and are going for the gold,' we realize that there may be as many years of marriage ahead as behind. It is time to remodel!"
The couple suggest that we need to throw out some "old stuff" - outdated task assignments, such as who does what for whom, old hurts and angers, and old habit patterns. These can be replaced by renewed effort in exercising new choices and self-determination in marital design. What kind of marriage do we want in the years ahead? Are there some needed repairs in the foundation? Do we need to close up some spaces or add some new dimensions? Or, do we just want to spruce things up?
The Brunsworths suggested couples in mid-life do the following three things:
1. Discuss together the ingredients of the cement that has held your marriage together over the years. What things have been the foundation of your relationship?
2. Each write your response to the following: "I believe our relationship would benefit from . . . ."
3. Talk together about your dreams and desire for the future. Identify specific activities that could give "freshness" to your marriage. Continue to build on the foundation you now have but add new "cement" to bond you together.
If you would like to receive the monthly newsletter from ACME, write to MARRIAGE ENRICHMENT, P.O. Box 10596, Winston-Salem, NC 27108, or phone them at 1-800-634-8325. Cost, which includes membership, is $30 a year.