Enriching Relationships for a Lifetime   with Dr. Gary Oliver

Question

I'm newly married and have a lot of interests that don’t include my husband,but I always have to negotiate to get to do them. I know marriage means sacrifice—but sacrificing everything? I feel as if he wants me to give up all the things I enjoy! How can I do the things I love without feeling guilty or without starting a major war?

Answer

One of the most common mistakes many of us make is to incorrectly interpret what our partner doesn’t say and then function as if that assumption is truth. Has your husband clearly told you he wants you to give up all the things you enjoy, or is that your interpretation? Is it possible you’ve made some incorrect assumptions and jumped to the wrong conclusion? Has he really asked you to give up everything?

This may sound like a small first step, but overgeneralization and all-or-nothing thinking results in exaggeration and inflation of a problem, which leads to discouragement and frustration. The next step is to communicate to him in clear and unambiguous ways your specific concerns and let him know specifically what you’d like to see different. What are some things you enjoy doing together? What are some things you’d like to do by yourself? Start with one or two that would be most meaningful.

Marriage does involve sacrifice. The biggest adjustment for many couples is going from “I” thinking to “we” thinking. That doesn’t mean giving up our uniqueness. While it’s important to maintain some of your individual interests, it’s also vital that you and your husband discover things you enjoy doing together. It’s easy for some couples to function as “married singles” and expect their life to be basically the same as it was before they were married.

While marriage involves sacrifice, it also involves sharing, working, playing, and praying together. Why not try some new things? Get involved in some of his interests, or ask him to join you in some of yours. After our marriage I (Gary) went to a ballet and some cross stitch shows with Carrie, and Carrie learned how to mountain bike and scuba dive. Yes, we still have some of our unique areas of interest, but our marriage is much richer and stronger because of the mutual interests we cultivated.


Carrie Oliver, M.A., is an educator and a marriage and family counselor. Gary J. Oliver, Th.M., Ph.D. is executive director of The Center for Relationship Enrichment and Professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. The Olivers have co-authored Raising Sons . . . and Loving It! (Zondervan). Visit Carrie and Gary at www.liferelationships.com.

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