“We celebrated our fifth anniversary,” Jill told me. ”It’s a good time to look back. So I told my husband about the Five-Year Marriage. He gave me a weird look. Then, in an irritated voice I didn’t recognize, he said, ‘Are you crazy?’ And, with that, Jill dropped the subject.
However, what she told me later was, “He thought I was talking about getting a divorce, but I wasn’t. I just wanted to talk about our relationship.”
Of course, Jill wasn’t talking about getting a divorce. She wasn’t even thinking about it. She wanted, after five years, to evaluate their relationship. Her goal was to open a new door for problem-solving before any little problems got bigger. She also wanted to talk about the changes her growing business was making for both of them. Finally, she wanted to affirm that they share mostly good experiences, and figure out how to get more of them. Instead, once that conversation shut down, they talked about the food, their families, work…and stayed on the surface of their relationship.
Jill’s experience is common. It happens more than most women (and some men) want to admit. Then, when the marriage hit a breaking point for her, and she wants out, he’s flummoxed. The complaint goes something like this: “All of a sudden, she tells me she wants a divorce. Where did that come from?” And, when I hear that, I always wonder, “How many years did she try to tell you there was a problem and you didn’t want to hear her?”
Starting the Five-Year Marriage Conversation
Talking about and creating your own Five-Year Marriage isn’t something that happens in a single conversation. Instead, it’s a process.
Think of it like planting flowers in the spring. Very often the ground is hard and compact. It doesn’t absorb water. As a result, you can’t plant anything. You can’t even get a shovel into the dirt. If you want to plant something, first you have to “condition” the ground with water. Then, when it’s aerated, you can start planting.
The mind is much the same. New ideas – like The Five-Year Marriage – are like that too. You can’t plant in the dry, compacted soil of old ideas – like traditional marriage. The mind isn’t ready and the idea is immediately rejected.
So, even though you want to talk about The Five-Year Marriage, if your partner isn’t ready, you won’t get anywhere. So you need to think about how to best “prepare the soil.” Every time you do , you’re gently aerating the hard soil of a mind not used to the idea.
Here are some ways to help you:
- Give it the light touch. You don’t have to be “militant” about the idea. Make it an part of an “I’m curious” conversation.
- Read The Five-Year Marriage articles found on the Five-Year Marriage website. When you find one that you think your partner can connect to, bring it into your conversation. Say, “Get this! I was reading an article about this couple…” Explain why the article interested you and end with, “that’s something different…what do you think about it?” Whatever those thoughts are, see them as the beginning of a longer conversation, either now or in the future.
- Leave the book around where it’s visible – like the nightstand or coffee table. That is likely to generate questions, like “are you thinking about a divorce?” Good – any interest is better than none. Interest is the equivalent of a rain shower on dry dirt. It’s a conversation starter.
- Send out some feelers. If you see an article or interview about The Five-Year Marriage, share it. Ask questions like, “that makes me curious…how about you?”
- Point to somebody else. Find a couple in your circle – or a celebrity couple – who are having problems, or got divorced. Express your concern about how easily that can happen to any couple. Ask “what do you think was a problem for them?” Then ask, “how do you think a Five-Year Marriage would have helped them?” or “how do you think a Five-Year Marriage could have made a difference?
Traditional marriage, with its out-of-date construct, is ingrained in our brains. Most people like the idea of marriage, but even when they’re married for a long time, couples wish there was a better way. The Five-Year Marriage is it. When you give your Five-Year Marriage the light touch, and use examples that make sense to your partner, s/he will be more receptive. And you will both be happier for it!
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