Reflections on long-term relationships

Couples in long-term relationships often become stuck in the mire of relationship ruts.

My husband and I will have been married for 35 years on Aug. 1. While we have come to accept many of our differences, we have also been challenged by "stuff" that we make up about each other.

When you understand the communication tool called MSU or "Making Stuff Up," you can dramatically reduce the stress of your long-term relational patterns.

"Making Stuff Up" addresses the opinions you have about your spouse or partner. When you live with someone for a long time, you develop expectations of their behavior based on your opinions. You get into relational trouble when you equate your opinions with reality.

You can identify these opinions if you ask yourself, "What is the label I put onto my partner?" That label is your particular brand of MSU.

For example, for years I had labeled my husband as "critical." Since I expected him to criticize me, I would approach conversations with my defenses high. This resulted in very dissatisfying conversations between us! I expected him to speak critically, so he couldn't show up in any other way.

I've heard couples tell of other labels they place on their partners, such as "jerk," "lazy," "controlling," or "sloppy." Thinking about your spouse in these ways keeps the drama going. Over the years, these thoughts create a mold and they cement your partner into it.

So how do you stop making stuff up? You begin by asking yourself, "If I'm making this up, what's the truth?"

When I looked at the truth about my husband, I knew that I had heard him say, many times, "I'm not meaning to criticize you!" Because I had an investment in the drama between us, I didn't believe the words that came out of his mouth. Those words amounted to the truth about the situation.

Since your MSU is about you and your upset, you have the power to stop it. To do so, you must acquire a willingness to give up the drama. Let go of it! Drama doesn't serve your relationship or your sense of well-being.

So, to stop your MSU, check it out. Ask if it's true. Then listen and believe what your partner tells you. I've learned to say to my husband, "I'm experiencing you as critical right now. Is that your intention?" Take responsibility to find out if your MSU is real or imagined.

Dwell on what you love about your spouse or partner. Form new, positive labels. What you focus on expands. If you pay attention to the negatives, that's what you get. If you keep your eyes on the positives, you can transform your relationship, even after years of strife and bitterness.

If you want support in shifting your MSU, give me a call.

Dr. Marta is a Life Coach in Communication practicing in the Verde Valley. To contact her or to schedule an appointment, call 928-451-9482.

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