Thursday, November 24, 2016

How to Sustain a Loving Marriage

With nearly one in every two marriages ending in divorce, concerned spouses want to know what they can do to increase the odds of their marriage surviving. How to have a successful marriage remains one of the most popular topics for magazine articles, books, television talk shows, and discussions between friends.
Most people enter marriage with many unvoiced expectations of the other partner and about what it means to be married. A wife may think that her husband doesn't love her if he doesn't remember to give her a gift on the anniversary date of when they met. A husband may feel unloved when his wife is too busy to sit by him when he's watching his favorite television shows.
In reality, these behaviors may have nothing at all to do with whether love is present in the marriage or not. As an anonymous author stated, "Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to doesn't mean they don't love you the best way they know how."
If you have definite expectations and you also happen to be a "historian," the stage is set for a lengthy listing of all of your partner's faults whenever you are upset. The current problems never get resolved because of all the "baggage" from the past that is brought into the dispute. The cataloging of past wrongs distracts you from the present issues, adds confusion, and can feel overwhelming.
"One of the keys to happiness," observed Rita Mae Brown, "is a bad memory." Of course, if important issues have been buried in the relationship and never addressed, it is important to do so, and this is often best accomplished with the help of a marriage counselor.
Once you begin lying or covering up, no matter how minor it is, you are hurting your relationship. It is easy to rationalize to yourself that a "little white lie" is for the other person's good, but when you stop being completely honest, you are affecting the quality of the intimacy in the marriage.
Telling lies requires energy to remember what you have said, to whom, and when. Often, one lie seems to lead to another as you keep trying to cover yourself. If the truth comes out later, then trust is damaged.
A story is told about a wife hitting her husband on the head with a frying pan. "What's that for?" he asks. She replies, "That was for the piece of paper in your pants pocket with the name Mary Lou written on it." After he responds that Mary Lou was the name of one of the horses he had bet on recently, she apologizes.
Three days later when he's again sitting in his chair reading, she knocks him out cold with the frying pan. When he comes to, he asks, "What the heck was that for?" She responds, "Your horse phoned." The only way to preserve trust in marriage is to commit to being totally and completely honest at all times, even when it is difficult and uncomfortable to tell the truth.
In successful marriages, spouses honor the natural rhythms and cycles of the relationship, knowing that at certain times, they will feel closer to each other, and that at other times, there will be more distance in their dance of intimacy. They experience the truth of the words by Mignon McLaughlin, "A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person." There is total commitment in every way to the marriage and to the other partner, and preserving the romance is a priority for both.
Partners in successful, loving marriages want the best for the other partner and want to be supportive of that person's needs, dreams, and goals. They want to show their love and appreciation for the other person in as many ways as they possibly can.
Even when they disagree or have substantial conflict, they want to do everything they can to protect the quality of the intimacy and the fabric of the relationship. They know that everything they say and everything they do has an important impact on the relationship.
Marriage provides an opportunity for you to reach inside yourself and to locate your places of deepest wounding that need healing. Everyone has defenses, ways of shutting down or shutting others out when they feel hurt, angry, or fearful. These defenses can block your ability to experience deep intimacy with another.
According to the poet Rumi, "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." As always, the road to self-growth and emotional health leads to examining your own behavior and how you need to change, instead of focusing on how your partner should change.
There is no escape from doing your own inner work during the course of the marriage. To make real headway toward creating a loving marriage, focus on how you can be more loving and how you need to grow, instead of being distracted by what you perceive your partner's faults to be.

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