Keeping a good marriage on track
Evelyn and Jim love each other deeply. Their short courtship overflowed with affection and long intimate conversation. A romantic honeymoon by the sea capped a beautiful wedding. Their marriage, off to a sound start, seemed destined for success. But as the sound of the wedding bells fade, Evelyn and Jim are troubled. They’re disappointed with each other.
Marriage is one of the most demanding commitments that men and women make in their adult lives. Initially, committed relationships arise out of passion and “good chemistry”. Intense feelings is the fuel of the marital machine during the first years. But as time passes, successful relationships demand more. They require generosity, patience, and maturity. Many adults are unprepared for these rigors. They lack the daily hand tools of a committed relationship—realistic expectations, communication skills, and the ability to resolve conflict.
Spouses have vivid images of an ideal relationship. Unfortunately, couples compare their daily married life with that picture. It rarely measures up. Disappointment inevitably follows. Married men and women imagine a relationship filled with day-to-day harmony. Yet regular conflict comes with living together. Typically, when partners do have differing expectations and needs, they include the big four—sex, money, children, and parents (or in-laws). Couples also find friction in smaller corners: like dirty socks behind the sofa or blanket hogging on cold autumn nights.
Here are some tips on maintaining a successful marriage over the long haul:
- Don’t walk away from quarrel or go to sleep angry. Most adults are ill-prepared to resolve conflict with each other. Commonly, men fight or take flight and women want to talk. When one partner feels hurt, unable to get their point across or simply frustrated, the temptation to walk away from the argument is great. This is the time to stick with it, no matter how long it takes. Agree to resolve arguments before going to sleep, or at least agree to disagree.
- Marriage has its ups and downs. Over the long run, most couples go through hard times that may seem to last forever, especially when you are living through them! Illness, financial hardships, midlife crises, and kids with problems strain and tax the bonds of good will and mutual support. During troubled times, both partners feel in need, but have little to give. Patience is required. But so is a generous spirit. Think about how you can help your partner.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Most couples know little about the fine art and craft of good communication. Instead, they depend on their virtuosity in “mindreading”—an ability that humans are notoriously bad at. Fine communication takes time and effort.
- Accept your partner. In marriage, as in other close relationships, what you see is what you get. It is true that opposites attract. It also true that many partners spend the first 10 years of their married life trying to change each other to be more like themselves. Adults cannot expect their spouse to meet all of their needs. Over the long haul, love is not enough. Acceptance, generosity of spirit, and mutual support is that fuel that keeps the home fires burning.
What are some of your suggestions?