Marriage: Growing it Loving, Lasting and Happier
By J. Marlando
Okay, I admit it. I am no psychologist. I am, however, the writer of many articles on the subject of relationships and marriage… with 35 happy years with the same woman to draw from. Not bad for a guy who once could have rightfully been named the worst candidate for a lasting marital relationship!
Unless one is a little off their rocker, or callous enough to marry for money, most couples marry with the hope of a happy, fun, loving and rewarding relationship. Yet, over fifty percent of marriages fail at least here in the United States. That's a lot of divorces and we cannot know how many married couples are living unhappily ever after.
I am here to tell you that there is definitely a way for you to grow your marriage as joyous and successful as you want it to be. Really! Well, there are exceptions. If you are married to a serious neurotic, or you have a husband that beats you or a wife that screams and hollers until she gets her way, you need to seek professional help. This article is only for folks who have at least average mental health and who are emotionally mature enough to have a working, productive marriage. The way I define emotional maturity is to say that you and your mate are ready and capable of not only loving another person but being loved by one.
Yes, I know that can sound a little weird, but there are men as well as women who just can't bring themselves to actually love another human being (unconditionally) and/or who can't deal with being loved either. Those problems are way over my head and typically demand a lot of therapy to unravel but they are worth mentioning here just in case the reader has a problem with loving or being loved.
This article addresses ordinary couples that are either soon to be married or are married already and want to make their marriage all it can be. Yes, there are secrets to a truly happy, productive marital relationship and I'm going to share them with you.
There's only one criterion. You must really and truly desire a happy, productive marriage.
That's right, there are virtually tons of people who are married and actually act against the success and joy of their relationship on conscious and/or unconscious levels; couples who are "crazy-makers' in the home environment and then wonder why their marriage isn't working. With this in mind, never ever make fixing your marriage something that your mate ought to do. Really, if you believe that your marital relationship needs fixing, can be made stronger, happier and so forth, put the task of repairing it on your own shoulders exclusively. For one thing don't even mention reading this article or the fact you're going to start attempting to improve your marital relationship. Really and I will tell you why on a future page.
Okay, with only this much in mind, we'll get started on making and maintaining a great marriage. Yes, it really can be done...easily.
Marriage in Overview
Even today a lot of (especially) newlyweds but also even those on their second or third go-around are somehow bedazzled by the myths of marriage. Indeed, one of the biggest myths is the one that talks about a husband and wife "being two peas in a pod."
There is not nor has their ever been a married couple that are so much alike they are just, well, two peas in a pod. I recently saw a TV commercial for one of those dating clubs wherein this beautiful woman says that she is searching for a mate who shares the same values. Well, while there are indeed married couples who enjoy some of the same things, they will NEVER enjoy them for the very same reasons or in the very same way. For an easy example, a husband and wife stand hand in hand in front of a beautiful rose garden; they say something like, aren't they beautiful… but how they each value the roses and what they mean by beautiful can be miles apart.
If you want a happier, more loving and productive marital relationship, the first thing you have to do is simply stay cognizant of the fact that you and your mate are of different genders (I am not talking about same-sex relationships here). Anyway, you and your mate are of different genders, you were raised with different standards, by different parents and probably in different environments. After all society, as a whole, treats males and females differently. And so, how we guys and gals each determine reality, much less maturity is never the same because we are distinct individuals. Nevertheless, when married we hope to have a peaceful, lasting and loving relationship (called marriage) while surviving and doing well in a hostile and demanding world.
The experts say that communication is the major trouble maker between couples, but I say that communication is typically a mere extension of money problems. Even wealthy people can have money problems, but those who endure daily financial struggles are, most often today's middle class and poorer citizens. It is probably fair to say that the mass majority are over their heads in credit card and/or other debt trying to make ends meet in a situation where cost of living and affordability simply do not match. And if there are children these kinds of financial challenges naturally escalate.
When a husband and wife are constantly under a financial strain they tend to make the gravest mistake of all--They begin to fight each other instead of their problems.
A major result of this is that sooner or later the stressed couple begin seeing one another as a symbol of their financial stress. Some people begin to "cheat" in order to escape the agony of having so little that they want....most people, however, display their disappointments in countless other ways like making themselves and their mates miserable; wearing long faces or constantly talking about upsets, all sure fire ways of creating misery. If such couples don't end up in divorce, they end up living unhappily anyway.
The smartest couples work out their budgets before marriage, so that they can anticipate lifestyle goals and establish realistic ways of reaching them. In regard to this, I have written countless times that there ought to be a course in marriage taught in school, with far less emphasis on sex education and more concentration on relationship education. This is especially true for young people wanting to know about mating and nesting. Understanding the demands and expectations of intimate friendship, they will be far more responsible and so ready when it comes to their call from nature to mate, nest and build a positive future with someone. Anyway, at least in overview, marriage is a demanding relationship even between two people who believed at the outset that they were perfectly matched and thus, compatible. All too often they discover that they ain't that much alike after all and thus, the work of togetherness begins. (Incidentally, even couples deeply in love must work at their relationship. To think differently is either to grow apart or fail altogether).
Cornerstones for Happiness
Without any doubt, most couples that wed do so believing they've found their soul mate. This is another myth to toss out the window. If an individual feels that he or she has married their soul mate one or the other is doing a lot of compromising.
Well, the reader might be saying, everyone knows that marriage takes compromising. And while this is true, a fly falls into the marital ointment. When a dating couple begin to get serious, they tend to fall in love with the other for being fully and wholly themselves. Yet, after marriage, this tends to change and husband and wife tends to start wanting the other to be more like themselves. How many times have we heard comments such as, but I always thought that we had so much in common...now I feel I've married a stranger.
Well, in many ways we have, and that's why so many marriages fail during the first three years which are sometimes called the period of adjustment.
Males and females are different just as husbands and wives are different. This is why John Gray wrote, "Women are from Venus and Men are from Mars." So, first of all, we need to fully grasp that how we SEE OUR world is how we PROJECT our world. and each of us project the world from the totality of our own experiences. I cannot repeat this enough times: Males and females have different worldviews at least most of the time and both views are equally valid...at least most of the time. But, again, even views that correspond between husband and wife will be valued differently by each but that's okay folks, that's how nature constructed us.
In light of the above, a husband and wife moving into a new home or apartment may both be excited and happy with the choice but they will not be excited and happy for the same reasons or to the same extent. For one thing, we ALL take our childhoods into the test of our lives with us, but that only begins the story of our differences as male and female individuals.
When we are dating, the chances are that we have said to our mate at least once or twice: "I love you for being you." A marriage can never be as happy and loving as it should be unless we are able to abandon our desire to have our mate being more like ourselves. One of the most naive thing that a husband or wife can say to the other is, why can't you see things my way? (Which they never can be of course at least without compromise. It is vital then to rekindle our loving them for being wholly and fully themselves. Actually, there is nothing more loving to say to our mate than, “I know all about you, and love you anyway...” This is the cornerstone of living happily ever after as a content and happy as a couple. Don't kid yourself, we all
The truth is that most people want their mate to do more than compromise, they want them to conform. They seldom ever do, of course, because they can't. Yes, we can all perform for our mates now and then, but we can never be consistently someone we're not. For example, we can go to a movie that we don't really want to see, attend a party we don't really want to attend, be cordial with others we don't necessarily care about all for the sake of our mate, but sooner or later the real personality shows through. We may tend to mope, be fast to anger or show our agitation in other ways.
The "trick" to avoiding these kinds of upsets is simple and effective. Avoid the ball and chain relationship. It is okay for wife and husband to do things on their own. A mature, marital relationship understands that everyone needs their space. Otherwise husband and wife begin feeling more condemned to their marriage than devoted to it.
If you always do things together, you end up with nothing to share and talk about. I love coming home from a day of golf and telling my wife all the ups, downs and turnaround I've had. Quite often when I play golf my wife will go play tennis or do some gardening. On those days, when we are together we'll pop open a bottle of wine, sit out on the patio and share our day with one another. Sharing is part of a joyful relationship! My wife, for example, loves going to the movies. I don't like sitting through a movie but I love it when she comes home and shares her experience with me. And yes, of course, we do stuff together too, just not all the time. We try not to impose on one another and we want each other to have a good, fun time.
A big crazy-maker in far too many marriages is that the conversation between couples can be mostly about problems and upsets. One of the worst things a married person can say to their mate is, "Can't we ever talk about anything but the bills or what we need and don't have." This is probably a major reason why wives and husbands "step out" or retreats into long silences. Why step out? That pretty or handsome stranger talks about positive things; goals and ambitions sharing dreams instead of conditions.
My wife and I have a great way of keeping negative talk to a minimum between us. If one or the other says, "Okay, I've got it," we have a rule to stop yapping about it then and there. I mean how many ways can you say stuff like the car needs tires, we're short on the bills, and Sally needs braces or no vacation for us this year?
What my wife and I are very good at is taking the time to encourage each other even in the midst of troubles.
Another real trouble-maker is for husband and wife to forever make judgment values. Oh, Jack can't you ever get anything right...Oh Jill, why can't you ever learn, and so forth. Hey, no one is perfect, right? This is why I've always loved David Viscott. He tells us that, "A relationship should be a place where two people share the experience of helping each other become more than they were when the relationship started."
Creating Positive Change
As I said up front, if you want to better your marriage, make it happier, more loving and productive, do not make it something that your mate should do or...even be involved in. If you do, you are only asking for more problems than you already have. Here's what Dr. Melvyn Kinder and Dr. Connell Cowan have to say on the same topic:
"The only effective method of changing the marriage system
is an internal and personal one which is quite unrelated
to demanding change in your partner's conduct. Most people
can't bear the thought of having to give up pushing their
mate to be different even though in their hearts they know
their pushing has consistently met with failure. We're afraid
that if we don't quit pushing, nothing will happen and we will
be forever trapper in a static, hopeless state of vague
disenchantment. But to the contrary, when we abandon useless
attempts to change out mate and instead focus on ourselves,
changes surprisingly and automatically begin to occur in
the marriage system."
Later, these doctors tell us that, "Change is possible but it will never happen so long as you make it something your mate should be doing."
It would suit the sincere reader to reread the above two paragraphs so the message truly sinks in. If for example, the reader desires for his or her marriage to be:
Then you must become the one who become these attributes; those qualities that you desire for your marriage and so your marital relationship.
You can easily drop a fly in all this matrimonial ointment, however. One big problem emerges if you expect to see immediate changes in your mate. How about self-serving responses such as the following egocentric phrases:
Don't you see what I'm doing for our marriage?
I've been really trying and you're just not responding.
Well, I've been trying to change but if you don't, just forget it.
Looks like no matter how much I do for us I never even get a thanks.
These kinds of "woe-is-me" responses will NEVER help your marriage grow but rather will only serve to make your marital relationship more brittle and unhappy. If you have the courage to become consciously more loving or more tolerant or more encouraging, it is essential that you adopt these attributes WITHOUT seeking ANYTHING back from your mate; and this includes acknowledgement. Indeed, you MUST practice these positive changes for your own sake and for no other reason. If you do, you will begin to see positive changes in your marriage that naturally unfold.
Returning to Kinder and Cowan for a moment, they give us a vital insight that all committed couples need in order to strengthen and give greater substance to their marital relationship. In fact, knowing only this much can improve any marriage dramatically. They tell us "Marriage was never meant to be the antidote to personal difficulties or dissatisfaction, yet for most of us it assumes that position in our lives."
When you can clearly and absolutely accept the truth, that it is NOT your mate’s job to make you happy or give you contentment, but rather THAT THESE RESPONSIBILITIES ARE ALL YOURS AND...YOURS ALONE.
MODERN MARRIAGE and MONEY
Modern marriage, at least in many ways, is not the same as it was even four or five decades ago. A half century ago roles were well defined for men and women; husbands made the living and wives tended to the home and children. Today those roles have been made "fuzzy" and mostly have been diminished. Indeed, ever since the 70s more and more emphasis has been put on wives as equal providers in the home. While there is nothing wrong with a woman (a wife) wanting her own career or job, what I see as a great injustice are the economic changes that have necessitated the two-income family.
I "love" those who claim that the cost of living is the same as it always was when it comes to the spending power of the consumer. For example, a $25.00 item purchased in 1930 would cost a whopping $354.90 today. This is the simple answer since cost of labor and so forth is left out of the calculation. In 1930, however, there was a lot less to buy and fewer mandatory expenses such as insurances and the high cost of utilities and what has become necessities, such as television, the, cars, gasoline and higher taxation, etc. Indeed, a doctor in those days earned around $3,350.00 per year...A construction worker a little under $1,000 a year and a congressman a little over $8,400.00.
Note that back then there was not such a wide gap between the haves and have-nots as there is today. (And that gap is rap[idly growing) Today, for example, the average doctor earns between $200,000 and $500,000 a year, a member of congress earns right around $178,000 before perks while an average construction worker only earn between $33,000 and $58,000 a year. And so, there are now around 78 million Americans living in food insecure households. The two major reasons why so many Americans endure financial struggle are, first, that the U.S. Treasury turned its right to mint money to the Federal Reserve which, by the way, is not a government agency at all but a private bank cartel. Because of the Federal Reserve (a rather inapt name to say the least) we are taxed and taxed so that we are essentially condemned to be enslaved by the bankers. The entire system is constructed to support poverty for the many and secure wealth for the few. This is why the axiom proves true: the poor really do get poorer and the rich richer. It simply is not the competitive playing field that we have been indoctrinated to believe that it is.
The foregoing exposes major reasons why such vast numbers of people are over their heads in credit card debt and endure financial struggle, and financial struggle is at the cornerstone of most marital problems. As a result, we are told that the two-income couple simply overspends and foolishly choose to go deeply in debt. While this is true in a few situations, the truth is that the system itself pushes most people into disabling debt just to get by on. And, it is not at all far-fetched to say the American Dream is coming to an abrupt end; at least for the many.
I have chosen to write about this because married couples tend to take their financial frustrations out on each other. Indeed, they BLAME themselves and so each other for being at the root of their financial struggle. In fact, I suggest that over 90% of why marriages fail are the ups and downs of financial challenges. And those challenges escalate when couples have children.
(In view of the above, it is wisest for couples today to sit down and construct a financial plan before marriage. And, it is essential for people already married to stop fighting each other and to start fighting their financial problems. If married couples can find the discipline to only do this much and stay with their plan, family breakups will quickly be reduced as will the divorce rate).
An added note: Unless the reader of this article is wealthy or has blown a fortune or has a very high paying job and has foolishly overspent, the average working couple deeply in debt and enduring financial pressures should not blame themselves entirely for their economic challenges. As I have said in the above, the system has played a major role in making the problems because it is not structured to give financial substance or stability to the poorer or middle class citizen. It is structured to protect the wealthy and those folks in the higher brackets of income. The consistent lie that runs deeply in our political engineering and social memes is that poverty is the fault of the poor who simply do not work hard enough to lift themselves up from their impoverishment. This malarkey is a major reason why couples blame themselves and each other for financial struggle. Well, while couples may well be at some fault, they are, at the same time, victims of an economical system that clearly is aloof from them. And so, they should stop fighting each other and start planning how to meet their short and long term financial goals...under the circumstances.
The couple that plans together really can learn to fight the problems as opposed to each other.
Marriage is not easy because life itself is difficult for most of us. A happy, loving and hopeful marriage can only persist if the couple makes a conscientious effort to be happy, loving and hopeful. This takes remembering that males and females live in fundamentally different realities, and they have their own unique life experiences as well as gender-driven personalities. On the other hand, what also should be remembered is the sameness of couples. After all, as men and women, out tears are ever as salty, our fears ever as real, our dreams ever as important and our laughter just as valuable to one as to the other. And, perhaps most importantly, it is essential to remember what Karl Menninger taught: "It is part of the function of marriage for the partners to supply each other that amount of support and encouragement which is necessary to assuage the wounds and frustration encountered in the daily life of each.
When I used to lecture these topics a great many people used to say, isn't there just a simple secret of making a happy marriage. Mostly this question was asked in a light tone. That is, no one really expected me to answer it. I did however. And the bottom line answer to having a great, last and loving marriage is really quite simple: Just remember always to be nice to each other.
Suggested further reading
Gray, John * Men, omen and Relationships * Beyond words
Jung, C.G. * The Basic Writings of C.G. Jung
Kinder, Dr. Melvyn and Dr, Connell Cowan * Signet
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