Marriage Couples in Overview
There is just no doubt about it marriage is often a difficult challenge for couples—younger and older. Indeed, as most everyone knows, 50% end up in divorce and we do not know the statistic of how many of the remaining 50% live only “aptly” ever after.
When I was a young man I tossed my first marriage to the wayside—I had no business being married at the time; I was still, as they say, sowing my wild oats and anyway, marriage scared me…well, serious relationships did. It’s too long of a story to tell but by the time I was 14, I lived through 4 or 5 divorces and remarriages by my own parents. They were a couple that eventually lived together all their lives but they were the crack in the marital egg during all of my childhood. As a result I knew a lot about couples living aptly ever after.
When I finally reached a juncture in my life when I could let my early experiences go and stop reliving my parents’ relationship and begin living my own, I met a woman, fell in love and married. That was well over thirty years ago and we are still as happily married as we were on our wedding day. We’ve only had two or three serious arguments over all these years and not many disagreements at all. I am not saying that we don’t have differences—we have plenty—but we seldom ever argue over them but rather we try to see (and so understand) one another’s point of view. Neither one of us try to base our compatibility on conformity. We are two different people, after all, with different values that have grown out of different experiences.
I started writing about marriage and relationships some 25years ago. I wrote a little book with title, “Tomorrows to Come” published by Abbey Press and later did a series of articles for “House Calls,” a magazine I worked for. I think my (personal) motivation was that I was so excited about having a great marriage of my own that I wanted to share its “secrets” with everyone else. After all, once upon a time, I had been the poster boy for being the world’s worst candidate for marriage.
Are there so-called “secrets” to having a happy, fun marriage? There is, in that, so many married couples do not truly know how to be married. For one thing, every single one of us brings our childhood experiences into the relationship with us. The child within invariably wants to have its own way and it wants what it wants when it wants it. And, when life treats us “mean” we want to run to our parents for comfort and safety. When our spouses do not serve to “heal the wounds of our lives” we feel abandoned and disappointed at one level of consciousness or another. That is, no matter what the dispute is obviously about, the underlying anger is typically because our mates are not taking away the pain and making us happy. Let’s say, we can’t pay our bills or we have to buy something that we can’t afford. On a deeply psychological level or sometimes on the surface of our thinking we BLAME our mates for the problems in our lives. If it weren’t for him or her, I wouldn’t be in this mess.
In regard to this Doctors Kinder and Cowen tell us, “The truth is, it is a whole lot easier to blame somebody else for something that’s not quite right than it is to look inside and realize that we are the only ones who ultimately can change our experiences.”
With this in mind, we will explore creating a lasting, happy and…fun marital relationship. I will tell you, the reader, that there are definitely three major, very simple “secrets” to accomplish these positive goals and I will share them with you in this article. (I call them secrets because whenever I share them with a married couple it seems to give them a “ah-ha” moment; that kind of look that spreads discovery across the face. If you don’t already know these “secrets” I hope your Eureka moment is just as inspirational).
Why Most Marriages AREN’T Very Happy—Secret One
When we were dating our mates our relationship with them was, beyond all else, “fun.” That is, we talked about “fun” things, we did fun things together. Well, obviously, we had no obligations or serious responsibilities to share. We were free to simply “play” together and as a result the child within both of you was extremely content and happy. And, don’t kid yourself, it doesn’t matter if you are 20 years old reading this or 50 years old, you are still an extension of your childhood self. You are still responding to the world from the experiences of your childhood and no matter whom you are, when you walk down the aisle to wed, you are toting your childhood past with you and…so is your mate.
There are always exceptions of course but quite often husbands and wives will equate their mate’s maturity by how much they agree with their set of values. In fact, this is a basis for countless divorces since many husbands and wives are so IMMATURE that they create a “my way or the highway” alternative in the relationship. Nevertheless, the truth is that we males and females hold different values and worldviews because we are (surprise) different genders, with different purposes, given us by both culture and nature to fulfill. Indeed, the question that is so often asked by husbands and wives, why can’t you just be more like me has such an apparent answer that we need not discuss it.
First of all, as we all know, when we are dating we do not share any (real) responsibilities together. A major reason couples marry is to grow their partnership through acquisitions along with financial gain. The ultimate aim of marriage after all is security and comfort. Unless one or both in a martial relationship is wealthy “security” and “comfort” does not usually come easily. But what about happiness some reader asks. It is imperative that the reader STOPS thinking about marriage except as a business partnership. Except in the mythology of marriage, marriage has NEVER been about love, sex or happiness. The marital relationship is about those pleasures.
I have written about all this before but the major reason I am covering these topics here is to tell the interested reader that SECRET ONE is consciously being able to SEPARATE the partnership’s problems and challenges with the relationship’s problems and challenges. For example, if husband takes his weekly paycheck and blows it at the track that is NOT a relationship problem. That is a partnership problem. If wife says to the husband, I don’t like you very much anymore that is a relationship problem.
If you can’t pay your rent or car payment, your partnership is failing—not your relationship.
If you identify your mate and/or your relationship with your credit card debt, your leaky sink, the bald tires on your car, the dirty dishes, the overgrown lawn or anything else that belong to the aspect of your marital partnership, you will either live in unhappiness or end up in a divorce court.
For an example, let’s say that the wife or husband goes out and charges a $5,000 dollar toy of some kind that is not only foolish to buy but unaffordable. You know, husband shows up with a motorcycle he doesn’t need or wife buys a dining room table or expensive drapes that she desires. These are partnership problems and need to be approached OBJECTIVELY just as business people approach business problems. (I remember some years ago I had a partner in the theater business and she refused to pay for a necessary license the city was asking us to obtain because of some ordinance. Her stubborn refusal to simply pay the fee nearly cost us the theater and I was greatly angered by her choice to refuse to comply with the city. I hollered and banged my fist and all of that but when our meeting was over we went out to dinner together and talked about other things. We left our business problems behind us which we both realized were OUTSIDE our relationship).
My wife and I will sometimes talk about our challenges and struggles for hours but once the conversation is over, we leave with whatever conclusions we’ve made as partners and return to our relationship. This brings us to “secret” two.
Why So Many Relationships Turn Sour—Secret Two
All Married couples have differences beyond the apparent. My wife, for example, has values that I don’t and I have values that she doesn’t have. The view that some married couples are two peas in a pod is pure mythology—couples who get along, in a word, famously compromise when it comes to one another’s whims, idiosyncrasies and personality quirks—we ALL have them!
I do things that drive my wife, as they say, nuts. She does a few things that drive me up a wall too. We never harp on those things or dwell on them. Hey, we’re both imperfect, okay?
Your mate is imperfect too, just like you are. Your objective is not to change him or her—you will never truly have a great marriage until you virtually know everything there is to know about one another and love each other anyway. And anyway, if you really desire positive change in your marriage START WITH YOU!
Returning to Kinder and Cowan for a moment, they teach us that as long as we think “change” is something our mate should do, we will fail at any attempt to improve our marriage.
Trust is the major cohesive factor for all marriages. Without trust there can be no honest communication…no free and fun sexuality…no contentment in either the marital partnership or relationship,
When we think of trust, our minds typically go to extramarital affairs, cheating and so forth. Well certainly all sincere married folks want to feel secure in the exclusiveness of their intimacies. But romantic/sexual devotion is NOT the exclusive path to marital trust.
Trust outside the bedroom door begins with how we treat one another. If we name call and belittle one another during arguments and/or times of anger, disappointment or frustration, we create DISTRUST .
Even if married couples choose to forgive each other after a serious “fight” and celebrate the renewed togetherness in the bedroom. The unconscious mind will not have forgotten the names and/or belittlement that occurred earlier or even weeks or months or years before.
I am not suggesting that husbands and wives never “blow off steam,” so to speak. As we all know there are plenty of crazy-makers in life to drive us all up a wall, traffic to tragedy. And, we are all living in the same world of uncertainties so pressures build and sometimes the least little thing can set us off. Okay, that’s a given but far too many couples fall into the habit of taking the world out on each other.
Home and marital togetherness is meant to be a refuge from the wounds of everyday life not an extension of them.
I have quoted Karl Menninger’s message a lot over the years because it is so important for married couples to grasp it and consciously give it human action. He says, “It is part of the function of marriage for the partners to supply to each other that amount of support and encouragement which is necessary to assuage the wounds and frustrations encountered is the daily lives of each.”
This gives rise to a different challenge for couples. Each individual as well as each gender responds to the world differently—we all have our particular values and stress levels. I have literally heard a married man tell his wife that she was “stupid” for feeling a certain way. To make such a judgment value is so mindless that one can only shake his or her head—yet, this happens between a great many couples.
For either husband or wife to assume that their values are more valuable or more intelligent or sounder than their mates is to subordinate the other with a self-appointed superiority, a real trouble maker in any marriages.
This brings us to the second “secret.” It is the most apparent and simplest path to having a happy, fun and contented relationship and yet very…very few married couples abide by it. And the secret is: remember to be nice to each other.
That’s right this is something that far too many married people forget—to simply be nice to each other. Some married people treat strangers better, kinder and with more understanding than they do their own mates. Every day I give thought to how I can make my wife’s day a little “nicer,” and my wife is forever doing things that uplift my day. This too is what the intimacy of married life is all about.
On the other hand it is absolutely NOT your mate’s responsibility to “make you happy.” That is such a trouble-maker for so many couples. Indeed, a Cowan and Kinder so cleverly point out—Marriage was never meant to be the antidote to personal difficulties or dissatisfactions.
Getting Along—Secret Three
When we are single, we are typically only responsible for ourselves and that can be described as freedom. We go and come as we please, we do what we please—once we are grown up we no longer have to mind our parents or anyone for that matter. Most couples believe that they have to give up this freedom and surrender it to their mates. This too is (or can be) a major trouble-maker in marriage. Life is difficult and yes, enslaving enough without making marriage one more link in the chain event of daily life.
The idea that married people must give up their own interests for interests called “ours” is far more destructive to the relationship than constructive. What is normal is for husbands and wives to have activities that THEY enjoy and activities that they each enjoy individually.
One of the major conditions that make dating so much fun is finding out what the other has been doing to enjoy themselves. If married couples only do things together, they have too little to talk about since the “sharing” has occurred in human action. Wives who resent their husbands Sunday’s golf game and husbands who resent their wives Sunday tennis game or having lunch with girlfriends create vast emotional distances between each other.
It is really okay for husbands to stay home with the kids while wife does something just for the enjoyment of it. It is really okay for wife to wash the car while husband is busy doing something that he enjoys doing. Great marital conversations begin with questions like, how did your game go…how’s your project going…what did you do today and so forth. Wanting our mates to enjoy their individual lives is a major way of being NICE to them and…makes doing and being together a whole lot happier too.
A gigantic problem for countless married folks is, indeed, communication. For one thing, communicating most typically is a string of problems—bills, obligations, financial worries and all the negative stuff that nearly all of us endure. The trouble is that if all or mostly what we talk about are the problems, pretty soon couples just don’t want to talk to each other anymore.
During the dating/mating period of the relationship you enjoyed each other’s company because it was generally positive, fun and uplifting. You not only shared your realities but you cared about how each other “felt” about life and living it. You were able to dream together without attaching anchors of doubt and judgmental accusations to the wishful thinking. How could we ever go into business for ourselves, we don’t even have a decent TV.
When husbands and wives begin to reflect only the negative in the relationship, what they desire but do not have, the hardships, the lack of celebration and so forth, couples simply grow apart. Hi honey, I’m home…The utility bill came in today. Hi honey, I had the best time shopping today…The utility bill came in today.
The truth is many married couples fall into the trappings of talking all but exclusively in the negative. They talk about what is wrong and missing in their lives and seldom what is right and not absent in their lives…like one another! When we do these things “to” one another” we create a negative environment and often will turn potential great conversations and sharing into terrible arguments.
And this brings us to the third “secret” and in many ways the most important. Some research tells us that (most) couples argue a little over 300 times a year. My guess is that mostly those arguments are either directly or indirectly about finances.
Not all disputes are serious of course but a great many turn into actual “fighting.”
The more couples “fight” the further and further they grow apart. The question then is this: What’s secret for couples to keep from fighting. And the answer is: make it a point to fight the problems and NOT each other.
It is far too common for a couple to sit down to discuss their bills or other difficulties and permit the conversation to evolve into an argument and from there into a serious fight that invariably includes blame and accusations. And so I cannot repeat this enough: FIGHT YOUR PROBLEMS and NOT EACH OTHER!
Once you get into the habit of this, your marriage will lose most of its tension and much of its anxiety. Hey, you and your mate are in the same world together—you both bleed, you both have fears, you both live in uncertainty, you both want more than you have, you both are…well, ever as human as everyone else. And so, the moment that you start discussing problems with your mate NEVER neglect to remind yourself that you are talking to an ally…the person across from you is, if you will, in the same boat with you.
I truly believe that what I have called the three “secrets” are the three cornerstones of a happy, lasting and secure marriage. The forth cornerstone and perhaps the most vital, is in truly desiring to have a happy, lasting and secure marriage. Indeed, just saying that you wish your marriage was happier or more content is not enough…you must put those desires into human action. If you want a happier marriage don’t wait for your mate to change his or her sour attitude, demonstrate happiness…if you want fun demonstrate having fun…if you want more intimacy become more intimate…if you want to stop disagreeing stop judging so much. And if you want to feel more love FROM your mate, give more LOVE to your mate. Stop waiting for your mate to act—your positive changes will create change just as negatives attract negativity.
To truly grow a wonderful marriage, I believe that:
1. You must really be willing to separate your marital partnership (the business of your marriage) with your marital relationship (the togetherness of your marriage).
2. Simply make it a point to be NICE to your mate. What can you do today to take a little of the pain away; to make his or her day a little better and happier?
3. And finally, learn to fight your problems instead of each other. Never personalize the business of the marriage through blaming or accusing your mate at being at the root of the problems EVEN IF HE OR SHE IS. I cannot say this enough”
Fight your problems and not each other
Fight your problems and not each other
Fight your problems and not each other
Fight your problems and not each other
Fight your problems and not each other