“Many marriages would be better if the husband and wife clearly understood that they’re on the same side.”
No one gets married thinking that tying the knot will negatively impact their life. Instead, people marry with the expectation that life is going to be deeply enriched by the emotional shelter of a life-long, loving partnership. Why is it then that so many individuals whom we know are so unhappy in their marriages? Trends and statistics show that more marriages fail than succeed. How can it be that the majority of marriages that begin so full of hope and high expectations eventually run aground?
The dilemma of marriage is that everyone starts out wanting a vibrant and life-giving marriage but very few actually attain the goal.
What is worth considering is the disposition with which we enter marriage. Many people get married expecting that their partner is going to complete them, validate them, or merely serve them. Movies and the popular culture aim to convince individuals that romantic bliss is the giant puzzle piece that will make everything click within them. The marriages that survive appear to involve individuals who are more focused on giving than getting. In marriage, as in math the multiplication of fractions results in smaller numbers. One half times one half equals one fourth. There is a lesson to be learned…that having a healthy focus on one’s own spiritual wholeness, apart from the other is the only way to take the pressure off of one’s spouse.
Don’t misunderstand me, there is absolutely nothing unhealthy about romance; it is a beautiful aspect of the human experience. Some of the times during which I have felt most alive have been while in pursuit of my wife, physically and emotionally. Admittedly, it can be difficult to sustain our romantic feelings throughout the entire race-course of a lifetime. We need to be prepared to respond when our romantic feelings wane and we happen upon the inevitable bumps within our marriages. Almost to a person, we go charging into our marriages believing that our futures will be comprised of rainbows and unicorns. We enter in to our forever proposition mostly unaware of the simple things that will trip us up and keep us from the love of our beloved.
It may take weeks, months or even years but most of us would have to admit that something creeps into our marriages and works to erode the assurance and hope that lead to our making the commitment in the first place. At what point does the typical marriage go wrong? For so many, it starts when the wedding reception is over. For some it happens as the newlyweds cross the threshold of their fairy tale reception only to have to settle the bar tab and pay the band. Clearly, it is in the details of our everyday lives that we begin to recognize the humanness in one another. I failed to recognize earlier in our seventeen-year marriage that what I struggled with regarding Ann Marie was merely a trigger for the disdain that I had for my own humanness and failings.
If the first layer of our marital foundation is built of the pitted and worn bricks of the belief that our partner will somehow turn our fraction into a whole number, we proceed by building the foundation’s second layer; becoming experts in uncovering the variety of ways in which our spouse falls short of our self-centered expectations. We find imperfections as if we were being rewarded for them. While agitated by the hedge clipping in my wife’s eye, I fail to notice the shrub that is lodged in my own. As mated pairs, we add a variety of unique bricks to an unstable foundation that may ultimately result in the loss of the person with whom we were hoping to build our shared legacy.
As if all of this weren’t enough with which to contend, today’s culture is almost diametrically opposed to nurturing and promoting good marriages. In the next Crux, I will ask you to consider a list that I have created which details some of the more serious challenges to our marriages. I hope that the effort provides a touchstone for you and your spouse as you seek to rebuild or fortify your relationship.
In the meantime, consider the following observation: Being happily married is 10% finding the right person and 90% being the right person!
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!