- Mental Health
A Functional Marriage Recipe
Coming from a Marriage Pro - Not a Marriage Veteran
I have been married (to the same woman) for half a century plus, during which we have never had a "decent argument". While some folks may be saying "You don't know what you've been missing", I'll accept the joke, but thank you - to me it's one of my dearest accomplishments. Also, that might as well serve as my qualification to give some pointers to those who may need them about nurturing a functional marriage relationship.
Now, before you start picturing us as a mutually yielding couple, the two of us being quite different personalities - almost to the point of proving how "opposites attract" - our tempers, beliefs, tastes, and opinions are far from being an exact match.
Meaning that we may disagree over some important and some trivial matters, and our good marriage is not obligating us to play a "yes-spouse". However, the way we handle those disagreements makes the whole difference between having and not having a problem at home. With love and respect being at the very base of it, a compromise may be just a kiss on the cheek away, without either of us "winning" or "losing".
Readiness for Marriage
Some couples turn out to be "naturals", and all they may need is a minimal initial period of adjustment, even that being about some most insignificant things - like who is going to sleep of which side of the bed, and where they prefer keeping their toothbrushes. As I usually like calling it - they "clicked together" from the very start, maybe even from that first date when they realized how much they had in common, beside the physical attraction.
Just like it happens in those romantic movies, they would both start saying the same sentence bursting into hearty laughter over this little indicator of their compatibility - as Bryan Adams would sing about it: "Seeing their unborn children in each other's eyes."
While it's a general great personal trait to know what we want in life, it especially applies to our knowing what we want from our marriage, and then do nothing to sabotage that want. That's one of the most important qualities in our readiness for marriage.
We can always start questioning ourselves about how much we have of that quality, and do what needs to be done, not waiting until marriage is so messed up that it's beyond repair.
No One Wins when Marriage Becomes a Battlefield
This "winning/losing" matter deserves a few more words of clarifying. Stepping into the wedlock with this idea of "exercising that metal in ourselves" means being a loser from the very start. I don't know about you, folks, but I just happen to respect myself enough not to get into a game of life where I would see a person day after day to just get on each other's nerves by trying to come out as a winner.
Every now and then I see a couple doing exactly that, and then I am tempted to push their wedding picture in front of their long faces and ask them if that was included in their wedding vows. Really, what's the point of using our spouse as a sparring partner in a game of compensating for our never resolved insecurities - because that's what it's all about anyway?
Some of those couples were also quite religious individuals, or at least claimed to be. That added to my being puzzled, as they were not one bit aware how they were acting contrary to their faith - the one including love, tolerance, understanding, acceptance for the spouse, that stuff.
Don't Take Up the Role of a Therapist to Your Partner
Most of those less successful marriages are between partners who have brought into their relationship their unresolved personality issues - which they hope to somehow fix by getting married. Not that it's theoretically impossible, but it's definitely not common as an outcome.
Marriage involves some complex demands, especially after the kids come into picture, and both partners have to invest their best efforts to make it all as smooth a ride as possible - while it becomes hard when one of them is not emotionally fit to make it happen.
They say love has no limits, and indeed, at the beginning a partner may wholeheartedly accept that challenge of helping the other out in that department. The only problem being that psychotherapy requires a professional, not a spouse who is bound to bite more than she could chew by undertaking that role.
Sooner or later, as marriage naturally matures from that "hot-headed" to more realistic, that initial willingness wears off with her ending up being plain tired of playing a therapist. A secret wish creeps in about a spouse that would be more compatible and more fit to carry his part of what appears to be a life's burden.
Love and Respect, Not Sexual Compatibility
At first it may sound to you somewhat weird and unacceptable - but providing that there is a compatibility present, your best chance of having a great marriage is marrying your best friend. Of course, either of opposite or same gender, depending on your sexual preference.
That is so because love, and especially respect for someone is a much more solid basis for a good marriage than that person being a "flame" that we are infatuated with. It's someone that's supportive, trustworthy, respectful of the individual differences and not imposing their views, someone that's fun to be with - in other words, a good friend. Of course, with a physical attraction present as a must-condition.
Sexual compatibility being the basis - with love and respect missing - is almost a naïve prospect of a functional marriage, because sooner or later it reaches a point of glutting, when partners start looking around for a fresh "source of excitement".
No Possessiveness, Please
For all official and social purposes, yes, she is "your" wife, and you are "her" husband, but beyond that possessiveness is an illusion of insecure partners. That crucial fact is so often missed from the sight of such folks that - she is with you because she "wants to", not because she "has to".
In this free world where marriages are not prearranged by parents, nobody "possesses" anybody, and so shouldn't either act towards them as if they do. To many it seems to turn into a deep trap of misunderstanding the basics of marriage "rules of engagement".
Right after the courting is over, and there is no need anymore for "winning her heart", he may start mishandling the relationship by acting bossy - often oblivious to the fact that it's not her solemn duty to make him feel like a "king in his castle".
So, let's be realistic about it, you future or present partners in love - it may only turn into a never ending tag of wills with no one coming out a champ, certainly not kids as disappointed audience.
A Rose Smells Good at any Age of Marriage
Nurturing a good marriage means a good measure of a "diplomatic tactfulness". Remember, we are supposed to act as emotionally mature individuals working on a sensible and rewarding relationship - not acting as impulsive kids venting out every whimsical aspect of our emotionality.
So, buying flowers to your wife at other times than an occasion is calling for it goes a long way. Just as dressing up for his eyes only will do it for him. It doesn't have to mean "falling in love all over again", but it's a gesture that signifies your respect for what you've got going between the two of you. In a long run gestures like that make sure that the marriage doesn't taper down to a look warm coexistence under the same roof and a sheer matter of habituation.
So, come on, guys and gals, pick up those best pieces of what works between you and make them into a bouquet for your next anniversary. Or don't even wait that long, you are only a heartbeat away from making it right (again).