By Louis McBurney
There are many principles that, if practiced, can help you build a solid marital foundation.
Here are some of those key principles:
“Commitment” is not a popular word in our culture. Our society emphasises individual rights, personal freedom and mobility. The idea of giving these up because of dedication to another person or loyalty to a relationship makes a lot of people feel trapped.
But I don’t think you can have it both ways. You can’t build a divorce-proof marriage and remain unbending toward your personal rights. That doesn’t mean you give up all your freedoms or choices, but it does mean your commitment to the relationship supersedes your individual rights.
Commitment means putting your spouse’s needs above your own. Studies show that the best indicator of marital well-being is how well each partner feels his or her needs are being met. I’ve found that when I focus only on my needs and forget about my wife, I tend to get irritated and disappointed. I may even begin to imagine how much better off I’d be with a different wife. On the other hand, I feel satisfied when I focus on my wife’s needs and how I can creatively meet them.
Someone once said, “Communication is to love as blood is to the body.” Take the blood out of the body and it dies. Take communication away and a relationship dies.
The kind of communication I’m talking about isn’t just exchanging information; it’s sharing feelings, hurts, joys. That means getting below the surface and examining the hows and whys of daily life.
But it’s not easy since men and women are different in this area. Research makes it clear that women have greater linguistic abilities than men. Simply stated, she talks more than he. As an adult, she typically expresses her feelings and thoughts far better than her husband and is often irritated by his reluctance to talk. Every knowledgeable marriage counsellor will tell you that the inability or unwillingness of husbands to reveal their feelings is one of the chief complaints of wives.
Like conflict resolution, communication is a learned skill — and it’s often hard work. Time must be reserved for meaningful conversations. Taking walks and going out for dinner are conversation inducers that keep love alive.
We live in an instant world — fast foods, cash machines, computer access to information, direct dial communication all over the world.
The problem is we can’t heat up a marriage in the microwave. Relationships just don’t work that way. Marriage, especially takes time and care to become really beautiful. That means learning patience.
When you put two people — any two — in the same house, you’re going to have irritations and annoyances. There are times when I think that marriage was designed just to teach me patience. My wife doesn’t always respond like I wish she would. And she still expects me to pick up my dirty clothes, be on time for dinner and remember her birthday You’d think that after 30 years of marriage, she would have given up on me. In the meantime I’m considering humouring her a little. Recently I even put my underwear on the floor next to the laundry hamper. I wonder how she’s doing with patience.
Beyond the day-to-day quirks and foibles, you must accept, patience is needed for the long haul. It may take years for you to develop the kind of relationship that’s satisfying to both of you. A lot of people don’t have the patience to wait around for things to evolve. But if you’re willing to sit tight and hang in there, your marriage can be fantastic.
We’re more than a bundle of feelings and physical sensations. There is an inner core of our being, an eternal part of who we are, that represents the deepest, most permanent aspect of marriage.
Research shows that couples with strong religious beliefs are far more likely to stay together than those without them. It’s the shared morals and values that hold a husband and wife together. This solid foundation is a fortress against the storms of life.
For my wife and me, our faith has been the bedrock of our relationship. In our 30-plus years of marriage, we have consistently turned to religion for direction, guidance and comfort.
© 1992 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Published at focusonthefamily.com.