That Being in Love is Not an Adequate Foundation for Building a Successful Marriage
Please do not misunderstand. Tingles are important. They’re just not the basis for a satisfactory marriage.
Gary isn’t suggesting that one should marry without the tingles. Those warm, excited feelings, the chill bumps, that sense of acceptance, the excitement of the touch that make up the tingles serve as the cherry on top of the sundae. But you cannot have a sundae with only the cherry. The many other factors must be a vital consideration in making a decision about marriage.
Being in love is an emotional and obsessive experience. However, emotions change and obsessions fade. Research indicates that the average life span of the “in love” obsession is two years. For some it may last a bit longer; for some, a bit less. But the average is two years. Then we come down off the emotional high and those aspects of life that we disregarded in our euphoria begin to become important. Our differences begin to emerge and we often find ourselves arguing with the person whom we once thought to be perfect. We have now discovered for ourselves that being in love is not the foundation for a happy marriage.
That the Saying “Like Mother, Like Daughter” and “Like Father, Like Son” is Not a Myth
Whether we are talking about positive or negative characteristics, most of us are far more like our parents than we realize.
If you observe his mom and dad arguing and you notice that his father eventually walks out of the room and leaves his wife’s last statement hanging in the air, then you can expect that is the way the man you are dating will likely respond to arguments after you get married. Unless, of course, he reads this book and the two of you find a healthier way to resolve your conflicts.
FOR THE MAN:
- Make a list of the things you like about your father. Then make a list of the things you consider to be negative traits in your father. If the girl you are dating has spent considerable time with your father, ask her to make similar lists about observations she has made about your father.
- Use these lists as a basis for discussing the ways in which you would like to be different from your father.
- What specific steps will you take to begin to make these changes?
FOR THE WOMAN:
- Make a list of the things you like about your mother. Then make a list of the things you consider to be negative traits in your mother. If the man you are dating has spent considerable time with your mother, ask him to make similar lists about observations he has made about your mother.
- Use these lists as a basis for discussing the ways in which you would like to be different from your mother.
- What specific steps will you take to begin to make these changes?
How to Solve Disagreements without Arguing
Some of our conflicts will be major; some of our conflicts will be minor. The conflict over how to load a dishwasher falls into the minor category. The conflict over whether or not to have a baby is definitely in the major league.
Once you have accepted the reality of conflicts, you need to discover a healthy plan for processing your conflicts. Such a plan begins with recognizing the need to listen. When most of us have conflicts, we feel the need to talk, but talking without listening leads to arguments. The real need is the need to listen.
In marriage it is never “having my way.” It is rather discovering “our” way.
After you have heard and affirmed each other’s ideas, you are now ready to look for a solution to the conflict. The big word in finding a solution is “compromise.” Often we think of the word compromise as a negative word. People are often warned about compromising their values or beliefs. However, compromise in a marriage is not only positive but it is necessary. Compromise means to find a meeting place. It requires each of you to be willing to give up something in order to have harmony in the marriage. If, on the other hand, we both insist on having our way, then we are back in the argument mode. In marriage it is never “having my way.” It is rather discovering “our” way.
That Apologizing is a Sign of Strength
All of us are human and humans sometimes do and say things that are demeaning to other people. This doesn’t mean we’re bad people at all. This just means we did something bad that is often reversible with a sincere apology.
Here is a brief summary of the five apology languages
- Expressing regret
“I’m sorry” may well be the first words in expressing this apology language. However, you need to tell what you are sorry for. The words “I’m sorry,” spoken alone, are much too general. For example, you might say, “I’m sorry that I came home an hour late. I know you have been waiting for me so we could go to the movie. I realize that we’ve already missed the first thirty minutes and you probably don’t want to go now. I feel bad that I did not pay more attention to the time. I got busy with work at the office. I can’t blame anyone but myself. I feel like I have let you down big time.”
- Accepting Responsibility
This apology begins with the words “I was wrong,” and then goes on to explain what was wrong about your behavior. For example, “I was wrong not to plan my afternoon so I could get home early. I knew we were going out tonight but I didn’t consciously think about what time I needed to be home in order for us to leave on time. It was my fault and it was wrong. I can’t blame anyone else.”
- Making restitution
This apology language seeks to “make it right.” One husband who forgot their wedding anniversary said, “I know that I’ve really blown it. I can’t believe that I actually forgot our anniversary. What kind of husband is that? I know that I can’t undo what I have done but I would like an opportunity to make it up to you. I want you to think about it and let me know what I could do to make things right with you. We can go anywhere or do anything. You deserve the best and I want to give it to you.” If “making restitution” is his wife’s primary apology language, you can bet she will have an idea of what he can do to make things right.
- Genuinely expressing the desire to change your behavior
This apology seeks to come up with a plan to keep the bad behavior from reoccurring. One man who “lost his temper again” said, “I don’t like this about me. This is not good. I know I did the same thing last week. This has got to stop. You deserve better than this. Can you help me think what I can do to make sure that this doesn’t happen again?” His desire for change communicates to his wife that he is sincerely apologizing.
- Requesting forgiveness
“Will you please forgive me?” These words are music to the ears of the person whose primary apology language is “requesting forgiveness.” In their mind, if you are sincere, you will ask them to forgive you. This is what an apology is all about. You have hurt them and they want to know, “Do you want to be forgiven? Do you want to remove the barrier that your behavior has caused?” Requesting forgiveness is what touches their heart and rings of sincerity
That Forgiveness is Not a Feeling
There are minor offenses and major offenses but the process is always the same. When one of us offends the other, an emotional barrier is erected between the two of us. The passing of time will never remove the barrier. Barriers are removed by sincere apologies and genuine forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not destroy our memory. We are instructed to forgive each other in the same way that God forgives us. Thus, forgiveness is not a feeling but a decision. It is the decision to offer grace instead of demanding justice. Forgiveness removes the barrier and opens the possibility for the relationship to grow.
What if the person who has offended you does not apologize? The most positive approach you can take is to lovingly confront them with their offense and hope that they will apologize and you can forgive. If your first attempt fails, make a second and third attempt. An apology says, “I value this relationship, and I want to deal with this problem.” The refusal to apologize says, “I do not value this relationship, and it’s okay with me if we continue to be estranged.”
If, in the final analysis, they are unwilling to restore the relationship, you may then release them to God and release your hurt and anger to Him. Don’t allow their unwillingness to deal with the problem destroy your life. It takes two people to build a positive, healthy relationship.
That Toilets are Not Self-Cleaning
It is important to recognize these differing abilities and seek to use them for the benefit of the relationship.
We need not have the same skill sets, but it is important to recognize these differing abilities and seek to use them for the benefit of the relationship. On a football team, all eleven players have the same objective, but they don’t all play the same role. The coach seeks to put the players in the position that he thinks they are best equipped to execute. That principle should also be helpful in determining marital roles.
If you can’t agree before marriage, what makes you think you will agree after marriage? If you are seriously contemplating marriage, make a list of all the things that come to mind that will have to be done in order to maintain a household. Be sure to include your vehicles and who will purchase and prepare the food, do the laundry, and vacuum the floors. Ask your fiancé to make a similar list. Then bring the two lists together and make a master list that includes everything the two of you listed.
Make two copies of this list and, individually and separately, sit down with the list and put your initials beside those items that you think will be your responsibility. If you think it will be a shared responsibility, put both of your initials but underline the one that you think will have the primary responsibility. Once you have completed this task, set aside an evening to work through your answers and see where you have agreed or disagreed on who will have the primary responsibility on each item. Where you have disagreements, it calls for negotiation. Share with each other your reasons for the choice you made. Be as open and honest as you can about what brought you to that conclusion. After listening to each other empathetically, then seek to make an agreement on who will accept that responsibility.
That We Needed a Plan for Handling Our Money
The first foundational stone in developing a financial plan is to agree that after marriage, it will no longer be “my money” and “your money” but “our money.” At the heart of marriage is the desire for unity. “For better or for worse,” we intend to live life together. The implication is that we will share our income and work as a team in deciding what to do with our money. Incidentally, this also means that his and her debts will become “our debts,” and we have the responsibility to develop a plan to repay these debts. It also implies that his and her savings will become “our savings.” If you are not ready for this kind of unity, then you are not ready for marriage.
The second step in developing a financial plan is to agree on a percentage of income that you will save, give away, and spend. There are essentially only three things you can do with money. You can save it, you can give it away, or you can spend it. Deciding the percentage that you will allocate to each of these categories is an important step in making a financial plan.
That Mutual Sexual Fulfillment is Not Automatic
While men focus on intercourse, women focus on relationship. If the relationship has been fractured by harsh words or irresponsible behavior, the female will find it very hard to be interested in sex. To her, sex is an intimate act and grows out of a loving relationship. Ironically, men often think that sexual intercourse will solve whatever relationship problems may exist. One wife said, “He speaks to me with intense anger. Thirty minutes later, he says he is sorry and asks me if we can make love. He says, ‘Let me show you how much I love you.’ He thinks that having sex will make everything right. Well, he’s wrong. I can’t have sex with a man who has verbally abused me.”
For a husband to expect his wife to warm up to a sexual experience after there’s been an altercation in their relationship is to expect the impossible. Sincere apologies and genuine forgiveness must precede the experience of “making love.”
Foreplay is more important than the actual act of intercourse itself. While women like to simmer, men tend to reach the boiling point much faster. It is the tender touches and kisses of foreplay that bring her to the point of desiring intercourse. If the husband rushes to the finish line, she is left feeling, “What was supposed to be so special about this?” Without sufficient foreplay, the wife will often feel violated. One wife said, “I want to feel loved. All he is interested in is having intercourse.
Mutual sexual satisfaction does not require simultaneous climax. Largely because of modern movies, many couples enter marriage with the idea that “every time we have intercourse, we will have simultaneous climax and it will be heaven for both of us.” The fact is, seldom do couples have a simultaneous climax or orgasm. What is important is that each of you experiences the pleasure of climax or orgasm. Such pleasure does not have to come simultaneously. In fact, many wives indicate that they much prefer to reach orgasm as a part of foreplay. When his stimulation of the clitoris gives her the pleasure of orgasm, she is now ready for him to complete the act of intercourse and experience the pleasure of climax. The unrealistic expectation of simultaneous climax has produced unnecessary anxiety for many couples.
That Personality Profoundly Influences Behavior
There are “morning persons” and there are “night persons.” Morning persons awake with the enthusiasm of a kangaroo, springing to face the day with excitement, while the night person hides under the covers and thinks, “They must be playing a game—no one can be that excited in the morning.” Night persons have their “prime time” from 10 p.m. until … That’s when they enjoy reading, painting, playing games, doing anything that demands a lot of energy, while the morning person is quickly fading at that hour.
This personality difference may have a profound impact upon the couple’s sexual relationship. The morning person wants to go to bed at ten, cuddle, and make love, while the night person is saying, “You have got to be kidding. I can’t go to bed this early.” The morning person may feel rejected, while the night person feels like they are being controlled. This may well lead to arguments and frustration. Is there hope for this couple?
Certainly, if they choose to respect their differences and negotiate a solution. For example, the night person may agree to have sex at 10 p.m. if the morning person will allow them to leave the bedroom after love-making and pursue their other interests until midnight. However, if the morning person insists that the night person remain in bed after making love, that person may feel manipulated, controlled, and frustrated. A morning person will never become a night person, and a night person will never become a morning person. It’s a part of our personality. With effort, we can push ourselves to be functional in those early or late hours that are not prime time for us. But it will never come without effort.
Then there are pessimist and the optimist. The passive and the aggressive. The neatnik and the slob. The realist and the idealist. The list goes on and on. Yes, we are wired differently and have difficulty understanding why the other person would not see it our way. This personality difference is not hard to discover; it simply requires that during the dating time you keep your eyes open to reality.
Certainly a satisfactory solution can be negotiated—but the time to start negotiation is before marriage.