“In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.”
1) Try to remember their positives as well as the negatives. The other day, when I was boiling mad at my husband my mind was busy listing all the things he does that drive me nuts. It is so easy when we are angry to allow an avalanche of all past hurts and all current transgressions to come cascading down. It takes some control to step back, take a deep breath and allow reason to have a say.
2) Don’t sweat the small stuff. Not every disagreement is worth confrontation, not all differences of opinion or manner are deal breakers. Do not treat them all with the same degree of importance.
3) Be direct. Avoidance is the silent killer of relationships. When you decide you do have to say something, then for God’s sake, say it! Do not stew and think your partner should know why you are upset. No, they cannot read your mind. The same goes for positive things. If you like the way they called to say they were going to be late, tell them right away how much you appreciate the call.
4) Take time away from the world just to be the two of you. Date night!
5) Be the partner you want them to be. Double standards don’t work in marriage, or any partnership for that matter. It’s just too easy to lay the blame on the other person. The Golden Rule is golden for a reason. Take a minute to think about the last time you did something to nurture your relationship. Or when you say, “I wish my partner would just look up and smile when I get home,” check to see if you are doing it yourself. In a bigger sense, if we all asked ourselves “What can I do to be the best partner I can be to this person,” and then acted on it? …most relationships would show a very satisfying improvement.
Four months after we met, I proposed to John, just to have him turn me down flat. As I licked my wounds I decided I would give the relationship a year. For a year I would never mention marriage. In the meantime without intending it, he gave me something to think about. Why did I want to get married anyway?
It took several weeks to sort out my thinking but I concluded that the only valid reason I had for wanting marriage was to have a public declaration of what we meant to each other. Him and me in front of the world exchanging vows that everyone understood meant commitment for life. I wanted us to have that recognition from family and society that was immutable. It was that simple.
So we went on with our courtship. I like that old fashioned word. Courtship: that special time when you are trying on the idea of spending the rest of your life together. ‘Dating’ doesn’t quite say all that. “Seeing each other,” eh. Courtship, much better.
There was no question John and I fit well. Ours was not a thunderbolt of passion kind of love. Hanging out together was easy, but more importantly, I think, is we saw in each other the quality of what Mira Kirschenbaum calls the true definition of love.
John didn’t complete me. I was fully complete without him, thank you. What he gave me was the support, respect and encouragement to be as much of me as I wanted to be. He made me happy.
Eight months after that night I asked him to marry me, on Christmas Eve, John presented me with a robin’s egg blue box. Was this it!? He didn’t say anything. He sat beside me with a silly grin on his face. Inside the Tiffany box was a gorgeous ruby and diamond ring.
He never actually asked me to marry him. An otherwise articulate guy, he just kept looking at me expectantly, smiling. I put on the ring and said, “Yes.”
We were ecstatic but I had to know, what changed his mind about marriage?
He said, “I still don’t believe in marriage. I believe in being married to you.”
Corny, I know but that’s my own little personal love story. The twenty-seven years that followed is a story of marital work (see above) as well as happiness. The work is the stuff that couples do when they grow together if they are to make it as a couple. We got through the stage of infatuation to the ones that involved learning to appreciate that we are two separate beings with differences as well as similarities. We remained in mutual support of one another. We learned how to fight, how to get through crises, how to compromise, how to persevere together. All that, as hard as it has been, has made our devotion stronger.