Read between the lines
“My husband and I have never considered divorce... murder sometimes, but never divorce.” - Joyce Brothers -
Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of a married couple that I’ve known for many years. Hearing of someone being married longer than I’ve been alive automatically invokes thoughts of nostalgia and I begin to wonder, “what is their secret?”
When most people get married, they ultimately do so with the intention of being with that person until the proverbial “death do us part.” But what becomes of the relationship after 20, 30 or even 40 years should be just as important a question as is the “secret” of the lasting marriage itself.
When I married my husband, I was very realistic about what could be, both positive and negative. On the one hand, I considered the (unlikely) possibility of the honeymoon phase lasting throughout our lifetime together. On the other hand, we could end up hating each other and fanaticizing about the day we’d be free from the evils of the marriage we were somehow foolish enough to be a part of. What happens then?
Sadly, my friends fell victim to the latter.
After nearly four decades of marriage, there was a whole slew of problems that riddled the once happy couple. They became entangled in a web of miscommunication, resentment, unmet expectations, and financial battles leaving both of them with an overwhelming feeling of general dislike for one another. In spite of all of this, neither person was willing to divorce. They both listed several reasons for staying, from sticking to their vows to not wanting to have to sell the house. Their list of reasons to stay was just as long as their list of reasons to leave.
Being privy to this information got me thinking, I don't want to know happens to a happy marriage when happy is no longer part of the equation. Hearing both sides of their disappointing tale, I immediately began to reflect on my own marriage. Certainly, my husband and I have had issues, some worse than others, but we’ve been able to work through them every time. I think most marriages start out that way. Issues are more easily resolved in the beginning, but why doesn’t that easy fix last?
Aquilino Polaino-Lorente wrote an article titled, “8 Ways to Avoid Divorce and Build a Better Marriage.” Not surprisingly, the first item on his list is communication. He writes, “What is not communicated is not shared. What is not shared creates separation. What separates leads to unbridgeable distances. And distances destroy unity. What breaks down unity ends up extinguishing and dissolving any relationship, until each of the spouses becomes a stranger for the other. Silence and lack of communication are the greatest enemies of marriages.”
Several months back, my husband and I felt like we were at an impasse. We came to a point where our routine was so routine that it began to breed an element of indifference. As a working wife and mother, I was stretched to my limits and I didn’t feel that my husband really understood what I was feeling. Out of fear of becoming the “nagging wife,” I didn’t fully articulate the pressure I was under or the help I needed from him. For the most part, I kept my mouth shut, kept pushing, and hoped that he would organically catch on to the ever growing burden I was feeling. He didn’t, and I began to grow angry and resentful. There was a rift growing between us that got so wide, we had to seek help to bridge the gap. After that, we promised to never allow that to happen again.
We both learned something that day; the power of prevention. Relationships can and should be looked at from a preventative point of view. Allowing small annoyances to fester and become big issues before they are addressed is a recipe for disaster. It’s like knowing you’re predisposed to a disease but refusing to get checked until it’s terminal. As much as we want our relationships to be easy and organic, they aren’t always that simple. They take work and perseverance, but maintaining communication, and following the other items on Polaino-Lorente's list, can make that work a lot less cumbersome.
Communicate with your spouse.
Respect and admire each other.
Identify problems immediately and deal with them head on.
Devote time, patience and tenderness to your spouse.
Strive to lead a full and active sex life.
Establish and respect your partner’s space and personal freedom.
Keep a balanced and flexible division of tasks and roles.
Foment a special solidarity with your spouse.
Your partner is your companion in life. As with anything, you get out of your relationship what you put into it. Consciously check in, nourish one another, and allow yourselves to grow both individually and together. If you intend to keep the vow of, “’til death do us part,” you’ll appreciate what develops in the very end.
Happy marriages aren’t a myth, they’re a work of art.