If love is our one and only criteria for marriage, how can we assume that you won’t fall in love again with another?
Marriage can’t survive without love, but it is not the only ingredient in creating a deeply cherished commitment between two people. The feeling of love is not a constant or forever, unless it is nourished. Love can fluctuate by mood and circumstance. It can be compared to a perennial flower. It is willing and wants to bloom time and time again, but it needs some basic elements to survive.
Too often we assume a relationship happens by living and doing things together. This is an arrangement rather than a relationship. To have a full and functional relationship we have to be loving and emotionally connected to our partner and that is not always easy. It requires seeing to each other’s well being, sometimes at the expense of our own well-being.
People who leave a marriage often feel as if they didn’t seem to matter to their partner. We all want to be cared about and to be a priority in some else’s life. We want to be understood, forgiven, encouraged, appreciated, and cherished by our partner. If each partner isn’t willing to make the other the object of their interest, value them, consider them important, be thoughtful, caring and giving, the relationship will be difficult to maintain.
Today marriage is expected to fulfill us in more ways than it needed to yesterday. Years ago, marriage was deemed a success if our physical need of food, clothing and shelter was met and some kindness was expressed between partners in their mutual struggle for survival. Husband and wife were a team, each playing a role and purpose.
Today, our physical needs can be met by the individual, it is less necessary to form a team for that purpose. Now, we seek a partner in hopes of emotional fulfillment and intimacy, which is a more complicated and difficult task to ask of a mate in marriage. We do little to prepare or understand all that will be asked of us within the complicated dynamics of marriage.
Love is a feeling and therefore not tangible. It can’t be quantified, isn’t easily understood and is often described as “chemistry”. Initial attraction might be described as infatuation meaning an unexplainable affection for another. What grows that infatuation to an enduring love? When people are asked to describe love they might say that they feel at home with the person, almost that you are seeing yourself in the other person. Another word that frequently is used is ”safety”. We feel comfortable in being ourselves and supported in our journey in life.
To create an enduring love we simply have to nourish these elements of love.
* It begins with knowing each other well, their thoughts, dreams, hopes, expectations and what drives those feelings.
* Secondly, the relationship needs to meet each other’s needs. We need to unselfishly put our partner as a priority in our life.
* Thirdly, trust needs to be established and continually earned.
* Fourthly, intimacy born out of respect and kindness needs to exist and grow.
These elements require an individual’s own ability to give and be kind. This ability is aided by emotional intelligence, meaning we know ourselves and others well. It is much easier to teach a tangible skill, say mathematics, than acquire the skills of emotional intelligence.
Emotions are elusive, evolving and require a great deal of introspection and energy. Building positive emotion involves:
a. Aiming for a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions in relationships that includes appreciation, shared humor, gestures of affection and positive actions, small and large.
b. Responding positively and with interest when our partner shares joy about an experience or an idea. Don’t be a downer! Research shows that an active positive response to a partner’s joy can boost the goodwill in the relationship. Put the Iphone down! Make an affirming statement and ask 3 questions about it.
c. Every day jot down and share with our partner 3 things we appreciate.(what has gone well that day; what our partner has done for us, etc.).
d. Reminiscing about positive moments in the past. At times like anniversaries and birthdays, savoring the past is a great opportunity to enrich the present.
e. When our partner does nice things for us, including making changes that we request, let them know we see that and appreciate it (resist the pull to let them know the ways they fell short!)
Here are a few more suggestions: •Agree to live-in and celebrate the present and not lament on the past. •Discuss what each other believes rather than read each other’s minds. Keep in mind that beliefs are just that, beliefs, and NOT facts. •Value each other’s differences and learn from them to strengthen your relationship. •Validating our partner’s feelings rather than telling them that their feelings are wrong. Then, we can share our point of view and acknowledge the differences. We can learn from each other. •Say things that we really mean and feel, and in a manner in which our partner can understand. This is being intentionally assertive and not harmful. ” I feel this way because…” •Clarify things if we don’t fully understand them rather than placing our own meaning on our partners words.
Arguments, differences of opinion, and sometimes extra-relationship affairs, don’t necessarily lead to splitting up. How a couple deals with these issues is more important. Being kind, emotionally giving, and caring towards our partner will definitely improve our relationship.