Marriage: It's Not Dating Anymore
- Tuesday, August 19, 2003
A friend once said that I have a keen grasp on the obvious. You might have been sarcastically thinking the same thing when you read the title of this article. After all, everyone knows that marriage is not dating. Right?
Wrong. Odds are that either you or your spouse (or both) expected much of what happened while you dated to continue into marriage.
Before and After
Let me illustrate with a typical example. "Jessica" is married to "Will." During their dating years, Jessica wore her hair shoulder-length because she knew Will liked it. Often on Saturdays, she and Will would go watch his favorite team play football. Though Jessica wasn’t a football fan, she enjoyed spending time with Will and knew he enjoyed watching the games with her. She cheered for his team, and Will assumed she genuinely enjoyed going to the games with him.
The couple talked to each other on the phone nearly every night, sharing feelings, dreams, frustrations and the events of their days. Jessica appreciated Will’s openness, and Will enjoyed talking with someone who had so much in common with him. Many times on Friday nights, Will would take Jessica to a nice restaurant for supper. Jessica especially enjoyed the flowers that Will gave her when she met him at the door.
Over time, Will saved his money and bought Jessica a diamond ring. When he asked her to marry him, she gladly said yes and the two were married a few months later.
Both were happy for the first year, but about half way into their second year things began to change. Jessica took her mother’s advice to alter her hairstyle to something shorter and “easier to manage.” She didn't consult Will on this change because, as her beautician said, “It’s not his hair.” When Jessica came home, Will noticed the change in hairstyle.
“Do you like it?” Jessica asked with a smile on her face. Will hesitated, but answered “yes” so that he wouldn’t hurt her feelings. But Will’s feelings were hurt because she didn’t ask for his opinion about a change in her hairstyle until after the fact. As a result, he felt a little distant from Jessica.
To make matters worse, Jessica stopped going to football games with Will. At first, she told Will that she had too much to do around the house to go with him. After several rejections, Will stopped asking her and began going to the games by himself.
Because of the distance developing between them, Will stopped calling Jessica from work. It started when he occasionally forgot to phone her on his breaks but slowly ended completely. He also stopped bringing Jessica flowers because he didn’t want to stop on his way home from a tiring day at the office. As the distance grew between them, Will stopped sharing the events of his day with Jessica. When she asked him how his day was, Will usually sighed and said “fine.”
A year later, the two sat in a marriage counselor’s office, considering divorce. Unfortunately, this is a very common situation that we see quite often at Family Dynamics.
The Good Ole Days
Back during the days you dated your spouse, you probably dressed in a way that made you as attractive as possible to them and treated him or her like gold. More than likely, you spent hours on the phone talking to each other and shared dreams, opinions and concerns. You may have gone to a movie or event that you didn't particularly enjoy because you knew that your boyfriend or girlfriend wanted to go.
More than likely, neither of you thought marriage would change those things.
What might surprise you to know is that many of the problems married couples face would end if they would reinstate a “dating attitude” into their relationships. Likewise, engaged couples and newlyweds should continue these principles in marriages and make constant efforts to maintain them. It takes work and planning, but the rewards are well worth it.
Don’t Mess with Success
If your spouse thought you would stop doing the things that won them over in the beginning, do you think he or she would have agreed to marry you?
Married life obviously brings stresses that dating life does not. You might even say that dating life is more like a dream and married life is the real world. It’s true we can’t keep everything that we liked about dating in a marriage. But we can keep many of the things that led us to marriage in the first place.
Don’t misunderstand; it is not acceptable for a spouse to erase their commitment to the other because he or she changes. But it is important that neither of you mess with success if you want to remain happily married. Obviously, he chose her based on her actions and personality while dating/courting. She chose him based on the same. If one spouse changes that later, the other might feel tricked or even betrayed.
Therefore, as much as is realistic, you should do the things you did in the early days of your relationship. After all, that's what won the heart of your spouse. And that's what will probably continue to win their heart.
If things aren't going well in your marriage, try going back to the beginning. You might be surprised how much your relationship improves.
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