Warning: Real Marriage Ahead
- Thursday, October 14, 2004
Janet thought about divorce more than once even though her friends thought she was married to the greatest guy in the world. Was he secretly horrible behind closed doors? No. It's just that Janet's unfulfilled expectations and assumptions threatened the wonderful potential of their marriage. And all of us can struggle with those same challenges if we don't heed these simple warnings:
Warning: Another human can't meet all your needs.
Carolyn and her husband recently celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. As she hugged their guests, she often whispered, "I'm so grateful for our many years together."
Her closest friends knew the hidden message. Early in their marriage, Carolyn used to take long walks-alone-and ask herself tough questions, such as What are my choices? I don't want to raise these children alone. Is he really that bad a husband? The problem was that he was just busy building his business. He was trying to provide for his family, while Carolyn wanted him to provide with his family.
Warning: The romantic level will not always be this intense.
Several of my male friends like the old joke about the man who, on the wedding night, said to his bride, "I married you because I love you. If I stop loving you, I'll let you know. Let's not discuss this again."
While many men laugh at the account, most women are disgusted their husbands don't understand the importance of the spoken "I love you" that's accompanied by a gentle hug.
But we need to understand the premarriage intensity cannot be maintained at the same level indefinitely. No one can spring a marathon, and that's exactly what marriage is--a wonderful marathon.
Warning: Your spouse can love you and still not have a clue about what you need.
Often as I talk with young wives, they lament, "But if he loved me, he'd know what I need." No. He can love you desperately and still not know what's bugging you. It's up to you to tell him.
Clare was a new bride who was frustrated her husband didn't understand how stressful her marketing job was. Constant deadlines and demands for new ideas left her exhausted at the day's end.
Her husband, on the other hand, worked in a less stressful job and liked attending midweek movies. All Clare wanted to do most evenings was have a quiet dinner and collapse into bed.
When she mentioned her husband's lack of understanding to a coworker, the friend said, "Well, what does he say when you tell him how tired you are?"
Clare looked at her, aghast. "He should know how stressful my job is!"
The coworker, a veteran wife, bit back a guffaw and encouraged Clare not only to tell her husband about her stressful day but also ponder activities that would relax and benefit both of them.
Warning: You won't do everything together.
Not if you want a healthy marriage. I used to think marriage meant adhesion--because that's the way "loving" couples acted in my mind.
Working together, planning together, setting goals together--all that is wonderful. But a good relationship needs breathing room, too. If the husband doesn't want to see a "chick flick," it's okay for the wife to attend with a friend and let him have a few hours alone. It's amazing how a little time to follow separate interests can add energy to the marriage.
Warning: The only ones we can change are ourselves.
If you're determined to change your mate, you're going to be disappointed. The most common advice married folks give to those who are dating is, "Pay attention to those things that bug you." It's a mistake to think you're going to do a makeover once the honeymoon starts. If something bothers you before you're married, it's going to bother you a thousand times more afterward.
Marriage is no place for constant criticism, nagging or anger. Learn to live with the situation or find some way to change it. But if your goal is to change the person causing the situation, you're in for a rough ride.
Yes, it can be tough to set aside our expectations and assumptions in marriage. But take it from a veteran: It's worth the effort to gain a good relationship.
Adapted from Men Read Newspapers, Not Minds--and other things I wish I'd known when I first married by Sandra P. Aldrich. (Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996. Used by permission.) Author or co-author of 17 books, Sandra is an international speaker who handles serious issues with insight and humor. For booking information, she may be contacted at BoldWords@aol.com
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