Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marital toughness...and a canary for breakfast?

In a previous blog entry I said it might be helpful to ask yourself the question, "What do you hope or expect your (future) partner will have done to help assure a durable and satisfying marital relationship with you?"

So, what did you decide? How many ideas did you generate about how your future partner could come "prepared" to be with and around you for a long time?

If there's any one thing couples who've been married for several decades will consistently report, it's the fact that living together and being together for a long time doesn't "just happen." Here's a short list of things some people might say "just happened."
  • A gas leak triggered a house explosion in a local town.
  • My neighbor's cat ate our pet canary.
  • Candidate Barak Obama was elected President of the United States.
  • Our dog gave birth to seven adorable mongrel puppies.
  • My close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • A friend of a friend's friend just won it big in the lottery!
OK. Did these things "just happen" or was there a set of domino-like events that eventually led to, for example, a canary that became "breakfast?"

Being together and staying together takes some work--even for people who are very obviously in love with each other. So, believe it or not, you can actually prepare yourself to be a more durable marriage partner. You can work on it before you get married, or can work on it after you get married, but I can absolutely guarantee that you will work on it sooner or later.

A very curious and fascinating thing happens when couples are courting. Whether they are aware of it or not they're defining their relationships' "rules." Many of their "rules" for being, working, playing, and staying together may get discussed at various points in their courting processes. Many more--the vast majority of their "rules"--are not discussed or even detected. But they're there. Teammates begin to discover what these rules are as their relationship matures over time. Interestingly, or sadly, depending on your perspective, once a team's rules get set they are difficult to change. In fact, teammates don't change a rule without it having a BIG and immediate impact on the relationship, and the impact's immediate influence is rarely pretty. Working through the impact of a proposed rule change will require some good communication skills. Interestingly too, couples who communicate well with each other do generally report that they have better sex, experience more constructive emotional dynamics, and report greater marital satisfaction.

So, what's one of the very best things your (future) partner can do to help assure a durable and satisfying marriage to you? Things that measurably grow his or her practical communication skills. And I don't just mean "talkin' together." Every courting couple talks together and reports how good they are at it! No, what I mean is repeatedly finding active things to do together, and doing those things, so you are required to solve problems, discover solutions, and make and execute plans that demand the shared investment of your time and energy.

Durable relationships don't just happen. They're planned for, constructed, and shared cooperatively!

More next time

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