Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting married and Staying Married: How good a lover do you need to be?

I'm sure you've witnessed it. A healthy and exciting marriage ends in hurt and anger. I've seen it too. Watching what appears to be a healthy relationship get sick and eventually die is like offering some hand-held grain to a flock of hungry chickens. Those little pecks may "tickle" at first, but soon you're running from their painful and impatient advances.

Healthy marriage relationships don't just happen, they are made. Similarly, most unhealthy relationships don't just happen, they gradually become unhealthy. Really healthy relationships tend to maintain their health. Unhealthy relationships can get sicker and sicker.

When I did marriage seminars some people heard me make a statement that struck them as funny: "People don't get married to be miserable for the rest of their lives." Surprisingly, some married couples do find themselves in an uncomfortable endurance-type mode. Some researchers suggest this kind of thing may be going on for as many as one out of every four relationships! But realistically, most marriage relationships go through "storms"--really uncomfortable seasons that neither partner wants to revisit. Thankfully the issues or events that spawned these "storms" can resolve and become a distant memory. But if or when a storm just continues to build, it's often because one or several of these life-skill inadequacies are sabotaging the couple's effort to move away from the storm track.

So, here is another one of those questions I promised in a previous blog entry. Thinking about it can generate some very helpful insight when it comes to deciding whether a couple should seriously consider getting married, or if they should graciously part company as friends: What level of competency must you establish around these life skills to assure you that you can, in fact, have a durable and satisfying marriage relationship?

The answer to that question probably isn't what you might think. What's going to be "good enough" for one couple's dynamics may be very "wrong" for another. So, you've got to experimentally find out what level of competency best serves this relationship. How should a couple accomplish that? I'll rehearse (below) what I suggested in my previous blog entry.

...Here's a simple two-step answer, and like so many other things in life, it's a lot more easily said than done. But remember, there is a lot at stake.
  1. Don't be in a hurry to get married. It's a fact that many problems could have been solved (before they became issues for a relationship) if the partners hadn't rushed to 'tie the knot.' You're going to need some time to assure yourselves that you really do have the definitive answer to this question before you make your final commitment-decision to the relationship.
  2. Intentionally identify, plan, and then do activities together. The activities you choose should require your shared and active investment of time and energy. You want to get a good sense of how well you work together, respectively take responsibility, and demonstrate ability to be accountable to each other for the outcome. For example, plan, purchase the ingredients, and cook a meal together for another couple that you would like to spend some time with...or...Plan a weekend retreat--maybe a camping trip for several other friends or couples--where you two are the PRIMARY planners/leaders responsible to make this event happen "without a hitch.
Do this with a bunch of activities you plan and execute together--at least ten! You will learn a lot about each other doing these kinds of things. Planning and executing activities and events like these will vastly increase your understanding of each others emotional dynamics, how you work together, how well, and why. (For more practical discussion like this, ask about the book, Smarter Romance.)

More later

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