Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale shares some insight.
It seems that long- term marriages are becoming more of an anomaly ~ and maybe our interest in other people’s marriages is that if we don’t understand what makes marriages work we, too, will fail. We FEAR that we might not make it. This is why the marriage rate is so low today. Many single adults are baby boomers, or children of baby boomers who witnessed an all-time peak in the divorce rate in the early ‘80’s, and they think, “I’m not gonna go through that!” So, they either avoid intimate relationships altogether or they cohabit to avoid the possibility of divorce. But, what’s interesting is that these cohabiting relationships have an even higher failure rate than marriage itself.
I recently met a couple that has been married for 38 years—they even work together!
And the truth is, they are even happier today, than the day they married! They had a friendly beginning to their ‘courtship.’ And perhaps this is why their marriage has sustained the storms of life – they began as friends, not passionate lovers. They were neighbors while students at BYU and she asked him for help on a class assignment regarding creating a budget (Now, mind you, this is one of the top 5 reasons couple’s state for divorce.). Through working on this project, they realized that they both thought a lot alike regarding the issue of money and other values; both came from very humble backgrounds where they learned the value of a dollar, and they were both taught to embrace delayed gratification. This is how they started! I think they’re on to something!
Has life been smooth and easy for them? No! Successful? Yes!
Their story inspired my first tip:
Be and Remain Fast Friends
But, what does it mean to be a great friend? Friends watch out for each other; stand up for each other; they reach out, inspire and uplift. Stella would add that they also, “make the bed for you!” Every morning Milford makes the bed. And she expresses her love and friendship to him by making his favorite cake or cookies. And, they don’t go a day without expressing their love and devotion. Every morning, it’s “How did you sleep, Dear? Good, thank you, Honey, how ‘bout you?” Milford added, with humor, “the older you get the more important those things are.”
I guarantee you that this couple has never uttered the word “divorce.” We must enter marriage with the mindset that divorce is not an option. That is vital for the long-term success of marriage. When you are too busy examining exit strategies, you fail to recognize solutions to marital strife. And no marriage is without difficulties. It’s not if you’ll have problems but what problems you’ll have. There are the deal breakers, however – abuse, adultery, and addiction. These issues cannot always be resolved but they are sure worth working thought with a professional if at all possible.
It’s been said that it’s the quality of time not the quantity of time that matters in a relationship. Wrong! What does make a difference is the quantity of quality time spent together. Milford and Stella take frequent trips; both elaborate and simple to keep stoking the fires. I read about another couple recently who every evening, when he came home from work, would go into their bedroom hanging the sign, “DO NOT DISTURB: MARRIAGE IN PROGRESS. For 15 minutes, they focused their complete attention on one another. No children. No pets. No phone calls. So even mini-dates can refuel the fire.
Love is a Four-Letter Word
Love is spelled G-I-V-E! Most people think marriage is 50/50. It’s not. It’s 60/40. You give 60. You take 40. That goes for both parties. You know the biggest concern I have with our younger generation today is this extreme “Me First!” mentality. We are raising these children to be someone’s spouse one day. Selfishness is the hardest thing to overcome when it has been fostered, fed, and unfettered.
BOTTOMLINE: In any relationships, where your attention goes, energy flows. So the next time you find yourself facing a mountain in your marriage, look for a secure foothold, hang on tight, and keep climbing…you’ll soon be over the top.
Dr. Liz Hale is a clinical psychologist and regular contributor on Studio 5.
If you’d like to visit with Dr. Liz about her Wednesday segments, or would like to know more about her private practice, you can reach her at email@example.com.