A successful marriage means falling in love many times, always with the same person. — Mignon McLaughlin
Do you view marriage as a destination or a journey? If you view it as a journey, you’re infinitely more likely to succeed.
Those who view marriage as a destination are likely to become disillusioned. When the glow fades, they’ll wonder: “How could I have married this person who is so annoyingly different from me?!!!”
Actually that thought can easily surface in any marriage. Does this surprise you?
I remember meeting a widower, maybe about eighty, back when I was single and naïve enough to think a relationship had to be perfectly fine all the time or wasn’t worth keeping. This man had had a long and very happy marriage. I’d sensed that from his radiant expression as he described his feelings for his late wife: “Sometimes I thought she was the most awful person in the world,” he’d said. “Other times I thought she was the most wonderful one; I felt so fortunate to be with her.”
Spouses Can be Annoying
Sometime after I did marry, I liked hearing Rabbi Joseph Richards’ advice about how to choose a lifetime partner. He said, “People are annoying, so find the person who annoys you least and marry that one!
If you view marriage as a journey, you’ll understand that all marriages experience ups and downs. Our job is to learn, over and over, how to deal productively with relationship challenges as they arise, to approach them in ways that foster our growth as individuals and as a couple.
Marriage as Ultimate Growth Experiences
Viewing marriage as a journey means knowing it takes a daily investment of energy to keep the relationship emotionally and spiritually fulfilling. This is actually fairly easy to do, once we make it a habit by developing routines to keep reconnecting with our partner (1). When you do this, the glow will keep returning and you’ll find it hard to imagine life without your mate.
Approached this way, and with an ongoing quest for self-understanding, marriage is the ultimate growth experience. Learning to accept and appreciate differences, to communicate positively and constructively, to be responsible for behaving in ways do or do not bring out the best in ourselves and our partner — all these practices are part of the big marriage-as-a-journey picture.
Thriving in Ever Changing Reality
By behaving in these ways, we increase our ability to empathize with and support each other. We develop more sensitivity to our partner’s wants and needs, as well as our own. We are able to become “other-centered” without losing ourselves.
Certainly, it takes a degree of maturity to stay happily married. To succeed, we need to commit, not to the static moment of marrying as a destination, but to an ever changing reality, as life and our relationship evolve. The two of us as a couple become the constant that helps keep us balanced, or keeps us returning to a balanced state, again and again, as we experience the bumps, twists, and turns of our relationship and of life in all its aspects.
Choosing a partner wisely is the first step toward creating a fulfilling, lasting marriage. By treating marriage as a journey, we allow the glow to keep returning. We fall in love with our partner — again, and again, and again.
(1) Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted tells, step by step, how partners can hold a weekly gentle conversation that keeps them reconnecting frequently. Marriage meetings foster more romance, intimacy, teamwork; and smoother resolution of issues.