Were the Beatles right? Is love really all you need for a good marriage? Actually, that’s a terribly destructive myth.
Love at first sight is a popular notion. Some relationships begin this way and, as luck would have it, blossom into good marriages. But usually when people immediately think that they’ve found him (or her) at last, they’re in fantasy land. They are imagining a wonderful kind of life together with someone they barely know. If they marry impulsively, they may soon find that they have too little in common for a lifelong relationship. Consequently, the chemistry fades away and not much else is left to build on.
Leading with Your Brain
Love is essential for a good, lasting relationship. But the brain, as well as the heart, needs to be engaged to keep (what the Righteous Brothers called) “that loving feeling” alive and growing. Singles who want to get married are often advised to make a list of 10 qualities they are looking for in a mate. Doing so helps get beyond the “follow your heart” cliché and, instead, to put thought into the process of deciding who is a good prospect for marriage.
I’m a strong believer in friendship first. If you want your future husband to be your best friend as well as your lover, spend enough time with him to learn whether the two of you are likely to be compatible in the long run. You’re more likely to successfully test yourselves as friends if you act more like a friend than as a lover while getting to know him over a period of at least a few months.
What About Sex?
Don’t feel bound to anyone’s timetable for when the right time is to become sexually involved. You may have heard that men move on to look for someone else if “nothing happens” by the third date.
I think this may be true for men who feel entitled to sex, regardless of whether they want a noncommittal relationship or one that leads to marriage. If your goal is marriage, it makes sense to avoid getting sexually involved before you feel ready to do so both emotionally and mentally. You will want to have as much time as you need to test the friendship as objectively as possible, and of course you may also be guided by your own value system based on your religion’s teachings or those from another source.
Distinguishing Sex from Love
Are you able to distinguish between sex and love? Sex gets the hormones flowing, especially, in women, oxytocin. Oxytocin has been called the “love hormone” — for good reason. It causes women to feel emotionally bonded and can blind them to the other person’s shortcomings that they would probably recognize if they hadn’t compromised their objectivity. By avoiding getting too physically involved too soon, you’ll give yourself time to see if a real friendship develops, and if the potential exists for spending a lifetime together.
It’s a mistake for a marriage-minded woman to have sex because she feels pressured to in order to keep a man interested in her. That’s not love and it’s no basis for a friendship that might lead to marriage. A man who doesn’t respect your boundaries is not for you.
How to Keep Love Flourishing in Your Marriage
If you are already married to someone who meets your basic requirements for a life partner, be grateful. But that is just the beginning. Love can grow or fade. If you want to keep love alive, it is up to you. You’ve taken the first step by choosing a partner with whom the chemistry is good and who shares enough of your interests, values and lifestyle preferences for the two of you to be compatible over time.
A great way to keep your relationship on track is by holding a weekly marriage meeting, which is a short, gentle conversation that cover all the basics, as described step by step in my book, Marriage Meetings for Lasting Love: 30 Minutes a Week to the Relationship You’ve Always Wanted. Marriage meetings foster romance, intimacy, teamwork, and smoother resolution of issues.
By regularly investing a small amount of time and energy, you and your spouse can enjoy both love and a true friendship that lasts for a lifetime.
Swans photo available from Shutterstock