Right before I got married I read Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman. There is a great list of “flags” to go through in conversation with your significant other before, and after, you marry. I believe most sources of conflict in marriage can be worked out so I didn’t see anything on Chapman’s list that was a deal breaker. But these conversations are important to have.
One of the things that really stood out to me was when Chapman wrote that, “Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage.” It goes against everything we’re taught socially about love and marriage. The songs tell us that, “all you need is love”and “if I had you, that would be the only thing I’d ever need”. But there’s more to marriage than that.
Love is not enough
Love alone is not enough. It really isn’t. It might not sound romantic, but it is so so so true. We’ve lost the meaning of what “love” is. We can say “I LOVE my new shoes” and “I love you” and it sounds like the same word. Hollywood’s romantic comedies tell us that love is a fantastic chemical reaction in your brain that triggers intense feelings of joy, passion and butterflies. Love can be that, but if that’s our whole picture of love, then reality is a shocker.
(This might be why gym memberships tend to outlast Hollywood marriages.) While these intense feelings are real, there’s more to love than that. The butterflies are not what make up the deep binding kind of love that will last through the trials a marriage brings.
Rather than relying solely on a romanticized version of love, Chapman’s book lists five foundations we can realistically build a marriage on. We need spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social and physical foundations. Intimacy on each of these levels is essential. We’re told that physical attraction is the most important, but I think that it’s the least. An accident or illness, heck, even gravity, can change one’s physical attractiveness. Let’s not build our marriages on something so temporary.
Also, when looking at emotional intimacy, let’s not confuse that with happiness. Emotional intimacy is a mutual sense of security and acceptance. (I’ve heard it said, and I believe this to be true, that pursuing personal happiness at all costs is a sure way for no one to be happy.)
There have certainly been some arguments this first year where both my husband and I have felt intense emotions of hurt that leads to questions of “was this a mistake?” I would not allow myself to entertain a second thought of that nature: because, I think the more these thoughts are kept in our minds, the more readily they can be spoken. And a word once spoken is as hard to take back as a bag of feathers that was opened to the wind.
When my husband and I started dating one of his first questions to me was, “What does commitment mean to you?” My answer is that commitment means putting in whatever thought, time and money it takes to make the relationship work. He holds the same definition of commitment and that has enabled us to work through conflict. Beyond just compromising to maintain status quo, we’ve been able to grow together into a new, deeper level of love and commitment to each other.
And I think THAT is the main foundation for building a successful marriage…not feelings of “love”, but actions of togetherness.
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