Wednesday, January 12, 2011
"By all means, marry; if you get a good wife, you will be happy. If you get a bad one, you will become a philosopher." —Socrates
From the day they first met at the local gym until the romantic honeymoon in Hawaii, life has been just right for Dr. Charming and Miss Perfect.
They are destined to be the great love story of the modern-day South. She is beautiful and intelligent and keeps up with his every athletic step. He is educated, funny, tall and handsome, and has some rockin' six-pack abs. They like the same movies and music (mostly). She does not mind (much) that he likes to go hunting with his buddies. He thinks her assertive personality and opinionated conversation are intriguing. She loves his mother, he loves hers, and everyone is just one big happy family.
With so much perfection, how could they fail?
What awaits Dr. and Mrs. Charming is a transition to real life. This will be more difficult than it seems, because what they do not realize is that life naturally seeks balance.
After the highs of romance come the inevitable lows. Almost worse is the middle ground, that time when we must pick the undies up off the floor, do the laundry, cut the grass, repair the leaky faucet, make a budget, decide who does what chores and get on with the more mundane affairs of living.
After babies begin to arrive, Mrs. Charming is exhausted from working and caring for the children and home. All he wants to do after a hard day at the office is get to the couch so he can watch Monday night football—uninterrupted—with the boys.
Who has time for the gym anymore? Her great cooking has done its job, and now the only six-pack Dr. Charming has is the Miller Lite in their refrigerator. Oh, yeah! He still wants sex before he falls asleep at night; but she is certain he would not know how to pleasure her if he had a map and a personal massage device (sold as a novelty—for external use only).
Oh, marital bliss.
In no time at all, the Charmings are an ordinary family of four with too many bills. The most exciting part of the week is a trip to the local buffet and a Netflix movie at home. The perfectly Charming couple have forgotten who they are as individuals and who they planned to be as a couple. In fact, they failed to plan at all. They are the same people, but they have become roommates who pay bills and rear children.
My advice to Dr. and Mrs. Charming? Choose not to live life by default. Never discount the value of fun and laughter for your personal health and that of your relationship. Nurture yourself and your partner, together and separately, every day. Plan a new challenge every few months. Learn new things together, travel and work together, choose friendships together, and never let anything become more important than your relationship, not even your kids.
One other thing: Miss Perfect, if he needs a map, don't be shy. Draw him one ... literally. Dr. Charming, if she draws you a map, don't be insulted. Thank her, and have fun following it.
Keep Your Love Alive
It's easy to forget how much you love your partner when you're focused on the day-to-day concerns of life. One key to a long-term loving relationship is to remember what it was that led you to say "yes," to begin with.
• Look beyond the negative. Constantly focusing on what's wrong is a sure-fire way to kill romance. It's natural, but not inevitable. Write down what it was about your partner that you fell in love with, and look for those traits instead of his or her faults.
• Examine expectations. Unfulfilled expectations cause upsets, so try to keep yours realistic. If your partner isn't your hero, maybe you've set the bar too high.
• Recognize love. Words are important, but people express love in different ways. Listening, doing without being asked, being respectful, and being responsive are all ways people show love and affection.
• Cherish memories. Find ways to collect good memories. When you're upset or angry, allow a memento to remind you of your love.
• Forgive, and choose love. Let go of grievances. Instead, find and practice ways to recommit to your partner every day.
Rituals of Love
One out of every five first marriages end in divorce in the first five years, and one out of three first marriages end in 10 years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
The most successful relationships are those following an "enduring dynamics model," reported Psychology Today in April 2000. Couples who establish positive behavior patterns early and maintain them over time and through the natural transitions of their relationship have a greater chance of staying together. They are critical for maintaining stability, the authors said.
The same study showed that learning to balance time between duty and relationship, work and family, was the number one challenge newlyweds face.
Developing rituals—such as bringing her flowers on Friday or always cooking his favorite meal on Sunday—creates a pattern of appreciation in a relationship. These rituals have as much, or possibly more, to do with the awareness it creates in the giver as in the receiver.
Developing family rituals also eases stress, especially during times of change, and creates a foundation for security in partners and for their children.