Marriage is about making each other’s dreams come true. I heard that on a CNN interview Don Lemon was holding this afternoon. The truth of it struck me. It also struck me that it takes two to believe in this truth or it probably won’t work. In other words, one half of the couple will most likely feel dissatisfied, discontented or devalued.
I speak with some authority as I have experienced both kinds of marriage. In the first, which ended in divorce, the focus was on my husband’s career, needs and wants. After the split, not of my choosing, and seven years of single parenting, I married a wonderful man who was a recent widower and father of five. Filled with mutual respect, genuine liking, a healthy dose of passion and shared dreams
for the future we embarked on our second chance at happiness. Twenty five years later the feelings remain the same, even at our advanced ages. He still has his dreams and tasks and I have mine. We believe in each other. We have each other’s backs.
It’s such a comfortable way to live – no fighting, bickering, putdowns or insurmountable disagreement. It’s hard stay angry if you really have your partner’s best interest at heart, and vice versa. I am sad when I see firsthand a couple struggling to stay a couple. The resulting angst, bitterness, and bewilderment are painful to watch, especially when at least part of the solution is simply changing one’s point of view, and applying the golden rule.
Here is a recent example: A young woman is invited by her boyfriend to a reunion party where he knows everyone and she knows no one. He takes no time to introduce her to his various friends, and spends much time reconnecting with them, leaving her to fend for herself. When the evening is over, she tries to explain how she feels, only to find that he is completely bewildered at her reaction and gets defensive.
My husband and I do not have to be glued to each other at a party, but we are both always aware of where the other one is, and make sure that we do not feel abandoned. We always make appropriate introductions to each other’s acquaintances. If we know there is an event where this might be difficult to accomplish we simple don’t participate.
And another: A couple will be getting married in three months. The young woman wants to spend an entire Saturday shopping and registering for gifts at various stores. The young man is trying to think of ways to get out of this task without hurting his fiancee’s feelings. Both are trying to get their way without a major argument. The relationship is new enough that each still wants to please the other.
A little input from an older adult helps avert potential disaster. An agreement is struck to spend a Friday evening checking out various stores, capped by a glass of wine and some appetizers. The shopping compromise becomes a happy memory of this important time. Finding a caring adult who has both parties’ interests at heart is beneficial.
Let’s go back to the opening statement. “Marriage is about making each other’s dreams come true.” That should be amended to a good marriage. Most people getting married have every intention of staying married, but don’t realize the level of maturity and commitment needed. When a marriage becomes troubled, help from outside sources is beneficial, IF the outside source is impartial and wants to see the couple stay married. There are some marriage and family counselors who have a different view of marriage. My former husband and I saw a family counselor who, after hearing our complaints separately, took the position that if there were that many problems, why stay married? Why indeed? If there are children involved, every effort should be made to help the couple rekindle what brought them together in the first place.
It seems like the prevailing view of marriage is that life is too short to stay in an unhappy relationship. However, If you truly value your marriage and want to make every effort to stay married, consider checking into “The Art and Science of Love” marriage workshops presented by Drs. John and Julie Gottman. Workshops in Seattle are being held in May, July and October of this year. Specific details can be found by clicking on their website. You will also find workshops all over the country led by Gottman trained therapists. I didn’t know about the Gottmans when I was going through my own marital strife, and perhaps the outcome would have been different if I had. I certainly think my children would have fared better. However, I grew in strength and wisdom as a result, and am now happy and fulfilled. I try very hard to make my husband's dreams come true, and he does the same for me. It's a wonderful way to live.
So, if you are going through marital angst, before you throw in the towel on your own relationship, see a therapist who believes in marriage. Consider checking out the Gottmans. The drain on your emotions and finances will surely be significantly less than a divorce.