This is Part 1 of a six-part post on long-term committed relationships, which for simplicity’s sake I will call Marriage, although I understand there are other kinds of relationships, too.
Part 1 is on what’s unique about these kinds of relationships, the benefits, and the special challenges of nourishing them. Really, it’s about marriage benefits, which we don’t say enough about in today’s world.
Part 2 is on what makes a long-term relationship happy. I believe that if you can define something, you can then work towards achieving it.
Part 3 discusses anger, conflict and communication, and how left unaddressed, it can kill a marriage.
Part 4 is about the long-term impact of anger, conflict and poor communications.
Part 5 is about when the spark and passion is gone in marriage.
Part 6 is Reconnecting sexually in a marriage of equals.
“I brought my wife flowers; she was delighted.”
“I brought my wife flowers every day; it became expected.”
“My husband bought me nothing because we could afford nothing. But he made time to listen to me and talk with me every night while he rubbed my neck.”
“My wife won’t have sex with me, she says she’s too tired every night.”
“My husband makes sure that I always have a full tank of gas.”
“My husband doesn’t come home until after I’m asleep most nights, spending every night with his friends at the bar.”
“My life partner came home early from work to make sure I could go out to girl’s night.”
These are examples of things that are seen as nourishing –or hurting– a relationship.
There’s more to a relationship than small gestures that show you care.
Keeping the spark alive takes work. Dammit.
I believe that as hard as it may be at times, being married is one of life’s greatest rewards.
Marriage is a relationship unlike any other, with you and your partner each committed to each other for life. It’s often hard, and there will always be. But life is much richer when you are each able to wholly trust and rely on each other, when you have a shared purpose, and when each other’s happiness is important to each other.
Ultimately, we are all alone; having someone to share our lives with, happy moments and sad, joyful and stressful, makes everything so much better. I truly believe that shared joy is more joyful, and shared pain more bearable. There is no one else I want to spend my life with than my wife.
Sadly, most marriages in the United States end in divorce. Increasingly, people don’t even see the point in getting married.
Why is this?
Lots of columnists, scientists, marriage counselors and ill-informed bloggers (like this one!) have their opinions. But my opinion is that in this society, people have gravitated more and more to seeking their own happiness and self-interest, and are less interested in committing to marriages that don’t fully provide those benefits.
More, couples today expect to be nourished in their relationships. Emotionally, mentally, physically. But often, people don’t nourish each other very well.
In the old days, people stayed married, even if they weren’t happy. Now, people bail.
More, people used to need to stay married to support a family. And kids were a pretty sure-fire product of having sex, which people wanted to have. And we shouldn’t underestimate men’s desire to have sex: if sex was what was required to have sex, then men were going to get married.
With birth control, sex is more available. This undercuts the one rationale for marriage, both for men and women.
And women now have their own careers and incomes, and don’t need to get married to be able to support their children. Although it certainly helps.
Additionally, although some may disagree, the growth of government public assistance assures that there is some minimum level of basic human needs being provided for children and families who are destitute. Being on welfare isn’t anyone’s first choice, but for some, it does provide a safety net that allows women to provide for their children… and get out of bad marriages if they absolutely have to, or not marry a poor choice of partners at all.
Partners need to know, and discuss, what each of them need and expect in their relationship, to be nourished. And even with marriage and relationships being easier to terminate, really, we all want our relationships not just to last, but to thrive, where we each provide what the other person needs.
This, I would put forward, is the definition of happiness. Where you’re getting what you need. I believe that we all need other people, and in particular, we need the love, commitment, affection, respect and companionship of one person in particular, our life partner. We are born wanting this connection, this partnership. And if even if you’ve had relationships that have gone bad or left you scarred, you still want a person to spend your time with. Perhaps the term “soul-mate” is overused and too romantic. But no one should have to be alone, and having been very alone in my own life, I know how much I value what my gal gives me, every day, even if she’s having a bad day and yelling at me.
Read the next post in the Keeping the Spark Alive Series: Marriage, Part 2: What is a Happy Marriage?