In the popular book by Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible, character Rachel Axelroot states, “…If I had known what marriage was going to be like, I would have tied all the hope-chest linens into a rope and hung myself from a tree”! In my daily work, couples of all ages express similar thoughts. Yet, there remains an ago-old rush to “tie the knot”, even among couples who hesitate.
If you or someone you know is on the threshold of entering or leaving a marriage, consider the following thoughts.
With marriage, it’s always easier to get into it than to get out of it. An amazing number of people walk down the wedding aisle while fighting every instinct to turn and run. The pressure of invitations, gifts, gowns and relatives often lead to the irrational belief that it will be easier to get a divorce later on. In truth, however, the cost of the wedding often pales when compared with attorney fees and the pain of actually breaking up this legal commitment.
As the old saying goes, “every marriage counts”. Marriage is a public statement that becomes part of your permanent personal resume. While marriage is usually accompanied by an increase in social status, divorce is not! Furthermore, while divorce without children carries a significant stigma, divorce after children are born also carries lifelong obligations and often the pain of regret. Like losing one’s virginity, once you’re a parent, you can’t go back.
bliss evolves out of problem-solving. Sometimes
couples who are hasty about marriage become even hastier about divorce. When
faced with a difficult problem, some people are eager to quit. Perhaps it
would help to consider their marriage in the same way they consider their
jobs. At work, problems arise on a daily basis. For most us, solving
problems at work creates a feeling of accomplishment and even elation.
Generally, people are hired because they have good problem-solving skills.
Problems make our work more challenging. In fact, a job without problems to
solve becomes boring. So if problems are a challenge at work, why is this
not true in marriage? Agreeing to marital vows is like starting a new job.
We should expect there to be a period of adjustment, we should expect that
we will need to learn a lot, and we should expect to work hard. Likewise, in
a new job, we anticipate becoming part of a team and know that we will need
to learn how to work together. Aren’t these the same expectations we
should have for marriage?
Marital love grows when it is fueled by the desire to create a devoted family life. Devotion, the key word here, evolves over time. It cannot be forced but it can be nurtured. Research suggests that one indicator of marital stability is the purchase of household appliances, such stoves, refrigerators, and washing machines. Apparently the purchase of these items demonstrates a couple’s commitment to building a home and family. In the big picture, it’s a sign of the couple’s commitment to building their lifelong relationship.
If you’re not playing for keeps, it may be better not to play at all. Marriage is not a temporary state; it is a promise of lifelong partnership. If the marriage is to be satisfying, it must be satisfying to both parties. It doesn’t work to change your personality and life goals just for the sake of the marriage. People can fake happiness… but not for very long.
Each of us devotes many years to identifying hopes and dreams for our lives. Sadly, these hopes and dreams are often forfeited when we fall in love. I have always believed that a happy marriage must be composed of people whose hopes and dreams are compatible. To go the distance, the marriage itself must be flexible enough to change and grow over time. Just as we have periodic reviews on the job to assess our performance and determine new goals, it would be helpful to do the same in your marriage. Perhaps we all need to become quality control experts to maximize profits in our personal relationships.
©Copyright, 2002, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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