Marriage is not about ‘living happily ever after’, it’s about ‘living authentically ever after’, says counsellor Mary Jo Rapini.
When a couple is getting ready to head down the aisle, they are so in love that they cannot believe their marriage will face troubled times, says Rapini, but ‘we should teach couples that although the bad years will be rough, they will also provide growth and deeper understanding and commitment’.
‘The couple who tells me with a straight face, “We need to divorce because we no longer are in love”, but admit to loving one another, boggles my mind. What does that even mean?’ asserts Rapini.
Romantic love plays an important role in marriage—particularly during the ‘honeymoon phase’ where we project our hopes and dreams on our partner. This helps us bond and prepares us for commitment. But this is just the beginning of a life-long journey.
If we think being ‘in love’ is the end goal, we will be dissatisfied when we begin to see our partner as they really are, and discover they can’t save us from frustration and heartbreak. At times, they may even be the source of hurt.
But this does not mean that your marriage is over. Rapini provides some helpful tips to get you through the tough months, or even years:
• Talk to your partner more than you talk to a friend. When you talk, say one sentence to your partner’s three. Usually there is a lot of talking to during a bad period of marriage, but less talking with.
• Even if you cannot have sex with your partner, touch them, or hold their hand when possible. Try not to sleep in separate beds for extended periods.
• Write to one another. Most people can write what they feel easier than they can say it.
• Begin talking about your memories of your first dates. Take a break from talking about your problems.
• Begin dating your spouse again. Try to experience new things with them.
• Become a team against the issue that is making the marriage fragile.
• Find a church or spiritual place you both like. A spiritual connection can help you both accept the situation better.
• People have to grieve things differently. Your spouse may want to bury a problem, but you may still feel it very deeply. Allow one another the space to work through the problem in their own way.
• Remind yourself that you took a vow—this has helped more couples than I can count. In the end it is the commitment that will get you through the long, tough times.
(c) 'War Cry' magazine, 1 December 2018, p10 - You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.