Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Month of Marriage: Feelings Change

I have been married for 11 years, to the same man, and while times are not always perfect, we are still together and still in love. He is my best friend. That is the most important thing.
Feelings change, sometimes daily, so build your marriage on something stronger.

Before you even decide to marry, make sure you can be good friends, work together, and that when the chips are down, you can still forgive and love them. Realize that marriage is a commitment. 

If you think you can change someone, you can't. People are slow to change; slower to change than you think. 

If you think you can live with your partner's idiosyncrasies, then by all means, do, and live with them for the long haul. 

We humans are creatures of habit. That's why building a relationship, keeping it, and making new habits or traditions takes time. Marrying a person to change them rarely works. The perfect partner for you is not 'in there somewhere'.

What if YOU change? We all do. We all learn and grow and suddenly the things we thought we could tolerate are too much to bear. Or perhaps the things you thought would be intolerable aren't really that bad. Are you willing to compromise? Is there a small change you or your partner can make in a short time? Small changes are much easier than big ones.

As long as you have friendship at the heart of it, your marriage can weather the storms. I remember those first rocky years when we needed to adjust to each other's bathroom routines, entertainment requirements, work schedules, and stresses that go along with a new home and a new family. I said to him, "Honey, I love you, but I just don't like you right now."

You have to be willing to say that and to hear it. Your partner may not feel exactly the same way for you at that exact moment no matter how much you feel you two are 'in sync'. You have to trust that they will come around. Being friends means being willing and able to help your partner get to the same place emotionally. Maybe next time the tables will be turned and they will be the one not ready for your affection. Be willing to give them space and time and whatever they needs and don't overreact because you can't have what you need this very instant. Be willing to give them what they need, even if it counters with what you want in the moment. That is compromise, a delay in gratification. This is where being friends first, having that trust in your bond, will keep you glued together when times are rough and emotions are high.

You can always ask for what you need in return. Perhaps they were thinking you needed something far greater than what you really do and they felt stressed. Asking for what you need helps your partner understand your needs. This is communication. It opens up the floor for them to share what they need back to you.

It's never too late to be friends. Even if you built your marriage on the fast and the furious, heat, passion, and fleeting moments, you can still create a friendship. It's about being vulnerable, open, sharing, and listening. Really hear what your partner says. Put yourself in their shoes. Forgive, apologize, play nice.

It's not all happiness, but it can be mostly happiness. :)

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