5 Pieces of Inspiration to Keep You Out of Divorce Court
In Part 1 of this series, I outlined the lessons I learned about commitment after participating in 1,000 divorces. In Part 2, we uncovered some existential truths about marriage that will help give perspective (and counter the unrealistic romantic ideals the culture typically feeds us). Part 3 covered the practical skills of a life partnership. This week, I offer a little inspiration to counter all that hard work.
- Transitions are inevitable.
The one constant in life and in marriage is change. Your marriage matures and evolves from moment to moment, never mind year to year. And thank goodness. This is the process of emotional evolution.
But marriage is hard, and this is one of the reasons. You commit to something at one stage of your life, and then you change. How can you remain committed? That is the question at the heart of much marital conflict.
Step one of the solution is to acknowledge that transitions are inevitable. You won’t always have that job, or that house, and you might not always like tomato soup, or the same sexual position you first got used to. Because change happens to all of us, it cannot be an indictment of relationship failure. But not communicating about those changes can be.
One fundamental pillar of trust is communication, not only of what you need, but of any changes to what you need. You will change, and you must communicate those changes as soon as you become aware of them. Which leads to my next point:
- The work never ends. Keep your love alive.
The inevitability of change is not to say that your partner’s duty is to accept all your changes. Your evolution may be unworkable to your partner. In fact, you can expect that nearly every change will be met with fear at first. This is how we operate. We accept the normal and reject the new, even if it’s better.
This is all to say that the work never ends. Change continues, and it begets conflict. Using conflict to deepen your relationship is what people mean when they say that relationships take work. It’s never easy, but it’s always fulfilling.
The change, the fear, the conflict—these are all inevitable and interrelated. They are also our greatest opportunity for self awareness and personal growth. These essentially form the deepest and most fundamental “why” of relationships. Sex, companionship, and stability can all be accomplished in other ways. The depth of personal vulnerability leading to spiritual awakening, however, can only be had in very few human dynamics. Intimate relationship is by far the best setup for such awakening. (I’ve written about this before here, if you would like to read more.)
- Sex will wax and wane. This is normal.
You already know this, but you may be in denial. Your sexual passion will ebb and flow. Sometimes you’re hot, sometimes you’re not. If you allow this to determine your relationship health, you simply will not last. If you understand it for what it is, you’ll be fine.
- But … if you want to keep your marriage alive, work to keep the sex alive.
That said, the research repeatedly confirms that sexual satisfaction is critical to a lasting and happy marriage. So work on it. Your sexual passion will wax and wane, but that does not mean you can safely ignore sexuality altogether. You must grow together sexually, and that means communication about what you need. Which (as usual) leads to the next point.
- Give your spouse what they want. If you’re honest, you already know what that is.
Why is this so hard for us? Is it an ego thing? Is it our normal casual cruelty that Dr. David Schnarch writes about? You know what your partner wants, and quite honestly, it would not be so terribly difficult to provide it, and yet you do not. Everyone does this, me included. Why?
Fear. I’ve written about that before too.
It’s fear, and it’s not that important, so get over yourself. If you really want a happy relationship, give your partner what they want. This isn’t only about sex. This is about affection, and communication, and free time, and chores, and your wholehearted attention, and tiny little facial expressions. It’s about all the little details of our daily interaction that are so much more important than we can ever imagine. And it’s about sex.
We all occasionally get negative spirals. You each think the other is to blame for your current funk, and you keep waiting for the other to fix it. You roll your eyes and act sullen, locked in you play the martyr hoping that your partner will suddenly be enlightened to their idiocy by your facial expression.
Well keep waiting, because that’s all you’ll be doing, forever. A relationship is no place to stand on principle. It’s a place to surrender to something greater than your ego. Suck it up and be the first one to take the step towards reconciliation. Give your partner what they want for goodness’ sake. What does it really cost you? Not doing it is costing your relationship.
Think of it in terms of giving. We all get married hoping to get something, but in the end we learn it’s not really about us or about getting. It’s actually about learning to give.
Erik Newton is the founder of Together