Love Is (almost) Enough
Care and feeding of a Healthy Marriage
For hundreds of years, poets and songwriters have devoted themselves to defining, glorifying, and praising the virtues of Love. A certain Princess Factory in Florida (whose name rhymes with “Whizney”) has a staff of artists, “Imagineers” and musicians working overtime to create images of Love conquering dragons and evildoers, and Princes that can fix everything with a kiss.
Love is, of course, worthy of all this effort. Without it, the entire universe would be meaningless (and probably not even work right).
Because it’s such a huge force in our lives, we can get swept up in the overwhelming energy of it, and lose contact with the practical day-to-day stuff that makes our lives work. This is not a bad thing - the “carried away” part is one of the amazing things about it, and should be enjoyed to the fullest! It’s been said that if you haven’t done something foolish in the name of love, you’re not doing it right.
Where we humans sometimes get into trouble is asking (or expecting) too much of it. As powerful as Love is, it won’t pay the bills without us. As beautiful as it is, it can’t survive very many years without some degree of nurturing by the people in it. Balance is the key here; Love must have its way with us if we are to be fully alive, but we must also recognize that life still happens when the starry-eyed goofiness wears off (or maybe just settles down).
Here are some practical, proven ways to keep love healthy:
Be nice to each other. You’d be amazed at how many people treat waiters better than they treat the person they swore to love forever. While you’re committing to be together for the rest of your lives, why not commit to making it pleasant?
Don’t be afraid of conflict. This seems odd, but conflict is inevitable. There’s just no way that joining two lives together will be a flawless process, and pretending otherwise will lead to tears. Couples that choose to deal with conflict in a healthy, loving way navigate past small stuff with a minimum of pointless drama. As an added bonus, when the Big Challenges come, they’re already in the habit of working together as a team.
Forgive. You’re going to make mistakes, your spouse is going to make mistakes, and keeping them alive through lack of forgiveness is like choosing not to take a sticker out of your foot.
Pay the marriage first. Get in the habit of saving a little bit from every paycheck, and STAY OUT OF DEBT! Money problems are a huge factor in marriages that don’t last, and debt has a crushing way of taking away your choices later in life.
Keep the goofiness alive! Plan dates - big ones and little ones. If being married means that you stop having fun, you’ll eventually stop being married.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. I said that three times, because it’s just behind Money as one of the biggest problems people have. If you feel like you know your spouse so well that you don’t have to check in about some major decision, check in anyway. You’ll be surprised at how often you’re surprised.
Love yourself, too. Love is giving by its very nature, but when it’s out of balance it becomes draining and harmful. Love your spouse enough to give them the very best “you” available.
Pick your future together. You’re going on a great journey together. It’s a lot better if you’re going in the same direction. Talk about what you want your life to look like in ten or twenty years, and work together to make that happen. Another bonus: this keeps small challenges in their proper perspective, since everything is evaluated by how it supports the Big Goal.
Work on it. You get better at the things you practice. Make sure you’re practicing things that make your marriage healthier, instead of getting better at criticizing, blaming, and other things that cause damage.
Listen. This is especially important for the guys, who have a tendency to just “fix” everything (when a woman just wants — needs — him to listen), but it goes both ways. Listening with your full attention is one of the highest compliments we can pay anyone. It’s rare these days, and that makes it extremely valuable.
Love is good stuff. I believe that it can actually slay dragons (but you should bring a sword, too).
Tony Barker is a poet, songwriter, Speaker, professional musician, Martial Arts Instructor, and primary presenter for ResolutionSolutions.NET, a conflict resolution and communications company that offers pre-marital communication classes based in Abilene, Texas. You can contact him - and listen to Custom Songs that he writes for weddings - at www.TonyBarkerMedia.com.