Monday, September 20, 2010

What Marriage is Really About

Going against the conventional wisdom, a study published last year says that couples who cohabitate before marriage are actually more likely to divorce than those who do not. Being logical and rational folks, we have the idea that we should try something out before committing to it. We test drive a car before buying it. We read a couple of pages of a book we are thinking of getting. What if, however, that attitude, rather than keeping us out of undesirable relationships, actually causes our marriages not to last.

Rationality is all well and good, but it is a double edged sword. Too often, we apply a seemingly rational process to a situation. We then pursue the result that we find with absolute confidence. After all, we reached the decision rationally. What if the process was flawed?

When heading towards marriage, many people believe that they know what they want. They might want a person with a good income, a good heart, or a good sense of humor. Perhaps they want love, attention, and passion. Marriage, however, is not about any of those specific things. Marriage is about a lifelong commitment between two people. Two becoming one. Of course, this does not appeal to us Americans. We are rocks! We are islands! We need no one else and can do everything on our own.

If you are truly an island, don't get married. You don't need to, and you will eventually divorce, finding the situation too confining for too little benefit. If you are a mortal like the rest of us, however, understand that the true value of marriage is having someone in your life whose destiny is tied to yours. For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, two people are joined, sharing dreams, aspirations, and defeats, but always knowing that their partner is there for them on their side.

You cannot trade up from this situation. Perhaps you have been married for a long time and your spouse is showing their age a bit. You think that maybe you can do younger with a younger person. Even if this new person is everything that you could ever dream of, there is something that this younger person will never be able to offer you: the relationship that has grown through decades of sharing with and depending on each other.

The strength and value of marriage is in the connection. It is that simple and that complicated.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time Versus Quality Time

One of the biggest issues that can develop in a long term relationship is time. Unfortunately, not all time spent together is created equal. Sometimes, a couple will spend some time together, and one person will think it is time well spend, but the other will still feel neglected. This points out the difference between time and quality time.

For some couples, they are happy to simply spend time in the same place doing, even if they are working on different things. For others, only certain activities are satisfying for quality time. Even for couples who are happy to spend casual time together, it is still important to make special time to reconnect.

The common trap, especially for cohabitating couples, is that they will spend a great deal of time in the same place and forget to spent good time together. When the couple first got together, they probably talked about other things besides bills, kids, and the slow drain in the shower. However, day by day, the little, niggling issues of life distract them. They don't realize that, while they may spend dozens of hours a week together, none of these hours are spend rebuilding and strengthening their relationship.

It is important that a couple makes time to do things that bring them together. This could mean making a date night. This could mean working on fun projects together. The important thing is to make sure that time is set aside to do things that are enjoyable to both of them. Time that is separate from the day to day tasks of living.