Before you commit your life to another, consider this: Love has absolutely nothing to do with the success or health of marriage.
In twenty years of work with individuals and couples, I cannot recall one instance when a couple’s marriage had improved or survived solely because of the love they felt for one another. As disillusioning and surprising as this may be, what I have discovered instead is that the morals, values and other compatibility features of the individual is paramount to the success of the union. While love is certainly important, it is not the key factor in what sustains a healthy marriage…love only holds interest.
Key to the success and survival of marriage are the foundational characterological building blocks, which include attributes such as:
Self-awareness and emotional maturation consequential to human error and poor judgment is often too little too late for most of us. Hence, the pervasive divorce culture in which we live. Also, the societal “throw it away” mentality that we have adopted, somehow gives us “permission” to easily move on and away from what doesn’t work…but, I digress. Back on track…
To avoid divorce, I encourage clients to consider their individual attributes, emotional maturity, communication styles and other compatibility factors before they commit to marriage. Of course, this encouragement is frequently met with resistance, confusion, and sometimes oppositional anger. Couples in-love become resistant, as it challenges the limerence and its illusion that love will conquer all. Should we (the client[s] and I) come to agreement that work must be done to build a strong marital foundation, focus turns to assuming personal responsibility…in honesty and truth…for any characterological shortcomings.
(Note: Honesty is an internal experience of thought, feeling, judgment, emotion, and body sensation. Truth–on the other hand–are facts or actions taken that can be checked or measured in the external world. Facts are not embellished.) Following any needed definition clarification of the various attributes, I ask clients to complete the following sentence stems to begin the process of assuming personal responsibility for strengthening of character (i.e., creating building blocks):
If I am going to be completely honest with myself, I would have to say that I have work to do in the following areas…
I believe that I need help with improving in the following areas…
Dr. Jerome Murray’s revered publication, Are You Growing Up or Just Getting Older?, discusses maturity related to emotional intelligence vs. other more common measurements of age. He writes that the five measurements of age determine one’s maturity in the following manner:
Chronological Age – Chronological age is a measurement of the time a person has lived—his or her age in years.
Physiological Age – Physiological age refers to the degree to which systems of the body have developed relative to chronological age.
Intellectual Age – Intellectual age refers to whether a person’s intelligence is below, above, or equal to his chronological age.
Social Age – Social age compares social development with chronological age. It asks the question; “Does this person relate as well socially as he should for his age?”
Emotional Age – Emotional, like social age, compares emotional maturity with chronological age. It asks the question; “Does this person handle his emotions as well as he should for his age?”
Dr. Murray goes on in his publication to provide symptoms of emotional immaturity and characteristics of emotional maturity, followed by a few strategies to grow more emotionally mature. Emotional maturity will make every difference in the manner in which conflicts are resolved, compromises are made, and resolutions are achieved. Ego-fighting (right vs. wrong) is pervasive in relationships of couples who are unskilled at communicating in an emotionally mature or otherwise assertive manner.
Communication styles fall into one of four categories:
Rarely do couples display compatible communication styles. Hence, the “misunderstandings” that occur which lead to ego-fighting. Character, maturity, communication, religious/spiritual beliefs, personal and professional goals, lifestyle requirements, finances, physical intimacy interests, etc., are all compatibility factors that must be considered and yes, worked on, prior to committing to marriage.
The work that we are willing to put in is the LOVE.
“All things change when we do.” David Whyte