The allure of a loving, happy family, with healthy children, is a dream many of us share. Despite knowing the odds and cynically believing you’ve got this, too often, most newlyweds are unaware of what can break apart marriages. As a whole, we’ve sort of let go of the kind of self-discipline or formality that helps maintain couples.
The problem isn’t just wanting and believing in the possibility of a happy home, the problem is being disciplined enough to honor the other human being who has committed to sharing their life with you. Here is the marriage advice I wish someone had shared with me before walking down the aisle (twice).
Love is created
It traditionally takes two people to nurture those feelings and to have the kind of trust that bonds a couple. It’s not enough to just feel you love another person. You also need to love them on the days you don’t really like them. And especially during the times, you don’t particularly trust them either.
It’s with self-discipline that the concept of loving when disliking or not trusting your partner becomes real. This takes practice.
We like to “let it all hang out” and to be “real”. As a result, most couples become quite enmeshed with one another. I’ve found the partners who lack self-discipline and forget the person they share their bed with is someone separate – complete with their own thoughts, feelings, desires, and goals – have the most trouble.
When the formalities and self-discipline go, and a couple begins to take one another for granted, agreements break down. Unfortunately, most people, especially the ones I work with, never even realized their marriages had spoken and unspoken agreements.
Couples also wrongly assume their perfect, private marriage is based solely upon the spoken agreements they bonded over in church. But it’s usually the unspoken agreements that are most often at the kitchen table. This is where formality and self-discipline have to come in.
You might not always like the behavior going on based upon those unspoken agreements. You may feel it’s insulting, confusing or disrespectful. Typically, it simply hurts. And your partner knows it. You may also not know how to address the pain yourself without resorting to being mean, passive-aggressive or controlling in return.
Unspoken agreements go against our integrity
They look like… assuming you’re not flirting but outside flirting is going on all the time. Or that the family credit card spending is being kept below a certain amount but you’ve got a secret, personal credit card just for Nordstrom’s. Or you’re the one who always has to travel with the children for vacation while they fly, alone, based on their work schedule, and meet you.
These kinds of examples in and of themselves won’t break up your marriage. But behavior like this creates a cycle of hiding, lying, and going against the spoken agreements you might believe your marriage is based on. After that, manipulation or taking each other for granted starts to occur and those unspoken agreements are now in the middle of your marriage bed in a way most people can’t figure out.
Formality and self-discipline
These come in when you make the courage to address what’s bothering you without blame or shaming. You express yourself, addressing what’s going on, and ask them to listen while you speak. You offer them a chance to address their concerns and you become honest enough to admit when you’ve broken an unspoken agreement knowing you’ve probably hurt your spouse.
Without that sort of bond, you won’t be able to repair what feels insulting, rude or disrespectful. You won’t be able to uncover the hurtful, unspoken agreements that have crept into your bed. You won’t be able to repair and rebuild broken trust. And the hurt will build resentments and pain ending a union you love.
My advice, make a commitment to understanding how to deal with conflict. Learn how to address what hurts so your love, forgiveness, and trust can remain the glue for your dream of a loving, happy family with healthy children. Do that, and walk down the aisle together, and you’ve got this!