I’d like to say I thought up that headline but, I didn’t. I’m not sure who to credit for it but, I’ve seen this before about marriage being an empty box and I wanted to expand on it. I believe it’s a key to a happy, long term relationship (LTR), whether you’re married or not.
We grow up thinking that once we get married, we’ve done the hard part. That marriage promises us a lifetime of love, friendship, passion, companionship, partnership and sex. Yeah, we also hear the statistics of 50% of all marriages ending in divorce and the jokes about how awful it is yet, we never think that will be us. We meet someone, fall in love, look them in the eyes and say, “Nope, that will NEVER be us! We’re different, our marriage will be amazing and last forever!”
The Hard Part Begins After the Wedding Day
I’ve been there, done that. We promised each other we would be different, promised to never take each other for granted and always take care of each other. Promised we would keep “us” a priority and never, EVER have a loveless, sexless marriage like so many people endure. And we did! Until we didn’t. Real problems started around 9 years in and we were separated at less than 12 and divorced about 13.5 years after we took our vows. Hardly a long, successful marriage…
Why did this happen? We didn’t have a horrible marriage. We hardly ever fought and we were having great sex, often, till right before the real issues were brought to light. I’ve written a blog post about domestic energy and the effect it has on LTR’s. However, this is a bit different. This is about our beliefs in the fairy tale version of marriage where, once we said “I do,” we thought we would live happily ever after because marriage would give us everything. Well, that’s where we get it wrong.
Marriage gives you nothing. I’ll repeat that… Marriage gives you NOTHING! There is NOTHING a marriage give to you, either of you, that you don’t put into it!
Marriage is an Empty Box
A box that two people choose to fill. What the marriage becomes is what they choose to fill the box with. Fill the box with love, understanding, empathy, acceptance, passion, time, kindness, presence, communication, then, the odds that it will be a fulfilling marriage become much higher. Fill the box with judgment, criticism, anger, blame, scorekeeping, suspicion, jealousy and other things on the negative spectrum, guess what? Your marriage becomes those things.
Sounds easy, right?
So, why don’t more people do this? Why do more than half of all marriages end in divorce and probably more than half that don’t are passionless, loveless unions that more often resemble business partnerships than love and sex-filled romps?
There are no Simple Answers
It’s a good question and if I had the answer, I’d probably be a very rich man. The fact is that there are many reasons people don’t bring their best to relationships. Much of it has to do with past wounds that they have not taken the time to even understand, let alone heal. People often expect relationships to be 50/50 every minute of every day and, when they see it’s not, they withhold, then the other withholds till neither is giving anything. Or, anything positive in any case. Relationships are a place to give and when neither one gives, only focuses on the negative, guess what the box of marriage ends up looking like? Either empty or a mess of mistrust, blame and judgment.
Then there’s the “Disney Syndrome” where we feel like our lives should be like a Disney fairy tale and that our happily ever after will not require any work. In fact, I can’t tell you how many people believe the myth that “if it requires work, it’s not real love or it wasn’t meant to be.” I’m here to tell you that these myths are very, very wrong.
So, what’s the Solution?
How can you safeguard against your marriage ending up as an empty box? The simple, one word, answer is “give”. Give regardless of if your partner is giving. Give if you’re in a bad mood. Give if she’s in a bad mood. You can’t keep a score card and stomp your feet screaming “no” like a spoiled 3-year-old. You need to give whenever you are able to give. So does she. There will be times when you’re not able to give for various reasons and you want your partner to continue to fill your marriage box with love, patience and understanding. There will be times when she can’t give and it will be up to you to fill the box unilaterally. Over the course of time, things tend to work out very even if both of you are giving without the expectation of getting. No, don’t be taken advantage of or walked on. Don’t accept abuse in any form but, if you’re not ready to give to fill your marriage box, well, at this point, I think you know what will happen.
How does one learn how to let go of the programming we have been subject to throughout our lives which have led us to this dismal state of LTR’s? Well, this is where working with a coach can be helpful. If you want to get more, more from your marriage, more from your career and more from life, contact me today and let’s have a call. No charge, no strings and no commitments. Just giving.