40-50% of first marriages end in divorce. That seems like an awfully large percentage to me. My question is why?
What are we looking for in marriage as a culture that apparently isn’t being satisfied? Why are our expectations not being met?
First of all, I think our idea of love has been skewed. We are told that “love is love is love”… meaning, if you feel it, it must be right. That leads us to the implication that love = feelings. If love = feelings, what happens when those feelings go away? And believe me, they do. What then?
I also believe that our culture thinks of marriage, relationships, & love as something you do to make yourself happy. If that is your mindset going into a relationship of any kind, you are going to cause yourself a great deal of disappointment. All relationships… whether they be with a parent, sibling, friend, or romantic… must be focused on the other person. When each person gives 100%, without any expectations of return, that relationship is bound to succeed.
Then there is this perpetuating idea that there is some perfect person for us. In reality, if there was only one “soulmate” for each person, and I accidentally married your “soulmate”, we would eventually all be married to the wrong person. Tell me how that’s supposed to work?
And of course, there’s the never ending problem of simply picking a bad life partner. No, there isn’t a “perfect” one, but there certainly are less than ideal people out there that you could choose to share your life with.
If you marry for feelings alone, you probably are marrying the “wrong” person.
If you are expecting happiness for yourself from marriage, you are making yourself the “wrong” person for your spouse.
So what’s a young person to do? How in the world do you know if marriage is going to work? How can you be 100% sure that this legally binding contract is going to last forever?
Believe it or not, you can know for sure. It is possible to pick someone & stick with your commitment forever.
- You have mutual respect for each other. You are two people, therefore you are different. You grew up with different values, ideals & beliefs about everything in the world. You have different personalities, world views, & opinions. If you do not respect your partner 150%, you will end up putting down their differences without even realizing it.
- Your religious beliefs are compatible. Of course, you will never agree with another human being about every single possible way of looking at things. However, in order to have a relationship that flourishes spiritually, you have to be able to look at things from the same point of view. When you do need to have a debate over smaller issues, those debates will only end well if you are coming from a similar point of view in the first place.
- If you have different political beliefs, you can still respect them. Some people aren’t super concerned about politics, others are. Though it could be tempting to ignore this in a budding relationship, make sure that it gets discussed before things get serious. While different views are fine in marriage, you want to be sure you can respect & support your spouse in their ideas.
- You truly believe your spouse is the best human being on this earth. Obviously, they are not. But if you have any doubt in your mind that the person you are dating is less than ideal for you, things won’t last. There will be days when you don’t find them attractive, & there will be days when they annoy every fiber of your being. When those times come, and they will, you have to know in the depths of your heart that you married your very favorite person ever.
- When you disagree, you handle arguments with respect. Though everyone fights differently, it is never okay to belittle your spouse – even if you are joking. When you are in a disagreement, keep your voices calm, your words kind, & your arguments logical. It’s okay to admit you are wrong. It’s also okay to give in when you know you are right. There should never be fear to humble yourself in front of your spouse when you are wrong, & they should never hold it over you. If that is happening, you may be in an abusive relationship.
- Your relationship includes more than just sex. If your entire relationship is focused around physical attraction, it won’t last. Will you still want them to be your one & only when you’re 90?
- You have similar goals in life. Marriage is a partnership. You will need to encourage, support & work alongside your partner every day of your lives. If you don’t care about or respect their goals & ambitions, there’s not much reason for you to be together in the first place.
- You trust them unconditionally & respect their privacy. If you EVER question their motives, feel like they are hiding things from you, or feel the urge to look through their phone…you do not trust your partner. You should be able to live a carefree life with your spouse, completely void of ANY worries of unfaithfulness, illegal activities, or questionable motives. And of course, they should trust you & never worry about who you are hanging out with or what you are doing.
- You enjoy some similar activities, but also have your own interests. Marriage requires a healthy balance of similarities & differences. If you don’t like anything that is the same, you’re going to be very bored together. But if you do all the same things, especially if those things bring an income or outside recognition, you may end up with some competition & judgement from each other which could really hurt your marriage.
- You have thought through your personality differences. While your differences probably attracted each other in the beginning, over time those differences are what is going to truly grate against each other in your hardest times. Opposites may attract, but in the mundane tasks of daily life they can really cause problems. Think through the differences you & your partner have. Think about what daily, normal life will be like with them & decide if you a really a good match.
- You are able to be unabashedly honest with each other. We all make mistakes. If you are both able to openly confess to one another from your heart, you have a healthy relationship. You should also never be afraid to share your true feelings, even if they seem silly or unnecessary. If you love your spouse, you will always care about those thoughts & feelings in their hearts, whether they make sense to you or not.
- Everything is drama free. A relationship full of drama may be fun for others to watch & talk about, but it is not fun to be part of one. If you are constantly on again/off again, if your partner is perpetually changing their mind about things, or if there is a lot of gossip & drama going on about & in your relationship… it is probably time to end things. The only thing people should be saying about your relationship is how healthy, wonderful, & loving of a couple you make.
- You feel completely safe. I knew I was going to marry my husband when I fell fast asleep (I’m talking snoring, drooling & didn’t know I was asleep until I woke up three hours later) in his truck on the way home from one of our first dates. I’d gotten sleepy and “rested my eyes” around other boyfriends, but never was able to fall asleep completely. In that moment, I realized that my body & mind both knew I was completely safe to be vulnerable around this man. I felt safe, loved & respected from the first time we talked. To this day, I still can’t sleep at night if he isn’t in bed yet. I know without a doubt that I am safe in his care – mind, body, soul & spirit.
- You are gentle towards each other in speech & action. Yes, you will both get annoyed with each other at times. Sometimes, you may speak harshly with each other or push each other away in times of irritation. But on the whole, are you gentle with one another? You should never be afraid of being physically or emotionally wounded by your spouse. If you ever hurt each other in any way, there should be immediate remorse, apologies, discussion & forgiveness.
- You are both willing to be selfless. Sometimes you have to give up on being right, doing things a certain way, or getting what you want. Sometimes the other person has to be more important. Selfishness = marriage failure.
- You truly listen to each other at the end of the day. Life can be busy & days can be long. But at the end of your days, are you able to come together and talk? Can you complain, share & laugh together each evening as you report the events of your days? If you feel like your partner doesn’t care about the little things you have to say, or if they aren’t really listening to you, you’re eventually going to feel very unloved.
- You both feel free to be yourselves. Marriage intertwines your lives together as one. That doesn’t mean that you lose your individuality. Your spouse should praise who you are as a unique human being & encourage you in the things and people and activities you love. They should never pressure you to give up old friendships, activities or things you love unless they are truly causing you harm.
- You trust your hard-earned money in their hands. Not everyone does, but most married couples share a checking account. This can be a very strange transition for some couples, especially if they have been single for a long time. Do you honestly trust your partner to make wise financial decisions? Are you okay with your earnings going towards their personal interests & activities?
- You have the same dreams & ideas about your future family. Do you want kids or not? Do you believe the wife should stay home with the kids or work no matter what? Does money matter to you or are you a chill minimalist? What are your priorities? What do you believe about raising children? Are your work ethics compatible? Does it matter who makes more money? Would you like to own a home together or rent for life? Discuss all these life matters and more together before deciding that marriage is something you are willing to commit to.
- You both fit well in each other’s families. This won’t always be the case. But, if you do not like their family, how are you going to deal with them? You must always show respect to their family, like it or not. Remember that your in-law’s raised your spouse, and apparently you think they did a pretty good job. Really contemplate what it will be like to be part of their extended family before getting legally bound to them forever.
- You are content & comfortable to sit beside them doing nothing at all. When we first meet someone new, the tension is incomparable. There is an intense need for awkward small talk & constant eye contact and smiling. Not the case with your wonderful partner. If the two of you can sit through a car ride, a meal, or on the couch without saying a word for hours, you obviously are very comfortable with each other.
- On the other hand, sometimes you are so excited that you can talk for hours & nothing is off-limits. Both of you should feel free to gush about things that excite you, and have no qualms about sharing your true thoughts & feelings with one another. If you occasionally word vomit on each other, it just means you have no worries about their opinion of you.
- You know everything about, and have fully accepted, each other’s pasts. Once the conversation has been had, it shouldn’t be brought up again. You should never be holding anything from your pasts over each other. The past is in the past, and you are different people now. Your partner trusted you when they shared their hurts, mistakes & regrets with you and it is up to you to respect those secrets, both within the relationship and to the outside world (by never sharing something private about your spouse or speaking badly about them).
- You are not afraid to be your ugliest self around them. Whether that be your body in all it’s imperfection, those strong opinions & beliefs you have, your character flaws, your putrid farts, or the things you are just really, really bad at… you aren’t afraid for them to see you as you are. In fact, you wholeheartedly believe that they love you because of, and not in spite of, those things… and that truly makes you feel adored.
- You are both willing to work for the relationship. Nobody is perfect, which means that no relationship will be perfect. You will have things that drive you nuts about the other person, personal character issues in yourself that they seem to bring to light oh so well, & plain old bad days that end in tears or anger with each other. In marriage, it is of the utmost importance to both be committed to the end. If you really mean your vows…”till death do us part” – and you are willing to fight with all of your heart every day of all of your life – your marriage will last forever.