In our last blog, I stated that we would explore the features of a functional marriage; in order to do this we need to begin with weeding out the issues that interfere with this possibility. We can begin with the three terms I left off on in the last blog; life-long, commitment, and retention. As I stated last time, these are terms that often elude the young but they can also elude the middle age. Having explored commitment already, the larger of these terms that are often difficult to understand for those that are younger or developmentally immature is “life-long”…that can be a long time depending upon the health of one’s partner.
I know when I was in my early 20’s this concept eluded me and it was not until I was in my 30’s that I held a better grasp of what this type of commitment really meant. It meant that short of major abuses, marriage will extend until one of us dies; good, bad, indifferent and everything else in between. “Life-long” is more of an existential term with complex understandings.
I believe it is equally important to inform the reader that this is my second marriage; my first (without going into excessive detail) ended in an amicable divorce; which I have come to appreciate, as amicable divorces do not happen very frequently…for that, I was grateful. I, like many, entered my first marriage without an understanding of lifetime commitment; instead, I had a propensity for unbridled loyalty, which is dramatically different. Additionally, I did not take the time to understand the importance of partner selection. I state this to illustrate that we can all get it wrong—and we can all take meaningful major corrective steps to get it right. It is important to note that if the issues could have been repaired in my first marriage, they would have—again, without details, it was truly irreparable. In not wanting to be repetitive in divorce proceedings, I spent a significant amount of time ensuring that I corrected all that I could related to my ineffective behaviors before pursuit of a second marriage. Too many people focus exclusively on their past partners faults from relationship one to relationship two and thus never resolve who they are in a relationship. From my first set of “I do’s” to the second set I pursued knowledge and understanding of and gained a greater comprehension of what actual behavioral compromise meant, appreciated the importance of healthy partner selection, and clearly understood the term lifelong. My second marriage has been a life blessing; we still make mistakes, some minor and some major—but we both discover ways to correct these, forgive, and move forward.
I remember early in my relationship talking to my now wife about marriage principles; we had recently watched the movie “A League of Their Own” with Tom Hanks where as a baseball manager of an all woman’s team he informs the players that “There’s no crying in baseball”…and we altered that statement to “There’s no leaving in marriage”. It has become one of our many ‘tag-lines’ that define who we are as a couple. What it says it that good, bad, or indifferent we are in this with each other and we will experience the consequences of that choice throughout our lifetime…we also decided that we might want to make those consequences positive! It is important to note that I, like everyone else, do not have a “perfect” marriage—it is damn good, but it is not perfect. Here is the paradox; marriages are made perfect in their imperfection.
Thus, a healthy marriage begins based upon a mature understanding of life-long, commitment, and retention. Once these principles are understood the other foundational blocks of marriage can begin to take shape. I prefer to see the building blocks of a marriage as akin to building a house; there is a foundation, walls, required structures and then decorating. Marriage, like a house, can sometimes be constructed poorly but through good renovation skills, it can be adjusted and even bettered as long as no one burns it down. Next time we will begin looking at other “foundations”.
TODAY HAS STARTED–HAVE A GREAT ONE!