How long did it take you to realize that your marriage or committed relationship was not going to entirely be a bed of roses? A few months? Or did the honeymoon phase last for a full year?
The so-called honeymoon phase is a wonderful time for a couple and helps us create some cherished shared memories and strong bonds to help us weather future trials. But it is not meant to last. While romance and hormones can and should continue to play their parts in our maturing relationship, they should primarily be a bridge leading us to the warm, intimate, and fulfilling companionship that marks the happiest lasting marriages. The relationship fires still burn, but their warmth is constant and glowing in contrast to the relatively brief and meteoric heat of early romance.
This is as it should be. Those who mourn the perceived decline in romantic fires have not yet grasped what lies next in a healthy and well-managed relationship. They can look forward to growing trust, a deeper emotional connection, and a clarity of relationship vision and goals. They can also look forward to the attainment of relationship Wisdom. This wisdom helps us keep our marriage pointing “True North” even in the midst of the occasional fogs and storms that might temporarily obscure the sun and guiding landmarks.
A crucial part of that wisdom is the understanding that our partner will never be “perfect.” There will always be some percentage of their behaviors or ways of being that we might find irritating or exasperating, and that we might change if we could tap them with a magic wand. Thank heaven we don’t have such a magic wand, as that would destroy one of the major purposes of marriage. Our deepest and most committed relationship is where we will experience the greatest refining of our hearts and souls. Marriage is the great classroom of the Universe that best tutors us in the highest laws of kindness, patience, accountability, and charity.
So next time you find yourself irritated over something your partner has said or done, rather than fuming about how to solve this “problem,” it might be more healthy to simply accept it as a fact of life. From there you can better learn how to focus on their best traits and enjoy the many strengths and gifts they bring into the relationship.
Some habits and behaviors MUST be dealt with and changed in healthy ways. Some lines such as civility and fidelity must not be crossed. But it is our experience at LIFE Couples Retreats in working with couples that many of the complaints partners have about one another can be charitably overlooked and the person accepted as they are.
Here is the payoff: Research shows that as we love and accept our partner for who and what they are we free them and invite them to change in more positive ways than we ever can through complaints and demands. This is the beautiful paradox of marriage–the more we love and accept one another the way we are, the more positive change we experience in ourselves and our partner.