Greetings Leaders!

This is the third post on staying married. You can find the first post here.

So far, I’ve talked about commitment. So what’s next? I think a big part of staying married is tuning into your partner. I understand that people change over the years, and sometimes people grow apart. However, I don’t think that growing apart means you automatically head down to the courthouse and file for divorce. In fact, I think that this one is a cop out. What does growing apart mean anyway? It is a smokescreen for the real problem.

What kind of problems are we talking about? Well, there are lots of ways to look at this. If I put my business consultant hat on, I immediately think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. I got the following diagram from Wikipedia which does a pretty good job of explaining it.

People “grow apart” because some of their needs are not being met. This causes both men and women to stray from their marriage, or to become dissatisfied with their partner. There are two things to remember here.

First, YOU are responsible for your own happiness, not your partner. Second, YOU are also responsible for loving your partner enough, to try to meet some of their needs.

Now, my wife and I took a small personality profile as part of a small group at church. She is Structured/Task Oriented while I am Unstructured/People Oriented. This was readily apparent during our first year of marriage when on Saturday morning I would suggest a weekend drive up to Tahoe for some fun. I thought it was romantic and showed her how much I cared. She thought it was stressful because I hadn’t lined up a place to stay and it changed all her plans for the weekend. It was pretty funny looking back on it, but it was stressful at the time. It has also been a theme in our marriage. Now – I could get fed up and say that we’ve “grown apart”, that she doesn’t appreciate me. She could say that I’m inconsiderate and unorganized. Perhaps having married someone more “like” me would have been better…. in this one area. But, the flip side of the coin is just as bad. If we’re too “alike” perhaps we would get bored with each other? Who knows for sure.

So, how do we work around being different? It is simple but not easy. First of all, we’re aware of our differences. Second, she tries to be more like me, and I try to be more like her. Sure, we butt heads sometimes, but over the years we’ve grown used to each other. If we had decided to throw in the towel years ago, perhaps we would have never figured it out.

Another way of looking at this is through the eyes of Dr. Gary Chapman and the Five Love Languages. Simply put, we all have different needs (sound familiar) and these are broken down into five categories:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

To stay married, you need to be aware of your partner’s needs, as well as your own. For example, my wife doesn’t place a high value on Acts of Service, well, at least not all the time. So, when I do the dishes, cook, vacuum or clean the house as an “act of love”, she doesn’t see it that way. She would prefer that I spend some quality time with her. I then begin to think, “she doesn’t appreciate me.” She thinks, “he doesn’t want to spend time with me.” Then… if we weren’t careful, we’d say we “grew apart” and would head down to the courthouse.

But, again, this is a cop out. We’re all different. While I know that companies like eHarmony will match you with someone that is compatible, what happens when people change? Remember, my wife likes me to spend quality time with her. However, at times she likes all the others too. Over the years, her needs have changed, and so have mine. As a note, be careful not to stereotype men and women into a love language. We’re all different.

So what is the advice in this case. Believe it or not, it is the same as Maslow’s Hierarchy.

First, YOU are responsible for your own happiness, not your partner. Second, YOU are also responsible for loving your partner enough, to try to meet some of their needs.

The bottom line here, is that you have to stay tuned into your partner. You cannot expect them to be a perfect match for you in every case. You need to understand that when you said “for better or for worse” that you agreed to work through the hard times and differences. Love means accepting the other person for who they are, and looking for ways to bridge gaps or differences.

Society, for whatever reason, tells us the opposite. It tells us that we are empowered individuals who shouldn’t put up with c#&* in our lives or our spouses. It tells us that we don’t have to change. It tells us that love means harmony all the time. It means great sex, little stress, no fighting. It means being on the same page all the time.  Baloney.

Love is a four letter word, it is spelled – W-O-R-K.

Work for it!

JT

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