Some couples seem to agree on almost everything. They like the same movies, have similar ideas about investing, enjoy the same foods and have compatible mutual friendships right out of the starting blocks. Good for them!
Then there are the rest of us. Those of us who meet, are attracted to our partner, and begin the practice of dating. This is necessary, we believe, in order to “get to know” him or her. In truth that is nonsense because the dating process is like living in OZ; everything looks bright, shiny and colorful.
We aren’t the same old person, we’re our best self. Special attention is given to personal hygiene and fashion. We sit up straighter, laugh more, offer wittier replies and don’t let little things bother us. In an effort to win the object of our affection we are kinder, more generous and forgiving. We tone down any extreme opinions to avoid controversy.
So in effect, this charming person may slowly fade away after the deal is done. We don’t intend to become less in tune with our appearance, but it happens. We don’t mean to let our rapt attention drift, but it does. Eventually we begin to speak our minds and those deep convictions pour out in spite of potential conflict.
Then the marriage and the work begin. In some cases this takes three weeks, in some it takes years, but unless you’re one of those couples who agree on all of life’s issues, it will happen sometime. This is when individuals need to dig in and get to know who they really married. We need to find those shimmery pieces that attracted us to our partners in the first place. It’s still there; the wit, the laughter, the compassion—but the grind of daily living has dulled its luster making it harder to see.
Sadly this is the point at which many people give up. They decide that one or both of them has changed and they don’t love the new version. In fact, the new version is the true version; we just didn’t look close enough while we were in OZ.
The good news is that if we work to get to honestly know the person we married, making an effort toward some of those dating-type concessions in the process (being thoughtful, attractive and forgiving for example); we will likely find genuine love.
Those who cut and run miss the point that love is not an emotional reaction to another person. Truly committed love is an intentional decision to be the best partner and to nurture the best in our partner. This takes a lot of work, and as with all hard work, some sore muscles. Yes, pain is often involved in developing a lasting marriage.
In May I will celebrate my 29th wedding anniversary. We were not a couple who agreed on every little thing. We’ve had to fight our way to the top of the marriage mountain. I don’t know if we’ve arrived at the summit, but I do know that I can’t imagine a deeper, more complete relationship.
For those who are single, take compatibility tests and get counseling to move out of OZ faster when you find someone special. For those who are still in OZ, you don’t even know it so relax and enjoy. For those who feel like Dorothy’s house just landed on them: don’t quit. Through the pain and after the pain there will be a rainbow that looks like real love.