Growth is the secret of a happy marriage, and love is the key!
While most persons go to great pains to prepare themselves to do certain work or to enter a profession, they rarely think in terms of preparing themselves for one of the most demanding and yet fulfilling experiences they can ever have, the adventure of marriage. Even the courses that are offered to prospective marriage partners are usually quite sketchy, being confined primarily to the facts of finance and budgets or sex.
The greatest experience of marriage, and the one that makes the other experiences worthwhile and fulfilling, is the experience of living and growing together. No marriage has fulfilled its function unless the two partners are stronger, happier, freer and more interested in life and living as a result of the relationship they have chosen.
True marriage is not just a matter of convenience or of fitting into the social pattern of the community. In its highest sense, it is an opportunity for two people to share together the opportunity of becoming greater individuals. It is the fulfilling of a higher destiny together. And this growth and fulfillment is based on a love which grows much deeper and stronger than the romantic love that brings two people together in the first place.
Marriage should be love-based and love-oriented, from beginning to end, and the love that is shared at the end should be greater than could even be imagined by the two who started the marriage adventure together.
Love is the key to keeping the glow in marriage. Love is the key to the happy, fulfilling growth of two individuals together. But love itself grows and changes as the understanding of partners changes. It should grow better and stronger all the time.
In a truly successful marriage, the love that is the basis for the union begins in the individual. It is not possible to truly love another unless you first have learned to love and respect yourself.
You are best able to relate to another on the highest level when you have a healthy image of yourself, individual aims of growth and unfoldment and a strong sense of personal worth.
Neither partner should surrender high ideals and self respect in order to make a marriage “work.”
So the love on which the marriage is based begins with each individual’s love for himself or herself, a love which translates into continued growth in each individual life, along with cooperative growth for the two.
A Glimpse of What Can Be
Successful marriages are built; they don’t happen accidentally. And they require more than just a glimpse of the romantic picture that is idolized in songs and stories.
Romantic love does play its part. The first glimpse of this new view of life and of another person opens vistas of hope and joy and fulfillment. This is good. Without it, how many persons would have the courage to undertake a life together, to enter into a totally new experience in living?
However, the first glow of attraction is just that — a glow, not the whole fire, but an indication of what can be.
This glow can be defined in as many ways as there are couples who share it. But the first glimmer of attraction is nothing more than a basis for undertaking the great step of choosing to join your life to the life of another person. It is just a glimmer which, like the first glow of fire, must be kindled and nurtured continually if it is to grow in intensity and stay alive. It is something on which to build a life together. However, unless the experience of marriage brings growth and maturity, sharing and building, it will prove a disappointment to those involved.
Perhaps not many couples are really listening to these words at the time, but we have this instruction as a part of our Unity marriage service:
“If you wish your new estate to be touched with perennial beauty, cherish those gracious visions which have made spring within your heart during the days of your betrothal. You must never forget or deny the vision you once saw; you must resolve that it be not blotted out or blurred by the commonplace experiences of life. Faults may appear that were once hidden in a golden mist; excellences may seem to fade in the glare of the noonday sun. Still be unmoved in your devotion; still remain confident and hopeful. Amid the seeming reality of present imperfection believe in the ideal. You saw it once. It still exists. It is the final truth.”
A Manual of Special Unity Services, Revised Edition, 1951, pp. 44-45
The vision that makes romantic love the subject of songs, poems, stories, books, movies and entertainment of all types may be quickly lost in the day-to-day drudgery of dirty dishes and diapers, personality clashes, financial crises and misunderstandings.
Perhaps it would be well to give a reminder to couples who have been married for a year, two years — twenty years, to remember the vision they once saw, the hopes and dreams that made the bride beautiful with the radiance of love and the groom strong and filled with an expectation of greater joy to come.
Perhaps couples who have lost the glow should be given an opportunity to go back and mentally relive the emotional experience of their wedding day. Maybe they should be reminded, “Amid the seeming reality of present imperfection believe in the ideal. You saw it once. It still exists. It is the final truth.”
Love has an insight that goes beyond the mechanics of daily living. It overcomes disappointment and despair. It tries again, and again, and again. It believes and hopes and works. And it persists, even when others have given up, because it has a vision of the goodness, the greatness in another. And love has a strange ability to succeed, even where all other efforts have failed.
This is love’s principle of insight:
Love sees a potential that is invisible to the eye of the materialist, and by holding fast to the latent good in a person, it calls it forth.
Remember, though, that love doesn’t attempt to force another person to express this greater potential. Love sees with a unique insight that searches out good. Love believes. Love expects good. Love generates power to help and to heal. Love praises, blesses and appreciates. And it does much of this in silence.
Sometimes letting this love power express in a marriage is as simple as transferring the attention from faults and failures to attributes of good, or just giving a little more love to marriage yourself.
A woman called me one day for counselling help with her marriage.
She explained, “My husband is always charming to other women, but not to me. He even insults me in public sometimes.”
She explained at great length that she was a good housekeeper, took good care of the children, always provided nutritious meals on time, and so on. Because of her services as a wife and mother, she thought her husband could at least be as charming to her as he was to other women.
When she finished talking, I asked, “Are you charming to him? Do you go out of your way to let him know that he is important to you? Do you give your marriage that little something extra?”
My question, “Are you charming to him?”, stopped her cold. She had never given the matter a thought, but after our talk, she did. She started thinking of little nice things she could do for her husband, just to make him feel that she cared. And when she did, he responded by not only spending his charm at home, but also doing little nice things for her, too.
It’s easy to become so settled in a relationship that you give little thought to the reason for it all. But love won’t mire itself down in a rut. It keeps the fun and the charm and the interest in marriage by giving a little something extra to living each day —not just out among strangers, but at home where it really counts!
Romantic love is good, but it is only the beginning, the foundation on which marriage must be built.
“Falling in love” is just the first glimpse of something wonderful two people can share. But building a good marriage is like building a good business. You have to make an investment in order to receive a return. And if you don’t put much of yourself into marriage, you can’t expect to take much out.
Many individuals, in the first excitement of “falling in love,” look for a return from marriage that is not forthcoming. In many cases this is the result of expecting something from the partner, something that will make life radically different. These persons are disappointed and feel somehow cheated or frustrated.
Just getting married does bring changes, but these changes are dependent more on the attitudes of those involved than on the institution of marriage itself.
Love isn’t afraid to invest in marriage, because, through the law of insight, it knows that the potential of growth is there. And when things are not as easy as they might be, love uses its power of vision to concentrate not on the quarrels and shortages and disappointments, but rather on the good that awaits one who will work with love’s law of insight all the way through.
But remember, as you work with these principles in your marriage, that love expresses for its own sake, not for the return. If you become too concerned with looking to see what change has come about in the other person, you may lose sight of your objective, which is to grow in love and let love build you as a person. The more you love, in the larger sense of caring for all people, the greater person you become, and the more you have to give to your work, your outside contacts, your marriage and all the other members of your family.
Never lose sight of your goal of becoming a greater expression of love in all ways. Remember to use the law of insight to hold fast to your own potential as well as the power that is latent in those close to you.
A marriage that is worth undertaking in the first place is worth continued creative effort. It should not be allowed to degenerate into a squabbling match or just a humdrum way of life that is taken for granted.
Being married is something like owning a house. The house doesn’t take care of itself, clean itself, repair itself. It provides many blessings and many opportunities, but if allowed to deteriorate, it loses its value, its usefulness, and becomes a liability rather than an asset.
So it is with marriage. It can provide enjoyment, mutual growth, comfort, a sense of security and many other assets. But marriage requires maintenance, protective maintenance, preventive maintenance and general updating and improvement.
In a sense, marriage is an investment, and if you would gain the maximum benefit from it, you must put something into it. Continual improvement should be the order of the day.
A marriage that is neglected begins to deteriorate, just as a house does. But it can be repaired, renewed, revitalized at any time that the parties involved are willing to do the work that is necessary. And, as marriage starts with love, so it should make a new start with love.
When the wedding bells are ringing, perhaps it is hard to hear the demands of everyday living. But the love that starts with romantic visions can be developed into a depth of understanding and faith that will not only weather the storms, but will also recognize the importance of daily, hourly, momently maintaining the love relationship.
A deep, strong love is worth all the protective maintenance you can give it. Don’t protect it with fear of losing your love, but rather with a sense of appreciation for the great gift that God has given you. Love is a precious gift. Protect it, and it will grow. Neglect it, and it will wither away.
Trivialities Add Up
But how do you go about keeping the house of your marriage in good order and running smoothly?
There are several ways in which you can work to keep the glow and make your marriage grow. Most of them start with small things, trivialities which may pass unnoticed in the day’s activities, but which add up to the sum total of the relationship of two people.
A judge who had heard thousands of divorce cases commented one time that trivialities were at the root of most marital unhappiness. He pointed out that such a small thing as whether or not the wife waves goodbye to her husband when he goes to work can be a factor in the failure or success of the union.
Little thoughtful acts can do much to make a success of any marriage, just as little annoyances can build up into destructive elements.
All of life is an accumulation of little things, the everyday things that hardly seem to matter at the time. There are the small thoughts, the little feelings or reactions, the words that are said or not said.
In themselves, they may seem unimportant, but all of the big events of life are made up of many little seemingly insignificant parts, most of which will be forgotten by the time the whole is assembled.
Marriage is the sum total of many things, and the attitudes that are built over a long period of time are the result of many small incidents and reactions to them.
Little angers, doubts and fears, which may be forgotten later, build strongholds of resentment and frustration.
Everyday trivialities, from frustration over a clogged drain to problems with children, can result in an attitude of neglect where the marital relationship is concerned.
On the other hand, little thoughtful acts, words of appreciation and love expressed in sometimes trivial ways build, and the house they build is strong and enduring.
It is the accumulation of the many little thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions that determines, in the long run, the success or failure of a marriage.
Stockings on the Shower Rod
Love, a deep, abiding sense of caring, will help you to build many little things into a strong, enduring, happy life together. It will even help you to realize the smallness of some of the things that may have proved annoying or disturbing in the past. And when you see how insignificant these annoyances are, you can correct the feeling they have built in you.
More than one play or movie has been written around the idea of a man who annoys his wife unconsciously by cracking his knuckles, or a wife who builds a marital tempest by hanging wet stockings on the shower rod.
Developed as the theme of a comedy, the whole situation seems ridiculous and can be the source of much amusement. But the one who is involved in such a situation doesn’t laugh, not if he is allowing the little annoyances to build up in his mind.
If you would like to overcome your sense of annoyance at some habits of your mate, try this application of the law of insight.
Write down the thing which he or she does that bothers you, then add “but” — and complete the thought. For instance, he may be grouchy at breakfast, but — he is easy to get along with after he is thoroughly awake. Or perhaps she threw away your favorite old clothes, but — she does try to make the home pleasant and comfortable for you.
When you try, you’ll discover that for every remembered annoyance, there is something good that you can use to cancel the thought of injury.
Working with the law of insight will enable you to concentrate not on the annoyance, but on the good, the potential, the person that you really love. And that gives you a good start on making marriage work for both parties.
The wife who can appreciate her husband’s boyish smile, even when he is tracking mud across her kitchen floor, and the husband who can appreciate his wife’s attempt to bake a cake for him, even though it didn’t turn out too well, are building the foundation for a happy marriage. They are letting love show them the vision of good, even in the hard glare of commonplace faults and shortcomings.
And where there is enough love, two people can discuss and change their habits and customs — even those little annoyances.
Nagging and anger are the trademarks of too much concentration on the little things that annoy. A smile and expression of love are the trademarks of a healthy marriage.
The intimacy of the marital relationship provides particularly destructive weapons that two people can use against each other. It is important that resentments never become so strong that partners are tempted to resort to making a duel of their marriage.
It is particularly destructive to turn the marriage into a public round of insults and debates. Differences that have not been solved in private will only be strengthened by airing them to a group of friends or relatives. Harsh words and angry threats not only strengthen the division between the two parties in a marriage, but also add the thought power of others to the problem.
This is particularly devastating if the husband and wife begin to throw in intimate details of their life together in a public demonstration. (Of course, one partner can end the exchange at any time by refusing to retaliate, by refusing to argue, by holding to love in spite of appearances.)
Love will dissolve the hurts, the fears, the annoyances. Love will give a proper perspective to the whole situation. Love will help two people to build something special together. Love will show them the right and best way to reconcile their individual differences and concentrate on their assets, not their deficiencies.
A depth of understanding, forgiveness and appreciation will deepen the love with which two people started until it becomes the strong and enduring thing that is a proper foundation for a special kind of union of two souls.
Many times when daily life is allowed to become humdrum and the bond of love slips, individuals continue to grow, or to retrogress, but they grow apart rather than together.
The wife who loses her personal identity in her concentration on the children and the husband who finds all his enjoyment in his professional world may continue to live together, but remain soul-mates in name only.
There is more to marriage than just living together, and if you would gain the maximum benefit from your marriage, you will remember the tip about protective maintenance and continue to work at it.
One key to a healthy, happy marriage is growth, and this is love’s principle of growth:
Love never attempts to stand still. Love grows, and those who love grow with it.
Individuals who have a real understanding of love will have aims and goals for their life. And couples who have a depth of love power will also have a meaningful purpose for their life together.
Consider these questions in relation to your own marriage, and give them an honest answer. Where is your marriage going? Or is it simply drifting, going nowhere in particular? Do you have any common aims and goals? Can you discuss anything more meaningful than the price of food or the latest news?
Two people who have, in love, chosen to live their lives together, should have some idea of just where they want to go, what they want to accomplish, what they would like to build together.
As you begin to work with the idea of deepening your love relationship and caring more about yourself and others, you will be shown the right way to determine goals for your life together and the right way to achieve them.
Sharing aims and goals is a basic necessity. Building together is necessary to a good marriage. But there is something more that must be added if you would really make your marriage fulfill its whole potential. This is a deep-down spiritual conviction.
Sharing fun times and family activities is good. Being able to discuss the budget and plans for daily living is important. Overcoming little annoyances contributes its bit. But sharing a love for God and for all His children is the ultimate aim of love in marriage.
Many families share their religious practice and attend church services together. But love, in its highest sense, will enable you not only to share such participation, but also to share the deep feelings of the soul, the conviction of spiritual truths, the spiritual basis that makes life meaningful and real, the faith that is a firm foundation on which to build.
Because you love each other, you will have a greater ability to love God and others, and through this love, you will grow daily—together. And, expressing the light that is in each one of you, you will glow—together.
What One Can Do
Shared love, common aims and goals and understanding faith will contribute most to building a happy home, a healthy growth of individuals and a marriage.
However, even one person, working in love, can totally transform the atmosphere of a family relationship.
Many times individuals hold back, thinking that other members of the family do not love them or are not doing their part, and so they fail to make their own contribution.
Actually, it doesn’t matter so much what others are doing. But it does matter tremendously what you, as that one particularly important person, are doing. It matters greatly what your attitude is going to be. You are one who cares, one who desires to improve life for yourself and for others, or you would not be reading this book.
Perhaps because you care, you have a greater responsibility for doing what you can. Caring is the first step toward loving, and love power can transform even the most trying situation in the home. But remember, love power doesn’t start with someone else. It is your personal responsibility to activate this force in your particular environment. Don’t waste your time and energy waiting for your husband or wife to do it first, but rather, start the chain reaction that will become an increasing activity of love in and for all concerned.
Love may see through a glass darkly at the present time. It may glimpse only vaguely the intangible, invisible something special in that other person. But it does see the glimmer of something better. Develop it through the law of insight, and you will see the glimmer grow.
Work with the law of growth, and you will see love transform not only you, but others around you as well.
Love power is success power —in marriage and in life!
© 1986, Winifred Wilkinson Hausmann
All rights reserved by the author.
Reprinted with permission.