There has been a common ‘wisdom’ which says, “Single people always want to get married while married people always wish to be single again.” Interesting isn’t it? It raises questions such as: “Why do single people want to get married?” and “Why do married people wish to be single again?” I conclude that there must be something … so many things that single people don’t know about marriage and also so many things that married people don’t know about how to make a successful marriage. But thanks God that we will not find this questions unanswered and problems unsolved.
Here I would like to present wisdom from Gary Chapman, the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. In his book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married, he honestly confessed that the things he wrote down there are things he wishes he knew back then but there was no one told him. This wisdom, if wisely applied, will save us from a lot of heartache, painful arguments, and wasted time in ongoing silence in marriage. So here we go 😉 Enjoy reading! There are so many resources out there which allow us to learn from others’ experiences so that we can make a successful marriage. This common dilema should not be ours in days to come 🙂
People do not get married by planning to divorce. Of course! However, divorce is the result of lack of preparation for marriage and the failure to learn the skills of working together as teammates in an intimate relationship.
Ironically, most people spend far more time in preparation for their vocation than they do in preparation for marriage. Therefore, it should not be surprising that they are more successful in their vocational pursuits than they are in reaching the goal of marital happiness.
The decision to get married will impact one’s life more deeply than almost any decision in life. Yet people continue to rush into marriage with little or no preparation for making a marriage successful. In fact, many couples give far more attention to making plans for the wedding than making plans for marriage. Wedding lasts only a few hours, while the marriage, we hope, will last for a lifetime.
This article is about how to have successful marriage. For individual who is not in a dating relationship and has no immediate process of marriage, this article will provide a blueprint on moving from singleness to marriage. For the couple who is dating but not yet engaged, it will help you decide if and when to announce your plans to get married. For the engaged couple, it will help you examine the foundation and learn the skills that are necessary for building a successful marriage.
This article is not simply to be read, but to be experienced. The more you grapple with the realities discussed and share honestly your thoughts and feelings on these topics, respect each other’s opinions, and find the workable solutions to your differences, to that degree you will be prepared for marriage.To the degree that you ignore these issues and choose to believe that the euphoric feelings that you have for each other will carry you through, you set yourself up for failure. There are so many other free resources which you can find in: http://www.smartmarriageright.com 🙂
#1 I Wish I Had Known … That being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage
Over counselings hundreds of couple, Gary always asked, “Why do you want to get married?” The big reason is always the same: “Because we love each other.” Often we fail to consider the fact that our social, spiritual, and intellectual interests are miles apart. Our value systems and goals are contradictory, but we are in love. But the great tragedy from this perception of love is that a year after the marriage, a couple sits in the counselor’s office and say, “We don’t love each other anymore.” Therefore, they are ready to separate. After all, if “love” is gone, then “surely you don’t expect us to stay together.”
Research indicates that the average life span of the “in love” obsession is two years. For some it may last a bit longer; for some, a bit less. Then our differences begin to emerge and we often find ourselves arguing with the person whom we once thought to be perfect. We have now discovered that being in love is not the foundation for a happy marriage. The ‘love’ factor or chemistry is important, but they are not the basis of satisfactory marriage. There must be a compatibility in intellectual dialogue, emotional control, social interests, spiritual unity, and common values. The many other factors we will discuss later on to be a vital consideration in making about marriage.
#2 I Wish I Had Known … That romantic love has two stages
The first stage: Romantic love
Here, the couple does not have to work on the relationship. They may expend great energy in doing things for each other, but they would not consider it work, but delight. They want to make each other happy and they often do. When we are in love, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. If you are in college and fall in love, most likely your grades will decline. There are even so many people who drop out of college and choose to get married.
But there will come a time where the emotional high is going downhill and in that phase we may think, “I have married the wrong person. Our differences seem so obvious now. Why did I not see them earlier?” Welcome to the second stage of love 🙂
The second stage: Intentional love
The second stage of romantic love is much more intentional than the first stage. Yes, it requires WORK in order to keep emotional love alive. Those who make effort in this transition will reap an astounding reward.
What makes one person feel loved does not necessarily make another person feel loved. For example, she says, “I feel like he doesn’t love me,” and he says, “I don’t understand that. I work hard. I keep the car clean. I mow the grass every weekend. I help her around the house. I don’t know what else she would want.” She responds, “he does all those things. He is a hard working man.” Then with tears in her eyes she says,”But we don’t ever talk.”
When someone said, “I feel like my spouse doesn’t love me,” what are they looking for? What did they want? What were they complaining about?” Their complaints fell into five categories, the five love languanges. Everyone has a primary love language in which there is one they understand best. One of the five speaks more deeply to us emotionally than the other four. Seldom do a husband and wife have the same language. By nature tend to speak our own language. Whatever makes us feel loved is what we do for the other person. But if it is not his/her language, it will not mean to them as what it means to us.
In the illustration above, the husband was speaking the language of acts of service, while the wife’s love language was quality time. He was washing the car, mowing the grass, helping her around the house. To him, this is the way he expresses his love. Meanwhile, what made her feel loved was him giving her his undivided attention talking, sharing life, listening, and communicating. He was sincerely expressing love but it was not in her primary love language.
The book that grew out of this research is entitlled The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts. Here is the brief summary of the five love languages:
1. Words of Affirmation
The language uses words to affirm the other person. “I really appreciate your washing the car. It looks great.” “Thanks for taking out the garbage. You are the greatest.” “You look nice in that outfit.” “Your smile is contagious. Did you see the way everyone seemed to brighten up when you came into the room?” Your words may focus on the other person’s personality or the way they look or something they have done for you or for others.
If a person’s primary love language is words of affirmation, your words will be like rain falling on dry soil. Nothing will speak more deeply of your love than words of affirmation. In contrary, he/she whose primary love language is words of affirmation may deeply hurt by harsh words too.
2. Acts of Service
For these people, actions speak louder than words. If you speak words of affirmation to this person such as “I admire you, I appreciate you, I love you,” they will likely think and perhaps say, “If you love me, why don’t you do something to help me around the house?” If acts of service is their primary love language, then washing the car, mowing the grass, helping around the house, and changing the baby’s diaper is precisely what makes them feel loved. The key to loving this person is to find out what things they would like for you to do. Then do them consistently.
3. Receiving Gifts
For some people, the gift communicates, “He was thinking about me. Look what he got for me.” The best gifts are those that you know will be appreciated. How do you find out what the other person would like to receive? You ask questions and make observations. You observe the comments they make when they receive gifts from other family members. If they say, “I’d like to have one of those,” make a nte of it. You can also ask, “If I wanted to give you a gift, give me a list of things you would like to have.” Better to give a gift that they have requested than to surprise them with a gift they do not desire.
4. Quality Time
Quality time is giving the other person your undivided attention. It is not sitting in the same room watching television. Someone else has your attention. It is being in the same room with the TV off, the magazine on the table, looking at each other, talking and listening. It may also be taking a walk together so long as your purpose is to be with each other, not simply to get exercise. Couples who go to a restaurant and never talk to each other have not spoken the language of quality time. They have simply met their physical need for food. Quality time says, “I am doing this because I want to be with you.”
5. Physical Touch
We have long known the emotional power of physical touch. Research indicates that babies that are touched and cuddled fare better emotionally than babies who spend long periods of time without physical touch. Appropriate touch is loving. Inappropriate touch is demeaning. Nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate touch for those whose primary love language is physical touch.
Your primary love language is things you often do for others effortlesly. The language you speak is most likely the language you wish to receive. The other way to discover your love language is to find out what do you most complain about? If you often complain that people don’t help you, then acts of service is likely your language. If you say to a friend, “We don’t ever spend time together,” then you are requesting quality time. And what do you request more often? When you ask, “Did I do a good job?” you are requesting words of affirmation.
Keeping romantic love alive in a marriage requires making a successful transition from Stage One to Stage Two. Learning each other’s primary love language while you are dating will make the transition much easier.
#3 I Wish I Had Known … Like the saying “Like mother, like daughter” and “Like father, like son” is not a myth
This does not mean that the girl you marry will turn out exactly like her mother, nor that the man will be exactly like his father. This means that you are both greatly influenced by your parents.If he has a father who is controlling and verbally abusive, don’t be surprised if in then years he has similar traits. To some degree, we are all products of our environment. Research indicates that abusive men were almost always abused as children.
You may be asking, “But can’t we learn from their poor example and change our own behavior?” The answer is yes, and the important word is “learn.” If the son of an abuser does not take specific steps to understand abuse -why his father became an abuser, and what he needs to do to break the pattern- then he is likely to repeat it. Therefore, in a dating relationship if either of you has a parent with a destructive livestyle, the responsible action is to enroll in a class, read books, talk with counselors, and discuss with with each other what you are learning. Don’t sweep these issues under the rug.
Whether we are talking about positive or negative characteristics, most of us are far more like our parents than we realize. Communication patterns are another area in which we tend to be like our parents.
For example, if you notice that her mother of often interrupts her father when he is talking and corrects the details of his story by saying such tings as “No, it wasn’t on Tuesday, it was on Wednesday” then you can expect the daughther to do the same. Perhaps you have already observed this behavior when you are talking. If this pattern is not changed before marriage, it will not automatically change when you do get married.
Because we have grown up with our parents, we don’t recognize their patterns of communication as being healthy. For us, it is simply the way it has always been. It takes someone outside the family drawing the communication pattern to our attention to help us understand why the pattern needs to be changed. Since we are influenced by our parents’ communication patterns, we are likely to adopt it as our own. The good news is that these communication patterns can be changed and the time to make the change is while you are dating.
If you observe his mom and dad arguing and you notice that his father eventually walks out of the room and leaves his wife’s statement hanging in the air, then you can expect that is the way the man you are dating will likely to respond to arguments after you get married. Unless of course, he reads this and the two of you find a healthier way to resolve your conflicts. Also observe common courtesies that your mom and dad extend to each other.
Does her father open the car door for her mother? If so, this is what she will expect of you. Is his father quiet and reserved or loud and outspoken? Is her mother independent, making her own decisions and seldom conferring with her husband? Does her mother cook meals? Does his father keep the car clean? Is her mother a stay-at-home mom or does she have her own vocation? Does his father own his own business or does he work for a company? Is her mother highly active in church activities? What about his father? The answers to these questions will tell you what you can expect if you marry the person you are now dating. If any of the answers disturb you, this is the time to discuss them openly. The solution lies either in accepting these traits or negotiating change.
Often in today’s fast-moving culture, dating couples will spend little time with each other’s parents. They come to marriage without any clear understanding of the parental model with which the other person grew up. Even when spending time with each other’s parents, they are not closely observing the behavior and communication patterns of parents. Because they cannot imagine that the person they are dating would ever adopt those negative behaviors.
If you observe each other’s parents too get to know their personalities, communication patterns, values, and especially how they relate to each other and discussed thoroughly with your dating partner, then “like mother, like daughter” and “like father, like son” may not become a reality in your relationship 🙂
#4 I Wish I Had Known … How to solve disagreement without arguing
There are no married couples who do not encounter conflicts, for one simple reason -we are individuals. As individuals we have different desires, different likes and dislikes, different things that irritate and please us. For example, Gary discovered that Karolyn liked to watch television, while he thought television was a waste of time. Why not read a book or learn something? “What has anyone ever learned from watching television?” That was his perspective. She argued that watching television was her way of relaxing and, contrary to his opinion, there was a great deal one could learn from watching television. So this become “sore spot” in their relationship that periodically erupted into a full-blown argument. In those days, Gary embraced the thought, “I have married the wrong person. Surely if I had married the right person, it would not be like this.” Some couples learn how to resolve conflicts in a friendly manner while others resort to heated arguments. They definately fell into the last category.
But over time, Gary has discovered that firsly as couple we need to accept the reality that we will have conflicts. Conflicts are not a sign that you have married the wrong person. They simply affirm that you are human. We all tend to assume that our ideas are the best ideas. What we faill to recognize is that our spouse has the same opinion of their ideas. Our ideas and perceptions of life are influenced by our history, our values, and our personality. And these factors are different from each of us.
The healthy way in processing conflicts is with recognizing the need to listen. When most of us have conflicts, we feel the need to talk, but talking without listening will lead to arguments. After you have heard and affirmed each other ideas, you are now ready to look for a solution to the conflict. The big word in finding a solution is COMPROMISE. Often we think of the word compromise as a negative word. People are often warned about compromising their values or beliefs. However, compromise in a marriage is not only positive but necessary. Compromise means to find a meeting place. It requires each of you to be willing to give up something in order to have harmony in the marriage. If we both insist on having our way, then we are back in the argument mode. In marriage it is never “having my way.” It is rather discovering “our” way.
Typically there are three ways to resolve conflicts.
1. “Meeting in the Middle”
One we have just described. It’s about compromise. You find a meeting place by agreeing to do a part of what each of you desired while each of you also sacrifices a bit.
2. “Meeting on Your Side”
This means that after you hear each other’s ideas and feelings, one of you decides that on this occasion, it is best to do what the other has in mind. This is a total sacrifice of your original idea, choosing rather to do what your spouse desires and to do it with a positive attitude. You are choosing to do what they desire as an act of love because you care about them and you see how important it is to them.
One husband said, “I agreed to have a baby after she explained to me that she was getting near the end of her fertility cycle. When I saw her heart, I didn’t want to take the chance of disappointing her. We had always agreed that he wanted to have children. I just thought it wasn’t the right time. I want to wait until we had a financial base. But as I listened to her and saw how important it was to her, I agreed that even though I had some fears, I thought I should go ahead and have a baby now. We did and I have never regretted that decision.” Sometimes the decision to agree with the other person’s idea will involve great sacrifice. However, love always involve some sacrifice.
3. “Meeting Later”
This approach says, “At the moment, I’m not able to conscientiously agree with your idea, and I don’t see a place to meet in the middle. Can we just agree that for the moment, we disagree on this? And we will discuss it again in a week or month, and look for solution. In the mean time, we will love each other, enjoy each other, and support each other. This will not be a disruptive factor in our marriage.” This is a perfectly legitimate response to a conflict when, at the moment, you cannot find a long-term solution. A month from now, things may look different or new possibilities may come to mind so that you can find a compromise with which both of you will feel good.
In some areas of life, “meeting later” can be a permanent solution, especially in areas where there is no “right” or “wrong” answer, whether it is squeezing the toothpaste tube, personal taste of entertainment, etc.
In one of these three ways, you can resolve your conflicts. The key is creating a friendly atmosphere by listening to each other and affirming each other’s perspective rather than accusing each other of illogical thinking.
#5 I Wish I Had Known … That apologizing is a sign of strength
Gary used to adopt worldly value which says, “Real men don’t apologize.” His dad adopted it. Gary never remembers hearing him apologize. And Gary also simply followed his model. Before marriage, Gary could not imagine ever doing or saying anything to his wife that would warant for an apology. After all, he loved her. But he found out later on that the woman whom he had married had ideas, some of which he considered to be stupid. He said, “Karolyn, think. This is simply not logical.” His words would spark a sharp response and they could be on a downward spiral.
After such episodes, they would go silent and not speak to each other for hours or sometimes days. Gary did not realize that he was simply doing what his father had done. He never apologized. He blamed her for their altercations. In the early years, they did not have a good marriage.
As Gary enrolled in seminary and learned in Christian scriptures about confession and repentance, he realized that he had been deceived that, “Real men don’t apologize.” He learned that confession means to admit that what he did or failed to do was wrong. Repentance means that he consciously turn from that wrong and seek to do what is right. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Then for the next few months, Gary learned to apologize and found that Karolyn was fully willing to forgive. In time, she too learned to apologize and I extended forgiveness. Gary is convinced that there are no healthy marriages without apology and forgiveness. The reality is that all of us are human and humans sometimes do and say things that are demeaning to other people. These unloving words and actions create emotional barriers between the people involved. Those barriers do not go away with the passing of time. They are removed only when we apologize and the offended party chooses to forgive.
When you apologize, what do you typically say or do? When someone apologize to you, what do you expect them to say or do? The evidence was clear -what one person considers to be an apology is not what another person considers to be apologize. While he says, “I’m sorry.” She might think, “You certainly are. Now, is there anything else you would like to say?” She is waiting for an apology; he thinks he has already apologized. Just like love has its language, apology too has its language which differs from one person to another. Here are the apology languages:
1. Expressing regret.
“I’m sorry,” spoken alone, are much too general. If you have lost your temper and spoken harshly, you might say, “I am sorry that I lost my temper and raised my voice. I know I came across very harsh and that I hurt you deeply. A husband should never talk that way to his wife. You must be hurting deeply and I am sorry that I hurt you.”
This apology language is an emotional language. It is seeking to express to the other person your emotional pain that your words or behavior have hurt them deeply. If this is the apology language of the person you have offended, anything short of this kind of apology will seem empty to them.
2. Accepting Responsibility
It begins with the words “I was wrong,” and then goes on to explain what was wrong about your behavior. For example, “I was wrong not to plan my afternoon so I could get home early. I knew we were going out tonight but I didn’t consciously thing about what time I needed to be home in order for us to leave on time. It was my fault and I was wrong.”
The person whose primary apology is “accepting responsibility” is waiting to hear you admit your behavior was wrong. For this person, saying “I’m sorry” will never sound like an apology. They want you to be willing to accept responsibility for what you did or said and acknowledge that it was wrong.
3. Making Restitution
This apology language seeks to “make it right.” This seeks for actions from the person who made mistakes which can show that you love them. Speak their specific love language in order to make it right. Give a gift to those who like gifts, write a love letter for those who like words of affirmation, etc.
4. Genuinely expressing the desire to change your behavior
This apology seeks to come up with a plan to keep the bad behavior from reoccurring. “I will not do it again” are the words and let your actions confirm it.
5. Requesting forgiveness
“Will you please forgive me?” These words are music to the ears of the person whose primary apology language is “requesting forgiveness.” In their mind, if you are sincere, you will ask them to forgive you. This is what an apology is all about.
When couples learn how to apologize in a manner that is meaningful to the other person, they make forgiveness much easier. What most people want to know when you are attempting to apologize is “Are you sincere?” However, they judge your sincerity by whether or not you are speaking what to them is a genuine apology. That means you must learn to speak you apology in their primary apology language. When you do, they sense your real sincerity.
Couples who have practiced both love language and apology language repeatedly will be most likely to develop a healty relationships. Do not ignore it. This will save your marriage from unnecessary pain. There are six more things Gary wished to know before he got married 😉 Discover it in my next article. To be continued…
Photos by Angga Permana Photography