How Does Marriage Work?
In the “I’m Not Ready for Marriage” series, I discussed the point, the structure, and the process of marriage. It occurred to me during a conversation about the blog series, that I missed an important topic that needs to be the start of a couple’s discussion. That topic? Walking Away! My wife and I have made it 20 years together. It is not because we are perfect. It is because we committed to make each other better. Who am I is owed to Taunya. I take credit for who she is. Following are some way points to guide your decision making.
I offer this discussion because many seem clueless to the fact that marriage and staying married is a choice. Each day, it is a choice to continue with the one person you want to succeed almost as much as you want success for yourself. It is a partnership. It is a promise. But, it is also a choice to be completely open, to share, and to face whatever together. Beyond that, it is a solid foundation for launching success.
Marriage is not about connecting two perfect people. It is about the two of you choosing, each day, to build something beautiful together.
Perfection Conversion: Honesty
It is time to stop with all the bravado and the “I don’t need you!” arguments. Let’s get this straight. You love this person. You need to be honest and ACT like it. All of this getting mad, screaming and cursing, the shutting down and passive aggressiveness, the refusing calls and such, STOP IT! Admit that you are in love. If the other is not showing you what you want in return, double your expression of love. Make certain that you are doing all that you can do, without being married, to honestly communicate your love. If the other still does not return your love, WALK AWAY! Obviously, the other is not in love with you. A person who is in love with you will do what they can to top your expressions of love. They cannot help but to listen and respond to your love with expressions of love themselves.
The problem is that many are still in relationships because they feel guilty for holding back. Once you freely speak your heart as a habit and communicate with caring and sincerity, your guilt will disperse. You will know that you have done all you can, and you have shared all of yourself (all that is sustainable to share before marriage). You refused the inclination to yell and belittle. You realized that aggression is not going to give you what you want. More importantly, you decided to be honest, realizing that aggression is not what you truly feel. When the other spurned your love, you felt hurt. Communicate this. Say it out loud. If the other says or acts like he/she does not care. You are free.
Show Me the Money
This is about relationship. But, an important part of this is about what the two of you can create together. Creation will require some investment. Time, people, and information are important, but money is also important. Giving your all requires that you commit financially as well. I am a strong proponent of shared finances with one spouse handling the financial planning duties. For many couples, this is out of the question. She has to have her own money. He will not report what his spending is to her.
My solution: Break up! Okay, not the relationship, but the money. Sit down, and look at your shared goals. If you must have your separate accounts and bills, have them. But, each of you MUST contribute to the shared goals fund. This is a fund that neither of you can withdraw from, but that both of you include in your budgets. If you are not married, this fund should be drawn up with clear, written guidelines. Get the signatures notarized. In the event that the relationship does not last, distribute the funds in accordance with the Break Up Clause.
The point I want to make here is that a marriage is a contract, clear, written, and notarized. You need to conduct business in this way. You need to engage with a partner in this way. You will not build together without money. You will not grow as you could without a contract. If the other is not willing to enter into this contract, what makes you think the two of you will enter into a marriage contract? Why are you two together again?
The Deal or No Deal
Either we are building, or we are not. Either we are going somewhere, or we are not. Relationships are not a statement of “It’s fine how it is.” They are a question of “What could we accomplish through this partnership?” It is just not sustainable to settle for the comfortable and familiar while complaining about the mundane and repetitive.
Let me make this clear, if you are NOT married yet, and do not have a clear plan for getting married, the problem is not RIGHT and WRONG. The problem is that you are missing out on the joy of a plan. You wake up to life each morning with uncertainty that you choose to keep uncertain. You have unconfirmed commitments that you maintain as uncertain. “But, I promise we will be together!” Can I get that in writing?
You want a house and a car. You want to amass wealth that allows you the freedom from work. You want to be generous with your wealth. You also want to be with that other person. In order to have both, you need to make a commitment. It has nothing to do with marriage per se. It has everything to do with economics. Two apartments, two light bills, two grocery budgets is inefficient. It is suspect for you to be planning to buy a house without including the other person. If you are able to sign that contract, why not the marriage contract?
Walking Away From SomeThing You Love
Even if your assessment convinces you that the more sustainable choice is for you to walk away, you are going to feel love for the person. Do not allow immaturity and soap opera-style endings to confuse the fact that you make the choices every day that build to your destiny. You will FEEL that you love the person. But, if you are honest… If you look with discernment upon the story that is your relationship with that person, you will realize that what you LOVE is not the person. You love the VISION of what the two of you could have been together. Your decision to walk away is the maturity to allow another adult to choose, even if the other does not choose you. In that moment, you realize true love: allowing him/her to choose for themselves.
It will not be comforting. It will not make sense. You will have withdrawal proportionate to the length of time that the two of you shared together. If your relationship began in high school, if you have been physically intimate, if you have conceived a child together, it will hurt longer. When you hear about the other moving on with someone else, you will feel pain. That’s honest. That’s beautiful. It is your reminder that you gave your all.
What is also true is that you have never loved or been loved as much as you will once you experience the joy of another being free to choose, and choosing you. In walking away from someone you felt love for, you clear the way for another who will return that love. What you create together will go beyond the physical and the temporal. What you create through love will inspire others. And, THAT is how marriage works! It doesn’t. You Do!
[ Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a father of two girls and a boy. He is also a 20 year veteran husband. He works as a leadership coach and organization consultant based in Nashville, Tennessee. With over 16 years of experience guiding individuals to their goals, Michael has the techniques and patience to help you succeed. Follow @MAWMedia on Twitter or connect for a consultation at MAWMedia.com ]