In marriage, the bond is everything. Recently we attended the wedding of Dean and Macy. It was a beautiful wedding and the two of them were extremely happy. Their connection (or bond) was noticeably strong on their marriage day, and their love for one another was obvious to all present.
The challenge for Dean and Macy, however, will be how to keep this connection strong as they settle into the routines of daily life. Many couples take their marriage bond for granted or fail to realize that automatic pilot does not operate in a marital relationship. As Bob Dylan once wrote, “We’re busy being born, or busy dying”. There is no in-between with marriage either; it either becomes better or it becomes worse.
In what ways can my newly wed young friends keep their connection strong and healthy in the months and years ahead? One strategy is to establish a “framework.”
This bond “framework” has four components. The first involves making time to visit with each other everyday. Life becomes busy so it is necessary to actually set aside a portion of time each day to visit or interact as a couple.
This talk time or “T-Time” need not be rigidly defined. My wife and I tend to do ours between eight and ten each evening, when it is possible to do so. Often I will initiate the interaction by asking my wife if she wants to go for a walk or share a pot of tea; our visit takes place as part of these activities.
The second part of the framework has to do with actively listening and talking with each other, looking for the underlying feelings in the conversation. It is not what each person does each day that is important, but what their day did to them.
What happens then when a strong emotion “hangs in the air”, either expressed or unexpressed? How should a spouse react when their loved one is obviously upset? Many people will automatically make efforts to fix the problem by offering the upset spouse advice and solutions. It is more beneficial, however, to accept and acknowledge the feeling(s) and withhold the advice until later. In some cases, it feels great just to be “heard,” with no attempts made at all to solve the problem!
The third part of the framework is collaboration. Most spouses, soon after marriage, realize that they have many differences, both in personality and opinions. When they try to force their individual ideas onto one another, power struggles often result. Collaboration, and finding the middle road, brings out the best in both spouses.
To collaborate well it is important to keep a few things in mind. First of all, it is a good sign when spouses have different ideas about an issue. This reality can be annoying of course, as everyone likes to have his/her ideas affirmed. Yet, differences can mean that a couple is a good match, that there is balance, that husband and wife can relax and avoid the temptation to demand agreement or acquiescence. Secondly, it is important to enter every conversation with the attitude that collaboration is the goal. State the different positions and then move ahead and create a “third reality” which will represent “our way” of resolving the issue.
The fourth part of the bond framework involves having fun, regularly. Many couples date often while they are “courting,” but once they marry and have children they stop. It is important, however, to slip away from routine life from time to time. Going out on a date, as a couple, provides an opportunity to unwind and share an enjoyable outing. The marital bond is strengthened by such outings.
For a marriage to survive, both spouses have to be “bearers of the bond.” I am confident that my two young friends will keep their connection vital and healthy and wish them a long, happy marriage.