Gregory K. Popcak, Ph.D.
Jack and Marjorie caught me after a talk I gave to a group of engaged couples. Jack said, “Both sets of our parents are divorced, so neither of us have really had great models for what marriage should look like, so I guess we’re a little nervous about what that might say about us.” Marjorie added, “Of course we love each other, but how do you know if you have what it takes to make it through a lifetime together?” Engagement is both an exciting and a scary time. Exciting, because of the promise that the future holds. Scary, because the couple is often uncertain they have what it takes to make love last. The good news is that it is absolutely possible to create a love that lasts a lifetime no matter where you come from. Here are four tips that can help you live a love that is free, faithful, fruitful, and forever.
1. Acknowledge that you have a lot to learn.
Every couple enters marriage with a lot to learn. The trouble is, only a few couples realize it. Too many couples think that they know everything they need to learn about marriage because they’ve managed to make it to the altar, but its just not so. Every couple should expect that they will be learning about each other and about love every day for the rest of their lives. Often this means that a couple will be challenged to leave behind their comfort zones to respond generously to the various requests his or her beloved makes. A husband and wife may be challenged to be more communicative, or affectionate, or generous, or joyful, or thoughtful. They may be challenged to give more than they personally care to or feel like. But as long as they are not asking each other to do something that is morally offensive or personally demeaning, the couple should be willing to embrace these challenges and the growing pains that come with them. Every couple should expect to be changed for the better by their marriage.
2. Say, “I do” every moment.
You might think that you only have to say, “I do” once in your lifetime, but really, you will have a million chances a day to say, “I do” or “I don’t.” Every time your spouse asks you for some act of service–especially if you don’t feel like giving it–you can either say, “I do” to the marriage by taking up the task, or “I don’t” by refusing to do it. Every time your spouse offends you in some small way, you have the chance to say “I do” to the marriage by responding respectfully and charitably, or to say, “I don’t” to love by choosing to pour gasoline on the spark. Every day, as you plan your schedule, you have the opportunity to say, “I do” to each other by making sure to plan time to pray and talk together, or to say, “I don’t” to each other by letting work, friends, and outside commitments get in the way of the marriage. No one gets divorced over night. Divorce occurs when, over time, the level of “I don’ts” consistently outweighs the number of “I do’s.” By contrast, couples whose love grows with time do so because of how often they say, “I do” every moment of every day.
3. Seek out New Insights and Supports
Every couple should take time to regularly read books on marriage, go to marriage conferences and retreats, and find new resources that can support their relationship (like Marriage Encounter, or Teams of Our Lady). You will probably regularly seek professional training for your job, but marriage is your vocation which means that it is the most important job you will ever do. A vocation is the primary way a person chooses to live out his baptismal mission to become everything God created him to be and to prepare to spend eternity with the Lord. If that job doesn’t require continuing education, I don’t know what does.
4. Learn from the Master.
In spite of all the above, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You don’t have what it takes to make your marriage last. No one does. Humans are notoriously bad at being loving. If you rely on your own love, one day, you will wake up to find that the cupboard is bare. That is why you and your spouse, together and on your own, have to place yourselves at the feet of the master and ask God to help you love each other with his love. This might sound pious or magical, but I don’t mean it to. It is absolutely necessary that every day, you pray on your own and together with your mate that God would teach you to love your mate with his heart and that he would teach you both how to create the marriage he sees when he looks at you. God is the author of your love. Don’t scribble mindlessly on the page. Turn to him let him teach you how to write your love story.
For more help in cultivating a life-long love, contact your PaxCare Tele-Coach. Call us to get the skills you need to succeed in your love relationship.