A marriage that lasts long does not always mean a happy marriage. Many miserable couples stayed together for children, religion or other practical reasons. But for many couples, it is simply not enough to stay together. They want a meaningful and satisfying relationship. In short, they want a lasting marriage. The idea that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counter-intuitive. After all, isn’t marriage supposed to prioritize relationships? Not anymore. In modern relationships, people are looking for a partnership and want partners who make their lives more interesting.
But it doesn’t magically happen with marriage. It takes work. We need to appreciate what our partner has to offer, the ways in which we can learn from them. We must accept that alternative views and traits are not inferior but rather opportunities for growth. What we do NOT want to do is try to impose our strengths (that is, “superior” qualities) on our spouse. We have to wait to be asked. Otherwise, we risk becoming stubborn and critical or pompous and unpleasant, certainly not the “you-focused” position. We really have to look at our partner. We must demonstrate our respect for the capabilities, experience and information that we do not have ourselves. And find out how we can learn from it, how we can improve.
It may require a shifting of gears. Maybe you’re not used to discussing the details of your business life at home. Maybe you don’t usually share the experiences of your day. Maybe you talk about the chores and the children but not the newspaper article you read, the interesting person you met for lunch, or your unrealized goals. No detail is too small or too big. Once you begin, you will create a habit and you will both grow – not in information but in ways of being, in ways of looking at the world, in ways of understanding.
Having a “lasting marriage” is not a very smart goal, but the research cited by Ms. Pope suggests that it is worth it. My only bone to choose with her is that I don’t think what she describes is a “me” marriage after all.