I recently read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I liked it so much that I bought his book targetted to singles as a gift for my young adult granddaughter. I was pleased to see that he dealt with all relationships, not just dating relationships. Chapman is a Christian which he makes that clear, but he is careful to own his faith personally and doesn’t shove any of his beliefs down anyone’s throat. For example he talks about the issue of sex before marriage, but he supports traditional religious view with statistics about success or failure of marriages as they relate to statistics about pre-marital sex rather than using doctrine which would only serve to narrow his audience to those who already share his belief system.
I don’t necessarily question the scientific validity of his sharing, but I have felt for a long time that failure in marriage is more complex and deeper than whether or not a couple copulates before the wedding date. I think a better explanation is that couples often marry before they are mature enough to have a meaningful relationship. They go into marriage with fantacies about how this other person is going to make them happy. As a result, they grow into a co-dependent state in which each expects the other to be a certain kind of person rather than accepting the person as they are. This sets them up for failure because noone can be fully responsible for another person’s happiness.
Most couples who have been married for any length of time will tell you that they went through hard times in their marriage. Bernie and I will be celebrating our 50th anniversary this fall and we will both attest to this. The reason we are still married is that we have grown past trying to recreate one another for the sake of our own individual happiness. I have learned that happiness is something that comes from knowing myself and being willing to change my own hurtful attitudes and behaviors. In other words, we have grown up. The troubles in our marriage were, simply put, growing pains. It is just crazy when two people living together are going through growing pains at the same time.
The idea that anyone is ever “grown up” is a myth. We are always learning more. We are always changing. Once we accept this in ourselves and in our significant others, we will be happier. Controlling others takes a lot of work.