In a healthy marriage you have chosen to be “in love” with your best friend, which is really another way of saying that marriage requires going beyond being struck by Cupid's arrow, the single act used to symbolize how — in myth, movies, and literature — love magically begins “at first sight.” The promise of romance is to find blissful union with your beloved.
In order for spouses to get close to this lovely goal, each needs qualities more closely associated with platonic love, the generous relating seen in close friendships where one friend puts the well-being of the other above his own desire to possess another. It also means telling your partner the whole truth and staying in close communication — just as you would do with your best friend.
The reason why real love becomes more challenging after the first six months of a relationship is because at this point you can no longer coast on the initial high of romantic attraction, the period when overlooking flaws is easy.
After these thrilling emotions subside, you and your partner must really begin to communicate about some of the harder issues that have arisen between you. These must include your most intimate thoughts and feelings.
And if your marital partner is your best friend, you can and will want to share all of yourself with him — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
When Sandy and Tim first met and dated, she was immediately drawn to the way he carefully considered questions and problems put to him before giving an answer or opinion. “I could see him thinking. He never took the easy way out,” she said. Well, after seven years of marriage, Sandy's admiration for her husband's deliberateness had turned into impatience and boredom. What or who had changed?
With two jobs and two kids, a mortgage, and other money pressures, Tim and Sandy had lost their desire and commitment to listen and learn more about each other, to get below the surface of things. Those were the nice “frills” of relationship, niceties they'd abandoned to coping with the stress and practical demands of daily life.
The solution to their communication breakdown was to turn this order of priorities on its head; set aside time, and, if need be involve a therapist, to help them learn ways to communicate on a deeper, more meaningful level. Sandy had to honestly tell Tim that his manner of speaking had a way of creating a wall between them in conversations. Tim had to share his frustrations about not being heard. In that way, each was able to get more of the potential support the other had to offer, and move them forward from this stuck place in their relationship.
If you cannot share important information with your partner you have a serious problem, and you need to do some hard soul searching to find a way to remedy this situation.
A successful marital relationship has a good communication style as the primary predictor of its success. The communication is effective, immediate, and results oriented, meaning it modifies behavior when that's necessary for the harmony of the marriage. How do you get to this level of communication with your spouse?
Keep It Private
Too often, one partner in a couple tells friends outside the marriage information about intimate aspects of her marital life before she shares this information with her partner. This unhealthy dynamic exists because trust, honesty, and complete truthfulness have not been established inside the marriage. The problem usually goes back to judgments made between partners, allowing defensiveness and fear to enter and hamper the communication process.
When people are intimate, it is essential that judgments be openly acknowledged and correctly managed so that judgmental communication does not destroy the harmony within the marriage. With judgment comes disapproval and anger, hurt, and defensiveness, all the negative qualities that can deaden intimacy.
What can you do if you are not currently honest, trusting, and open with your partner? You must first ask yourself is this is an appropriate relationship for you. If it is appropriate, then you must learn and practice effective communication skills with your partner. If it's not, then deal with the issue of appropriateness.
What is left unspoken will not go away; it will fester and begin to eat at the foundations of your relationship. To keep the channels of communication open, set aside thirty minutes as a weekly “check-in time” with your partner.
Assuming your answer is that this is an appropriate relationship, and this means there are shared values, respect, and love for each other present in your marriage, but you are still feeling judged by your partner, the two of you need to begin the process of talking about these issues. Honest communication is essential for success.
Without truthfulness, how can trust be established? Without trust, how can love survive? Without love, how can intimacy continue? Several techniques for positive communication between spouses are presented and treated in depth later.