Five Myths Continued
3. If you love me, you'll _______.Fill in the blank with what comes to mind. Some popular ones are: …you'll change, know what I need, do what I want, give in, and just trust me. This statement makes love conditional upon the other person doing what you ask as a proof of their love. Such expectation of conditional love is dangerous. There is a dark translation to this type of expectation. What you are saying, in effect is, "I don't trust your love so you better prove it to me now.", or "I don't care enough about you to consider your feelings, wants, and needs. What I want is more important."
This type of statement can be a warning sign. Demand and conditional love usually say more about the person making the statement than about the recipient. It speaks to an unreasonable expectation that may be motivated by a lack of care about the partner or by a personal lack of self-esteem.
Expectations of "knowing what I need" demand that your partner have the ability to mind-read. Since none of us have this ability, you're asking for trouble from the start. The only way your partner can know what you need, want, feel, or think is your telling them. Good communication is a powerful tool for understanding.
On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to have expectations of your partner in the relationship. How you voice them is important. It's okay to say for example, "If our love is going to stay strong, it's important to learn how to communicate better." It's not okay to say "If you loved me, you'd understand me." The difference is that in the first, you are owning your share of the relationship. You are not pointing the finger but, rather, inviting an opportunity to learn and grow.
Sharing and creating mutual expectations and boundaries is essential to creating a healthy relationship. Create them together in a way that is consistent with your values and beliefs.
4. My mate will change. Yes, they will and you have no control. The only person you can ever change is yourself. People who expect that their mate will change in the direction that they, personally, want after marriage are going to be very, very disappointed. This is a relationship-killing expectation.
Be aware that the addictive behaviors of others with alcohol, drugs, or other substances are outside your control. Your love cannot cure this type of illness. This calls for professional intervention. You may help your partner by making resources available and being supporting but it is up to them to work through the disease. Organizations such as Alanon can assist you if you are involved with an addictive personality.
Have you ever heard an engaged person say something like this: "Well I know it's annoying when he/she just goes out with their friends to play sports in the middle of the week but you know what, as soon as we're married that's going to change."? Or "I know she runs around on me now but once we're married, she'll change." Or "I know he drinks a lot but he'll cut back once we're married." If you've heard it at all, you've just heard a relationship-warning siren. Such demands are unreasonable, unwelcome, and unlikely to succeed.
People change because they want to not because you want them to. People entering marriage and committed relationships do change some of the things they do. And all people change and grow as they age. But people rarely change for the better when they are under pressure from someone else…even a loved one. In a partnership, you work together to mutually create the new relationship. It is a sharing process. Yes, it may have its painful moments but you are both working together for the betterment of each other and the relationship.
The strongest relationships are founded on the commitment of two strong individuals who bring themselves to the relationship. It means compromise, growth and change but it does not mean giving in to the unreasonable demands of another. The article, Change and Grow has some further insights on this subject.
5. I'll do my half. There is no such thing as a truly successful long-term marriage where each partner gives only their half (50%). It's the terrible lie of the 50:50 marriage. The only truth is that our expectations for a fairy tale marriage lead us down the road to disappointment, disillusionment, and divorce.
"I've had it. You're selfish. If you really loved me, you'd understand what I need. I've been giving and giving and I get nothing in return. You don't give me what I want anymore. Maybe we should get divorced." This conversation or others like it is held thousands of times per day as over two million people in the United States decide that it's time to divorce. After the mystical magic of today's glamorous weddings, these words ring cold on the hard pain of disappointment.
No other thing that we do starts with so much joy, optimism, and celebration and, all so often, ends in so much anger, fear, and disappointment, as does the modern marriage. It doesn't have to be this way but we have a difficult time seeing the alternatives. The truth will help you create your role in a positive lifetime marriage.
The Truth: Men and women are not equal. Thank God. We are different as individuals and, in that difference, lies part of the answer to a happy marriage. What we choose to do with those differences determines, perhaps more than love, what our relationship will look like. And it's not a fifty-fifty deal. A truly happy and lifetime marriage relationship is a seventy five: seventy five proposition (75:75) and all marriages will have problems at some time. It's inevitable. Differences and intimacy are a recipe for conflict.
By giving more than half, with the faith that you are both committed to the same marriage team and by communicating for understanding, with the goal of a winning marriage, you can overcome the inevitable problems of creating a happy married life. You can prosper and be happy when you each give seventy five percent to your marriage. When you know that your partner is contributing more than their fair share, it's easier for you to do the same.
Even though the fairy tales aren't always right, there can be a happy ending; a happy married life for those of you who commit to giving more to your marriage. When you communicate for understanding, and make your relationship a priority, you do have a chance of succeeding where so many other millions have failed. Yes, it takes work. And that's part of the secret to success within the seventy five percent solution. Working on your relationship is a fulfilling labor of love.