February 6, 2008
Marriage list: Listen, learn, laugh, love
What does it take to make a marriage lasting and meaningful?
On Dec. 18, my wife, Jane, and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. For marriages to last, while remaining vital and inspirational, integrity-centered friendship is essential. Being married to a saint helps!
In reality, prudent husbands and wives operate on the assumption that 100 percent partnerships are built on 80/20 give-and-take, each acknowledging that the other partner is likely and regularly giving the 80 percent. Not only does this encourage extra tolerance when things become tense, but it also often creates a feeling of sincere indebtedness (healthy guilt) that sustains balance in the relationship. Appreciation and mutual respect open the doors for honest and constructive dialogue. Planning, problem-solving and implementing priorities demands sacrifices, that, when made graciously, solidify many relationships.
Reflecting on our marriage of 41 years, four inspiring behaviors were and remain essential: listen, learn, laugh and love:
- Listening, the magic of giving undivided and empathetic attention, solidifies trust between a husband and wife. Effective listening is more than simply taking notice; it requires taking action on what someone says. Such singular focus on another individual creates powerful connections with spouses, family members, friends and yes, in the work world, key associates.
- Learning is a lifelong pursuit for those committed to growth, health and vitality. Learning extends to openness regarding inevitable changes of one's marriage partner. The person we marry is unlikely to stay the same, given the challenges, opportunities, sacrifices and experiences that are a part of life. Exposure to new ideas and friends can keep the mind and spirit curious. Continuous learning prevents hardening of the arteries and calcification of attitudes.
- Laughing with each other is critical. Humor can defuse tension, challenge arrogance and humble haughtiness, while softening anger, disappointment and sorrow. Heartfelt laughter is neither insensitive nor dismissive and helps partners find the lighter side of circumstances, reducing stress. Smiles lighten loads and lift spirits along with words like thank you.
- Love provides marriage partners emotional and physical bonds. When friction tests the metal of the relationship, slowing down long enough to weld the broken connections has incredible impact. Love requires time, space and respect. Children are the first to feel the love and first to notice its absence - even when they are young. Love is the generous and gracious investment of energy in another human being.