If you are thinking of separating and trying to save your marriage, this is a great article for you. I believe that just as important as love (if not more important) there are 3 things you need to sustain a happy marriage. Here is my Love Essentially column, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press:
3 Things That Sustain A Happy Marriage by Jackie Pilossoph for Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press
I figured out a long time ago that it is impossible to know from the outside looking in what someone else’s marriage is really like. Some couples I have met over the years appear really happy together while others might seem icy toward each other. There are couples that bicker a lot, couples that appear to be passionate for one another, couples that seem like best friends, couples that seem disconnected, couples that seem businesslike, and of course couples that seem picture perfect.
I have seen marriages I thought were blissfully happy end in divorce. I have known couples that made me wonder how the heck they ended up together who are still going strong after decades. All this has made me realize no one except for the two people in the marriage know why it works or why it doesn’t. And, those two people are the only two people who matter in this regard.
As a divorced woman, I can offer what I have learned about what makes a marriage work, both because of my failed marriage, as well as my romantic relationships that have followed.
Most people assume the biggest element needed to stay together is love. I could not disagree more. Is love important? Hell yes. But, there are three things I believe trump love when it comes to the success of a marriage or long-term relationship:
In truly grounded relationships, neither person is insecure about the other person’s commitment. Both people have faith they can rely on the other. They believe in each other professionally, as well in the other’s ability to make good decisions and maintain high standards and values. The couple acts as a team, and each is confident that the other has his or her back.
It is very difficult to love someone if you lack respect for that person. On the other hand, if you admire your spouse professionally and personally, and you have an appreciation for the way he or she chooses to live life, it drives attraction, passion and an interest in staying connected. Ask yourself, Do I value my spouse? Am I proud of him or her? Do I have a high opinion of him or her? If you answered yes to these, I would guess you and your spouse are pretty darn happy together.
Perhaps the most important aspect of being happy in a relationship is liking your spouse. People think they are supposed to get married to someone they truly love. While I agree loving your spouse is important, liking the person is 10 times more essential to a solid marriage. Liking someone means wanting to spend a lot time with them, having similar interests, thinking alike most of the time, being on the same page, enjoying one another’s company, feeling at ease with one another and realizing that person bring out the best in you – that you actually like yourself when you are with that person.
Make no mistake, love and passion and sex and caring about someone are all important in sustaining a happy marriage. However, trust respect and likability mean so much more because they equate to an authentic connection. In fact, trust, respect and likability are what drive love and passion and sex. When you trust, respect and like someone, love becomes the byproduct and you want to love them with all of your heart.
Think about it. How can you really, truly love someone you don’t trust? Don’t respect? Don’t like? You can’t. You might be able to love that person for a little while, or you might think you love that person, but real, long-term love cannot be sustained without those three things.
If you feel you are lacking trust or respect or likability you once had in your relationship, it is not impossible to get those feelings back. Therapy, open communication and most importantly the desire to get the relationship back on track can all serve as paths to reconnecting and developing a better relationship than ever.
Here is a great example of how trust, respect and likability have sustained long-term love. Over a decade ago when I first moved here, I happened to notice a married couple with two young children. They were swimming in our community pool, and hugging and kissing and laughing together. They seemed so happy and in love at the time.
Since then, the family has become good friends of mine. The parents appear to be more in love than ever. I asked them both: “What are three things that sustain happiness in a marriage?” I wanted to see if they shared my philosophy and if they would say “Trust, respect and likability.”
The wife’s answer was…(Click here to read the rest of the article, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.)
Like this article? Check out my blog, “Getting Divorced? Chances are it’s not lack of love, it’s lack of like.”