What if a genie, in some fantasy world, told you that you HAD to jump off a cliff? BUT, that there was an intriguing and hopeful catch: You could either fall …OR…… FLY!?!
Yep, that’s right.
And let’s say that ‘The Rule’ was as follows: If you could believe with all your heart that you could fly, taking a running start and going as fast as you can, pumping your arms and breathing as hard and as deeply as possible before you ‘jumped’, you’d fly! (By the way: Do NOT try this experiment at home!!!)
However, if you resisted the jump or tried to avoid or ignore it altogether, either out of fear or doubt, you’d fall.
Okay, now back to reality.
The problem with marriage, and the reason I call my new book Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First), is that, in many ways, marriage is like the dilemma I’ve just described:
We’re committed, so SOMETHING is going to happen no matter what; we’ll either fall or fly.
We can either be proactive, have faith and courage, and pour energy into it so that we’ll grow stronger in our marriages (fly), OR we will eventually hurt each other, build up resentment, and maybe even emotionally and spiritually kill each other (fall).
There really IS no in-between in this case! In marriage, as time goes by, we either grow or we get hurt, period.
I have yet to meet a couple (and I meet LOTS of couples) who have lived together for any appreciable amount of time and who have NOT had one of these two outcomes, as subtle or obvious as it might be for each particular couple.
When we marry, or in some way commit to another individual long-term, we eventually get closer and closer to them.
In previous posts I’ve described this process as entering the other person’s Emotional Boiler Room (see my post entitled ‘Is Your Spouse a Stranger or Family’ for more on this.)
And as we get closer to one another, things are bound to develop:
Our reactions towards each other will change over the years.
Our attitudes and what we’re willing to put up with will change.
What we thought was ‘cute’ or ‘cool’ about each other will change.
Our patience will change.
Our feelings about each other, and how we view one another will change.
Our consideration of each other and our thoughtfulness towards one another will change.
That ‘specialness’ and those ‘butterflies’ will change.
And eventually, we’re back to the cliff analogy, where we find ourselves either growing stronger and flying with each other, OR falling with one another as we make ourselves miserable and punish each other in big and small ways over time.
But, have no doubt, either way things WILL develop and change.
To illustrate, picture a pottery wheel.
Now picture the wheel going ’round and ’round: wherever you apply pressure with your hand, that is where you’ll make a groove or change the shape of the piece.
Time is like the spinning pottery wheel; it doesn’t stop, and wherever you apply ‘pressure’ (i.e. your behaviors, reactions, attitudes, etc.), THAT is where you’ll form grooves and change the shape of things in your life, including your marriage.
One way or another, it’s gonna come.
You’ll either charge off that metaphorical marital cliff in a Deliberate and purposeful manner, with the energy and faith and the confidence to make it right and healthy and good, OR you’ll be a passive participant and things will happen TO you.
Unfortunately, like in our story, we have NO choice in marriage; it’s one of those few truly black-and-white areas of life.
From the day we say ‘I do’ (or beforehand even), we’ve set the wheel in motion.
What happens next really is up to us, but things WILL happen.
Things WILL change and develop.
We must either be proactive, and pour energy and intention into learning about how to make our relationships better, OR our relationships will just merely HAPPEN to us.
And, trust me and my professional and personal experience on this: it Will happen.
So, take heart, read all you can about how to grow in your marriage and how to grow your marriage (I’d recommend my ‘Don’t Get Married!…’ book as an exceptionally good place to start!), and make sure your spouse does the same thing.
Remember, one way or another, time WILL go by and you WILL either grow closer together or further apart, even if you think you can resist it.
As I say in my book, there are three kinds of marriages:
1) the ones where we celebrate our Golden Wedding Anniversary (hurray!), but only because one person puts up with all the ‘stuff’ (to be polite) that the other person acts out on, producing quiet (or not so quiet) resentment and maybe some depression and anxiety issues
2) the divorces, and
3) the ones who are proactive, who question themselves and each other, who want to learn, and who want to grow both as INDIVIDUALS and as married couples
I want to be in that last category.
How about you?
All the best,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.
P.S. My new book, Don’t Get Married (Unless You Understand A Few Things First), is now available on barnesandnoble.com in addition to amazon.com! It’s also now available in Kindle format, and, soon, as an eBook for the Nook and other devices!