Creating a Happy Marriage
I've been pretty busy lately, so I haven't updated in a while. Sorry!
Ron and I just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary on St. Patrick's Day. I have been fortunate to be married to my very best friend. The term soul mate is often tossed around carelessly so that it's devoid of actual meaning, but Ron is in fact my soul mate, "a person who is perfectly suited to another in temperament," according to Merriam-Webster. He and I complement each other nearly perfectly. Ron has an overall positive attitude, while I'm more of a negative person. Together, we balance out nicely, not unrealistically optimistic but not overly pessimistic, either. Ron is a terrific big-picture person, while I am great at all the details. Together, we see both the forest and the trees! We each have strengths to counter the other's weaknesses.
Our secret to a long and happy marriage? We went on a Marriage Encounter weekend nine years ago and changed our lives! Marriage Encounter was created by a Catholic priest and is intended to "make good marriages better." This link goes to the Catholic version, but Marriage Encounter is available for other denominations, and the site includes links to them. (I should note that I'm a seriously lapsed Catholic and Ron is anti-established-religion but still spiritual, and we had no real trouble with the religious element of the weekend.)
On our Marriage Encounter weekend, we learned how to dialogue, a method of communicating on a deeper level. After our weekend, we spent several months working hard on our relationship, using dialogue. Then we took our work to a new level. We read John Gray's book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus together. We sat next to each other and read a few paragraphs at a time, then we'd talk about what we read. Our conversations frequently went like this:
Spouse 1: [nods silently in agreement with the book]
Spouse 2: [snorts] How stupid is this! I've never read anything so ridiculous!
Spouse 1: [surprised] What? You don't get this?
Spouse 2: [equally surprised] What? You really think like this?
Spouse 1: Well, yeah, doesn't everybody?
Spouse 2: No way! How can you possibly think like this?
Spouse 1: How can you possibly not?
Spouse 2: Wow. That sure explains a lot.
Even though we'd used dialogue to create a safe place in our marriage to discuss our deepest feelings, our conversations about Mars & Venus were often difficult. But we persevered and in the process learned a great deal about each other. We agreed that if we'd tried to read this book before our weekend, though, it would have been a disaster.
Once we got through Mars & Venus, we turned to Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and worked our way through that one. We set a long-term goal for our marriage, one that sustains us whenever life gets tough.
In the nine years since we went on our Marriage Encounter weekend, we have continued to work on our marriage. Our task has not always been easy, and life has occasionally handed us some seriously challenging events to deal with, but throughout we've been able to hold on to the core of what we learned on our weekend: We love each other, no matter what.