By John Goetz, M.Ed. L.P.C.
In the Musical Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye asked Golde do you love me? After 25 years in a stable/successful marriage which was arranged by his parents and his wife's parents he considers that love may be a central part of marriage. Their parents told them that they would learn to love one another and now Tevye is compelled to ask Golde if she loves him.
Tevye and Golde are examples of marriage in a different time, place, and culture but some things never change. According to research by Stanley and Markman the vast majority of people desire happy lasting marriages. There is ample evidence that people and society benefit when those who choose marriage for themselves are able to build and maintain healthy marriages, and as a culture we are ambivalent about marriage: we desire it yet we fear it. After 15 years of research at the University of Denver they found the key to marital success or failure is how couples communicate, handle conflict, and preserve a sense of being a team. Their book Fighting for Your Marriage explores this in great detail and provides good how to information.
For the purpose of this article I want to mention one small piece of conventional wisdom I personally believe is key to a successful marriage. If Momma isn't happy then no one is.Or as I once heard Dr. Gary Smalley put it if you are looking for a road map to what a marriage needs ask the wife she will be able to draw it out for you. Then give it to the husband and he will be able to put it into action. Men, just consider how much better the quality of your life is when your wife is happy? What if she is head over heels in love with you? Valentines Day is this month. You know that commercial holiday is designed to remind us men to be romantic once every year. Well what would our relationship with our wives be like if we took just 30 minutes a day for her? Give her our undivided attention and just listen. Listen to her words and the feelings behind her words. What if that 30 minutes of listening lead to actions on our part. Now you may ask why should I be doing all the work? The rest of what Dr. Smalley had to say is that when a husband gives to his wife and meets her needs he will receive in return double what he gives. Now I do not have scientific proof of this but I believe conventional wisdom backs this up.
Of course if you are struggling with abuse, addiction, and or adultery then significant intervention is needed. If on the other hand you are in a good marriage and want to make it stronger try listening with a careful ear to your spouse so you may meet their needs. You may just receive double in return.
(John Goetz is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Edmond Family Services 341-3554)
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