When I wrote yesterday about taking charge of creating happiness in our lives, it made me think of how we also think of love as something that happens to us. People feel like they have no control over love. A couple who have been married for several years might feel like the love has gone out of their marriage because they don’t feel that warm glow anymore. Well, love is a noun describing a deep attachment, but it is also a verb. We may not have a lot of control over the warm glow itself, but we do have control over a verb. We can chose to keep the love alive in our relationship. The amazing part is that if we chose to love, we can re-create that glow.
Living with another person is difficult. We all have our own preferences, and we’re never going to find another person with the same exact preferences. I don’t really think it would be healthy if we did. There are so many situations that just don’t matter, though. For example, a toothpaste tube left uncapped, a toilet seat left up, a dishwasher stacked the “wrong” way…what do those things matter compared to being a good parent, being a supportive spouse, or being a moral person? Perhaps the same person who leaves the toilet seat up also takes care of getting the car fixed. In other words, for every negative thing that occurs, there is at least one positive thing, if one makes the effort to find it.
When your spouse or significant other does something that riles you, I suggest you take a moment to think of something kind they have done recently. My husband and I have been married for over forty years. We don’t have all the answers! All I can offer is that as a psychologist, I know focusing on the positive is important for mental health. It can also be important for keeping relationships alive.
My husband and I have very different personalities, but honestly, I think we’re both better people than we were when we first got married.
Early in our marriage when he did something that drove me nuts, I learned that if I pictured him gone, at first that seemed a positive thing. But when I pictured him with another woman, oof! That was worse than whatever was driving me nuts. He is a good man and a good father. When there was something negative, I took a moment to picture him curled up with our girls in a rocking chair, reading to them. Of course, after a few minutes, he would fall asleep, and the girls would be crawling over him. The memory never fails to bring a smile to my lips.
There will be times when a person you live with drives you crazy—not in a psychological way, of course. But working on a relationship means keeping the big picture in the front of your brain. Don’t let one tree spoil the forest.
When people are drowning in chores like laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc., it can be very difficult to keep the romance alive. It is important for both parties to make an effort to do so, because our lives are richer when we share them with another person who is important to us.
In the Baha’i Faith, marriage is called A Fortress for Well-Being. Life is difficult. We are healthier and happier if we have someone to help us hang on during the tough times and to celebrate with us when we make it through.
My life is better with my spouse, even though there may be times that I forget that. I have to remind myself what is really important in life.
My life is also better with my extended family. Even though my siblings and I have divergent political beliefs, we still love each other. We live far apart, but work to get together at least once a year. I am happy when I’m with them because they are more important than politics.
If we keep families together, we can keep countries together, and we have a shot at world peace.