Ah… falling in love ~
That moment when Cupid’s arrow pierces our hearts and we’re caught up in attraction and excitement and promises of happily ever after.
But, are we really capable of the selflessness this heady concept calls us to?
Or is the ultimate joke of the universe that the very thing most of us crave so deeply is the one thing we are unable to sustain.
With our children, we seem to be able to sustain it for a long time, if not forever. Mothers endure endless sleepless nights and sloppy days, sacrifice adult interaction and personal hygiene when their children are babies. Fathers discard their dreams to support their children’s desires. We go outside of our comfort zones for our offspring, even though we are constantly questioning ourselves about how far we should stretch. We do it because we love them. Unconditionally.
But what about marriage love?
Is it really plausible to think you can link lives with a stranger who, for a time, becomes your best friend or your favorite partner in crime? Is it really believable that we can walk alongside the same person for the odd sixty or so years we have left on the earth and actively love him or her for that long?
To push through life together – the individual challenges and changes each of us experiences as well as the global ups and downs? To push past the idiosyncrasies and be able to feel endearment toward that person who may disappoint you over and over again? What if their wants and philosophies have changed over time and are now misaligned with yours? Maybe you’re the one that will change.
Chances are you both will.
How do you actively love through periods of pure disenchantment or marital crises?
For the lucky ones (or the hardworking ones, maybe,) it works out. You see the elderly couple that goes everywhere together – grocery store, doctors appointments. They still hold hands.
But, for some, it is a constant struggle, a battle between preservation of self and the good of the children, a battle of wills, a battle of commitment versus current mood (current meaning the last decade or two.) It’s a marathon that never ever ends.
I once read a book that was set in an African village at some undetermined time in history. The villagers had an interesting take on family life. Women and children lived in one settlement. Men in the other. Marriages were upheld, and monogamy was important, but the spouses lived separately.
Interesting, but probably not workable these days, although I’m sure some couples might opt for separate living environments. Sometimes being a little separation makes it easier to love.
Does familiarity breed contempt?
Or does contempt become so familiar that it tastes like the status quo?
So, what is the answer? With divorce rates high and rising, everyone wants that secret recipe for what makes a marriage last ‘til death actually doth part them.
I certainly don’t have it, but I want it, so I asked. I gathered up a variety of people who’ve managed to stay married or otherwise together for a long time. I asked them – what’s the secret? Below are the most common answers.
- Laugh together – Even in the darkest argument, a little brevity does break the mood.
- Faith – Being accountable to and relying on a higher power seemed to make the difference for many couples.
- Space – Whether it is vacationing separately once in a while or simply respecting your partner’s alone time, this was one of the top responses.
- Selflessness AND self-awareness – These two sort of conflicted each other but were both a strong theme in people’s answers. Always put the other person first (the “always” part seems slightly superhuman.) Take time to understand yourself and your own needs. Make sure you are caring for yourself so that you are able to give to your partner.
- My favorite response – “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?” In other words, don’t argue over little things. Eat the humble pie sometimes when it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, and just let your partner be right even when that voice in your head says to grab hold of the last word. If you can’t agree on something, don’t get bogged down on it. Just move on. (Also seems slightly superhuman.)
- Fidelity was a biggie. Being committed to each other and communicating openly. Honesty and trust, when broken, can be the biggest destructor of a marriage. Breaking trust has a ripple effect – it is damaging at the time of discovery, but the shockwaves of dishonesty can go on indefinitely. Minor issues or unclear situations can trigger the old feelings caused by it, and the cycle of insecurity and suspicion can go on and on.
- And, last- the overarching theme in most responses was this- love does not sustain marriage; marriage sustains love. This supports the idea that we are not always going to feel adoration toward that same once stranger who still may sometimes be our best buddy but after years together has perhaps become our favorite frenemy (on certain days or months or years.) Most responses reinforce the thought that staying together has less to do with feelings (love) and more to do with actions (swallowing humble pie.)
Mignon Mclaughlin said “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
I don’t believe Ms. Mclaughlin.
I don’t think a successful marriage has anything to do with falling into love. I think it has everything to do with deciding to do love, even when you aren’t into it. A decision, not a feeling. An action, regardless of emotion. It requires deep repression of ego – a feat that sometimes seems completely impossible.
But, according to the hundreds of people who responded to my question, it is possible. Sure, the answers aren’t cut and dry, and it’s certainly not easy to just do the things they suggest. Still, it’s a comfort to know that others are making it.
This knowledge provides hope, and on Valentine’s Day, when some are struggling through the trenches of marriage, that’s about the best gift out there. It beats a dozen roses which, like the fresh exhilaration of new love, will fade and wilt over time. Hope, even when trampled, bounces back. Maybe that’s why people say it springs eternal.
So, for all of the married couples out there who are stuck in the trenches, trying to hold on to a reason to stay the course – I wish you a Hopeful Valentine’s Day.
And, as for Cupid and his sneaky little arrows that promise wine and roses and happily ever after- if I find him, I’m going to stick his arrow where the sun doesn’t shine.
If you would like to share your own thoughts and secrets on how to stay married, please leave a comment below!
More about Dana Faletti: Dana Faletti is the author of The Whisper Trilogy, a young adult paranormal romance and Beautiful Secret, a sweeping adult drama of family secrets and forbidden love that is set to be released by Pandamoon Publishing in Summer of 2016. Dana blogs about whatever inspires her at, writes poetry as a survival skill and loves to connect with other writers both online and in person. When she’s not writing, Dana can be found reading on her kindle, cooking something delicious, or daydreaming about her upcoming travel destinations. She lives in in a suburb of Pittsburgh with her husband, three young daughters, and a hypo-allergenic Siberian Forest cat named Fluffy G. Check out her website for more information about Dana and her books. You can also find out more about her books on Amazon.