Recently, I heard for the hundredth time how hard marriage is. I hear it at service club and chamber meetings, at political gatherings, even at engagement parties. Is marriage hard or is it what we don’t do before marriage that effects this sentiment that is expressed so frequently?
When teaching, I talk about the purposes of dating and what kind of things need to be discussed when one is dating. This is a surprise as most people think dating is fun and games. If it remains fun, life is good, and the relationship is tracking. This could not be further from the truth. Dating fun is great, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done since dating is the process by which we choose a life partner.
According to Dr. John Van Epps, the author of the book How to Not Fall for a Jerk (or Jerkette), there are five things one must do, in order, to not fall for a jerk. In his Relationship Attachment Model (RAM), Van Epps highlights one must first get to KNOW someone. How does one get to know? They spend time together, talk, meet each other’s friends, etc. The real key is to observe. How is this person with those who serve them at a restaurant, or with those who clean the bathrooms at the airport? How does this person treat their parents, siblings, classmates or coworkers? How does this person handle anger, frustration, disappointments, tangled Christmas lights, or money? Are they a spender? Saver? How do they handle or feel about debt? Do they plan for the future or do they take one day at a time? How do they express their faith, their hurts, their hopes and dreams? How do they handle conflict, holidays, birthdays, and season changes? Observations are an essential strategy regarding choosing a life partner.
Maya Angelo once said, “When people tell you who they are, believe them.”
After getting to KNOW, we should get to TRUST. Van Epps outlines we trust way too soon giving passwords, access to credit cards and even house codes. Trust takes time and involves observation of one’s character and integrity. After trusting, Dr. Van Epps opines that one should RELY on that person testing the trust. If the person is reliable, then trust was warranted. Once Knowing, Trusting, Relying are complete, then the couple should define their level of COMMITMENT. Is this relationship just fun and games or is it on its way to marriage? The last of the five levels in the RAM Model is TOUCH. I ask the audience, why touch might be last in this sequence. The answer usually comes quickly, “Because sexual touching, many times, clouds one’s thinking through the process leading to sliding rather than deciding into a relationship. Correct!
Marriage is hard when the work is not done at the dating stage to choose a life partner with skill and intentionality. And, can I ask a for a favor? Please stop saying how hard marriage is. Children are listening. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or www.myrelationshipcenter.org
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