I have been told that overtime the relationship between parent and child, and between husband and wife are like a pair of chopsticks illustrated below.
Our children are close to us from the moment they were born. But like every other parent, our desire is for them to grow independent from us as time passes.
On the other hand, like many other couples, my wife and I are from different places before we met. But I always wonder, how should our marriage be over time?
Like what is illustrated in the diagram, our marriage should get closer and closer as time passes. But what makes a good and healthy marriage isn’t just about physical proximity.
My Marriage Story
When I first got married, it was blissful. I was like saying “Yes, I have done it” with much exhilaration. But it did not occur to me that this exhilaration was short-lived. My marriage relationship did not turn out to be what I expected. Rightly so, because I did not see it from the aspect of what we expected. I had actually set my mind on what I wanted rather than what we wanted.
I have been told that the journey of marriage is challenging. Although I know this on a conscious level, in my heart, I thought my marriage could be the exception to the rule. However, just as for many couples, it simply didn’t happen in my marriage. Why is that?
Well, the reasons are many, which I will share some in a minute. But no one teaches us how to have a loving marriage. And if we didn’t see our parents living happily together, then we really have no model for it.
The Natural Tendencies of Marriage
Much of my thoughts, desires and emotions are shaped by my own parent’s marriage. My father was a typical male chauvinist and always wanted things to happen as he expected them. My mother was submissive. I thought that was what a marriage should be and unfortunately, I carried that to my own marriage.
Well, my thoughts were dashed only a few years into our marriage. Yes, I had a wedding and a marriage and a wife but I had no idea how to build a good, strong and healthy relationship in our marriage.
We were very unhappy and ofttimes, I even did and said things with the purpose of hurting my wife.
We had numerous quarrels in a very short span of time, to the extent that my wife had to “run away” from me.
All these damaging effects went on for many years and many a times they were ignored or swept under the carpet. Looking back, I felt such a deep regret spending years and years of broken marriage.
The turnaround came when I came to a sense of self-realization or self-awareness. I asked myself, is this how and where I want our marriage to be for the rest of our years? No, was the answer but what was wrong and what should I do?
I really wish all of us could take a class in school called Relationships 101. But no one is ever formally taught how to have a good marriage (or any relationship for that matter). What is the result? The result is that all of us just sort of fly by when it comes to relationships. But if you want to have a happy, healthy, successful marriage, you can’t do that.
What Did I Do?
1. Started Living for Us and not just Me
One of the many things is to manage my ego and to humble myself.
It takes hard work. A good relationship just does not fall on your lap. Everyone says relationships are hard and take a lot of hard work. Well, think about it. Anything in this life that is worth having, requires effort, right?
My relationship with my wife is no different. I had to put in effort into my marriage. If I don’t, and have an indifferent attitude to keep it alive, it will die.
I had to get rid of my selfishness as many things are no longer mine but ours. In the past, I had been very unwilling to pay this price when it comes to marriage. That’s when the problem started. I realised that I can’t always put my needs and expectation first all the times. I had to put my wife’s needs and expectations at least equal to – or before – my own. Otherwise, resentment will keep building endlessly.
I cannot be expecting my wife to always attend to my needs without reciprocating to the extent that I began to neglect my wife – and our relationship as a whole.
2. Prioritized Nurturing the Marriage Relationship
Relationships are like plants. If you don’t water a plant, it will die. If you neglect a marriage, it will eventually end as well.
This problem was amplified when it comes to our children. We know that as much as we love our children, children are hard on a marriage. If you are honest with yourself, you know it’s true. Children take a lot of our time and energy. Because our marriage was not healthy, we ended up fighting and quarrelling over matters relating to our children instead of approaching them as a couple.
Today, our marriage is the foundation of our family. Intentionally setting aside a time to have conversations. During dinner, I would ask her about her day. Always wanting to know her thoughts, desires and feelings for that day. Waiting up for each other to return from work even if late in the night.
3. Strengthened the Communication
Last but not the least, knowing how to talk to your partner to express your feelings and needs is essential. However, both people need to do the same and have empathy for the other person.
This is where I learn to avoid deflecting her thoughts, avoid being a mere solution provider and avoid interjecting her when she is speaking. I would sit down patiently listening and seeking to know and understand what is going through her mind with attentiveness. I actually began to discover more about her.
So, there you go! Those are my building blocks on how a marriage could turn around. I am proud and glad to say that today, we have a much better marriage relationship and I want it to be better still, so there is still work-in-progress.
Just like the chopsticks illustration above, we have been getting closer by the years. You too, can make the difference for your marriage. What is something you will do today to make the chopsticks come closer together?
Philip is 61 years old and a retiree with 26 years of marriage. Together with his wife, ST, they have 3 children; 2 daughters aged 25 and 18 and a son aged 22.
What brings him joy is being able to have a mutual and meaningful relationship with his wife and respectful children. He defines that success is measured by the health of his family relationship; knowing that as husband and father, he has played the key role in shaping and building his family.