Here are five observations on what Jonathan Franzen once wrote is “the majesty of a long marriage,” from my journal notes over the past few months:
1. Nobody is ready for marriage. Marriage makes you ready for marriage.
2. Marriage is a great vehicle for spiritual growth because to be committed to a marriage relationship means you must risk it all, over and over again. In marriage, your capacity for love grows.
3. Feeling good is not the goal of marriage; it is the by-product. To fully love your spouse is to abandon control. This is when you find life in a relationship; not in protecting yourself but in surrendering. The secret to a healthy relationship is to love your spouse purely because he/she is worthy of it, and because you’re committed to loving him/her, and not because you find fulfillment or validation in the relationship.
4. Healthy marriages are built on two people who find validation in themselves. They know who they are emotionally and spiritually. Marriages that are dependent on one or both spouses validating one another are destined for problems because inevitably somebody is disappointed. When you look to your spouse for validation, no matter what you do, it’s not really love – it’s manipulation.
5. Honesty is critical. It can create conflict, but it also creates passion. Don’t let your marriage wilt because you’re “nice”. “Nice” sometimes gets in the way of authentic relationship.