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Joyce Minor

Read this before you marry

Minor Musings
Published:   |   Updated: May 2, 2013 at 02:42 PM

There is an old African proverb that says, "Before you marry keep both eyes open; after you marry keep one eye closed." With that in mind, I wrote the following to my daughter when she thought she had found "the one." Since June is "wedding month" I thought I'd share it with you.

Before you make a life-changing commitment, make sure you're not doing it out of lust, desperation, immaturity, ignorance, pressure from others, or low self-esteem. Seeking status, sex, wealth and security are also wrong reasons for getting into a binding relationship. Keep both eyes open. Don't let false motives blind you to who that person really is. Don't fool yourself into thinking you can change him/her or that things you see as faults are not really important. You can't take a person to the altar to alter him/her.

No matter how attuned you think the two of you are, you and your potential mate have different expectations, emotional needs, values, dreams, weaknesses and strengths. But do you bring out the best in each other? Do your personalities complement each other? Are your values and lifestyles compatible? What baggage do you bring to the relationship from past relationships? Hurts? Distrust?

After you commit, recognize that you are two unique children of God. Then commit together to lay aside your baggage and do whatever it takes to stay together. Do it knowing that, over time, his/her faults, pet peeves, and differences will become more evident, not less. Recognize that neither of you is perfect, and you are not perfect for each other; no two people are. If you love your mate and truly want the relationship to last and grow, you have to learn to "close one eye."

Recognize going in that holding someone else, even your spouse, responsible for your happiness or your pain, never works. Manipulation, control, jealousy, neediness and selfishness are not the ingredients of a loving and lasting relationship.

Be honest with yourself and each other. You can't make a person love you nor make him/her stay the same. Recognize that it's inevitable for each of you to develop self-esteem, spiritual discernment, and a life of your own outside your relationship. But recognize, too, that changes that do not complement your relationship, compete with it. Growing your marriage must always be more important to you than any outside interest. Growth is vital, but commit to grow together, not apart. Give each other space, but share what you're learning, and celebrate changes together. Give each other a sense of belonging, as well as freedom, within your compact of trust.

The keys to keeping your relationship strong are intimacy, communication, trust, a sense of humor, and sharing of household tasks and responsibilities. Daily exchanges (a shared meal, hug, phone call, or "warm-fuzzy" e-mail) and some getaway time together (at least once a week) - are absolutely vital.

Expect that sometimes your mate will feel passionate when you don't, and vice versa. Passion ebbs and flows - sometimes, even for long periods of time, it just isn't there. That doesn't make either of you frigid or wrong, and it does not mean your relationship is over. Help each other through those times. This too, will pass.

Make a point of understanding and remembering each other's family ties and commitments. Show respect to his/her parents, even if they don't deserve it. Remember who his Aunt Mary is. If she's important to him she should be important to you too.

Don't put pressure on your mate for material things. Relationships that are dependent on financial success will erode as resentment, withdrawal, neglect and dishonesty replace the love.

Never badmouth your mate behind his/her back. Never criticize your mate in front of others, especially your children. Strive to be loyal, supportive and affirming. When you fight (and you will), fight fair. Never say "never," as in "You never pick up your clothes." And never say "always," as in "You always spend too much money." Stick to the issue at hand till you resolve it, or can agree to disagree. And never, never go to bed angry.

Finally, think before you speak. Aim to be a little kinder, a little more tactful, than necessary. You will always be happiest when you are more concerned about his/her happiness than your own. Remember, the difference between "united" and "untied" is where you place the "I."

(And, each of you should reread this at least once a year.)