Marriage, for the Love of it
If the Miami Heat’s performance was the success measure, more couples would be happily married.
by CARSON ABRIR
Four-time MVP LeBron James reportedly used the four-letter “s—” word to describe the Miami Heat’s defense this week. Does that mean it’s time for the reigning NBA Champions to break-up or wake-up?
If fans look at their teams like a recent national survey shows they’re looking at marriage, a whole bunch of them are already thinking trade.
Pew research found Americans choose love as a reason for marriage over any other factor. Coupled with another survey that reported less than a third of 18-29 year-olds consider having a successful marriage to be “one of the most important things in their life,” it’s not surprising fewer Americans are marrying and many get divorced.
That all made more sense after watching the Miami Heat lose three of their first eight games and attending a recent training for marriage pros.
When the instructor asked the group of highly experienced counselors to define “love,” the responses couldn’t have been more different. That left me wondering what the 93 percent of Americans who put “love” at the top of their list were thinking.
Lots of people will say they “love” their favorite teams and athletes.
But what about loving each other?
The instructor’s phrase, “love is a feeling, marriage is a contract, and relationships are work,” continues to dribble around in my head.
I get that younger generations are almost unanimously saying they want to be happy. Not just sometimes. And for many, not just much of the time, but most or all the time. I take that as meaning they’re demanding more of their spouses, and maybe themselves too, than Miami Heat owner Mickey Arison is expecting for the $19 million a year he pays LeBron James.
How different would marriages be if couples accepted the stats of the NBA’s superstars as their measure? The Heat’s three top players miss 40-50 percent of their shots. As a team, the Heat also miss about 30 percent of undefended shots from the free throw line; shots these players have practiced thousands of times.
What I got from the marriage training was that when people say they want love, whether they know it or not, they mean “that loving feeling.”
I learned that the emotion of love come “from the anticipation of pleasure” in our interactions with each other. When couples get to a place where they’re more likely to expect upsetting or painful experiences, feelings of love are likely to disappear. Just ask a Miami Dolphins’ fan.
And that’s the challenge for marriage. People fall in love because someone is a pleasure in their lives at a particular moment or time when they’re ready to commit, think they should be, or maybe just want to get out of a bad situation.
Yet, too few couples seem to know how to communicate, understand emotions in themselves and others, and work out differences in the ways needed to sustain and strengthen feelings of love.
That’s not really anyone’s fault. After all, where was anyone supposed to learn what it takes to keep love alive? And even if we did, what about all those free throws even the superstars miss? Life is bound to include plenty of ups and downs.
I left the training with a handout on “The Joy of Marriage,” written for a PAIRS marriage education program by Sidney Greenberg. With PAIRS Foundation’s permission, I’m happy to share it with the hope it may help one couple realize what I did – that it’s the commitment and contract of marriage that’s the glue holding families together as we grow, learn and discover ourselves and each other.
The Joy of Marriage
The joy of marriage is, to begin with, the joy of not being alone.
It is the joy of companionship and intimacy and having a person and place to come to.
It is the joy of structure and order, of comfort, security and stability.
It is the joy of having someone to help with the burdens and drudgery of daily life.
It is the joy of making a home and creating a family.
It is the joy of being a parent and raising children.
It is the joy of defining your relationship with respect to others and society at large.
It is the joy of loving someone so much that you want to celebrate that love and commitment publicly.
It is the joy of taking a risk, making a leap of faith, going all the way.
It is the joy of believing in someone and something above and beyond yourself.
It is the joy of building something lasting and substantial.
It is the joy of having a best friend who is also your lover, and a lover who is also your best friend.
It is the joy of sleeping with someone who warms your heart as well as your bed.
It is the joy of making love without awkwardness, self-consciousness or shame.
It is the joy of developing a private vocabulary and doing some of your best talking without words.
It is the joy of having someone real to hold when you wake up sweating during a dark night of the soul.
It is the joy of having someone who truly cares, someone who will stand by you when you get sick, or falter or fail.
It is the joy of having someone you believe, and who believes in you, tell you at times that you’re the best, and at other times, that you can be much better.
It is the joy of outgrowing your adolescent self-absorption and getting on with life.
It is the joy of being faithful and honoring a vow.
It is the joy of ennobling yourself through discipline and sacrifice.
It is the joy of having a common history and mutual memories and the sense of having traveled far together.
It is the joy of being a separate individual and yet also part of a whole.
It is the joy of fighting and making up, of going apart and coming together again.
It is the joy of learning to yield and to compromise, to care and to love.
And finally, it is the joy of giving.
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