by SETH EISENBERG
A new American television series follows six people as they discover if married at first sight can last.
Personally, I know love at first sight can last.
A lasting, happy marriage, however, is about much more than the feelings that come up at the first sight of a potential partner for life.
My first marriage at 28 included six prior years getting to know each other, enduring and navigating often painful challenges that regularly included hundreds, and at many times, thousands of miles between us, endless conversations that typically lasted into the early morning hours, and much more that is likely familiar to others who fell in love in college and married afterwards.
Although that marriage left us with the treasure of two sons and continues to influence my growth, empathy and compassion more than a decade after we declared our union irreconcilably broken before a Florida judge, I’m well aware that the years we spent together before committing our lives to each other were neither a foundation or formula for the happily ever after for which we yearned and promised.
Today I’m very happily remarried to a woman I knew would be my wife the first moment we met.
It took weeks, perhaps months, for her to reach the same decision.
The difference for the success of this marriage wasn’t about more time or less. It was about being at a place in my life in which I knew myself in my forties so much better than I did in my twenties. By the time I met my future wife, I’d learned invaluable lessons about the ties that bind and what it takes not just to fall in love (that’s the easy part), but to sustain love through life’s natural challenges, chapters and transitions.
Our soon to be five-year-old son couldn’t be a better reflection of those lessons. Seeing him thrive as he grows daily into an incredibly well-adjusted, happy, healthy, delightful youngster is very much a mirror of the love and respect that has surrounded and embraced him through all the days of his young life.
One of the most important lessons was better understanding love itself.
In my twenties, love was mostly about the pleasures my former wife and I shared during our years together and apart; the pleasures of our most intimate conversations, the comfort we brought each other more often than not, and the peace that came from choosing and feeling chosen.
In my forties, love was about knowing my wife and I had the maturity, skill and commitment to stay a pleasure in each others’ lives. That meant knowing it was safe to be vulnerable, confide, proactively problem-solve, embrace one another with all our senses, deal with differences in ways that bring us closer, and accept in words and action that sustaining an intimate relationship that’s the foundation of our lives and family doesn’t happen by itself.
We married less than a year after our first date. Before we did, we considered our strengths in six areas that are vital building blocks to happily ever after through a PAIRS Exercise knowing as the Relationship Pleasure Scale.
Emotionality: How comfortable were we connecting with each other emotionally? Was it safe to be vulnerable? Was good listening, empathy and compassion a regular part of our interactions? We both scored ourselves at the highest level.
Intellectuality: What was it like for us to have conversations that matter about life, family, work and much more that surrounds and impacts us daily? Seeing that we both scored at the highest level was a good sign for our future.
Sensuality: How did we respond to each other with our five senses? Yes, love at first sight has to do with one important sense. But what about our others? Our high score in this area offered even more reason for optimism.
Sexuality: Were we able to enjoy the pleasure, comforts, excitement and serenity of our physical connections? So much of that is built on the foundation of our emotional, intellectual and sensual connection. Another high score to celebrate!
Shared Interests and Values: Twenty years earlier, I knew little about the interests and values that would truly shape and guide my life. At the time my wife-to-be and I fell in love, the values and aspirations that were central to our lives were familiar to both of us. We couldn’t have scored higher when it comes to our shared vision of what we wanted our lives to be about.
What’s Been Built Together: Love (or marriage) at first sight doesn’t leave much opportunity to build a home, family or anything else that tangibly touches our lives our community. But we knew early on there was nothing stopping us from creating a future with many celebrations of the wishes, hopes and dreams we’d bring to life. Two years later, we’d created, built and accomplished more together than we could have ever imagined.
For the television couples very publicly discovering what married at first sight has in store for them, and for any other couple at any stage of relationship, identifying strengths and opportunities that go far beyond what the eyes and heart experience offers a roadmap to navigate the joys, challenges and very real miracle of lasting love.
Seth D. Eisenberg is President/CEO of the nonprofit PAIRS Foundation in Hollywood, Florida, an industry leader in marriage and relationship education. He is the author of PAIRS Essentials and Loops: The Secret Saboteurs of Intimacy and How to Get Rid of Them Forever.