Among never-marrieds aged 20 to 30 who were surveyed recently, 87% said “I want a marriage that will last a lifetime.” Many in Gen Y have seen their parents divorce and hope to avoid that path. Unfortunately a desire to have a lasting marriage doesn’t mean they have the skills to achieve it, especially as conflict and adversity enter their lives.
A 1995 Monitoring the Future survey of teens found most planned to get married and felt marriage was important, but they were pessimistic about their ability to maintain a lifelong marriage and saw few positive examples of marriage.
This brings us back to the subject of agape or unconditional love (discussed in a previous post). Many people of faith refer to this type of marriage as a “covenant marriage” and view marriage as a sacred vow rather than a hopeful agreement based on positive life occurrences. Is a lifetime marriage a crazy ideal that few people can hope for, or is it reasonable that two normal, committed people can achieve?
Advocates for a permanent marriage say it is based on commitment, forgiveness, sacrifice, and putting the other person’s needs above their own. This may seem like a way to set yourself up to be taken advantage of. After all, if you could get your way, wouldn’t you do less work and make special requests all day long? (Perhaps there are some spouses who would, but that rolls into the topic of setting expectations and knowing your partner well before marriage. Yes, many people need a better screening process for potential mates.)
For the happily married couples I have interviewed, the opposite tends to occur. Many of them have learned a secret, what I call the “paradox of giving.” The more one person chooses to give, the more the other person desires to please his or her spouse, creating a cycle of giving. Instead of keeping track and waiting to get something back every time they give, they just do their best at being giving, loving people, and their spouse does the same. They’re not perfect, but they make a daily effort.
Everyone has heard the phrase “it is in giving that we receive,” but few live it out. The immature couple focused on their individual needs and wants never experiences this paradox and never finds anyone who can meet every desire and expectation they have. The mature couple at least has a willingness to try to please one other. The result, at least for many I have met, is that they both end up feeling very satisfied and happy in their relationship.
Lonely or sad people are often told to reach out to help someone else in need as a way to boost their spirits. Most of us feel good when we help someone else, especially as a secret or a surprise. Apply a little of this feel-good medicine to your marriage. Do something nice without the other person even knowing. If you can’t think of something nice to do, ask, “How can I help you today?” Start the giving cycle. Don’t wait for the good to be returned.
So what do you think–is a lifetime married to the same person reasonable or does it sound like crazy talk?