“And with this ring, I am ready to wed…I think”
BY WALT LIEBMAN, Ed.S.
What makes for a good relationship? I often wonder that. Can you spot the couple that has one as soon as you meet them? Can you see it in the way they look at each other, in their touch, and how they speak with each other? In spite of what the majority of the “how to have a perfect marriage” books say, it is not easily defined and unfortunately I find so many of these books repetitive, self serving and ineffective. While the majority proclaim to have all of the answers, they obviously do not, else our divorce rate for first marriages would not be hovering around fifty percent for the past half century.
As a marriage and family therapist for the past twenty nine years and an instructor at Miami Dade College in courses covering relationships, marriage, couples communication skills and divorce, I have found that “good relationships” are not easily defined and in fact often may be a mystery in what makes them work.
What are the ingredients for an edifying, loving, and nurturing relationship? Obviously we should start with the four basic ingredients: effective communication, trust, respect, and a willingness to resolve differences via compromise and negotiation enabling both parties to win. If we enter into a relationship without all four, it is comparable to erecting a high rise with cracks in the foundation. Into the mixing bowl, let’s add dedication, commitment, picking and choosing your battles, and an agreed upon definition of romance, intimacy, financial responsibility and child rearing. Lastly, and just as important, forget about the notion of adding the desire to change the other person.
While a relationship may be the most difficult task that we ever embark upon, its rewards may be tenfold as long as our expectations are realistic. Unfortunately, some may think that it is similar to purchasing a new car, whereupon we open the door, smell and feel that rich soft leather, recline in our seats and take our forefinger to push that cruise control button, thinking that we will coast for the duration of our marriage. If this is the case, we may find ourselves cruising into divorce court. Sadly, the average length of marriage today is only eight years. Once a year I have my physical examinations and every six months I visit the dentist. I even bring my car in for servicing a couple of times per year. Doesn’t your relationship merit the same care and consideration? It is so very important to take preventive measures to periodically examine its status. Seek your spouse’s opinion of your relationship and what you both can do to maintain its dynamic vibrancy. Or, if you feel improvement is needed, you may want to consider enrolling in a marriage retreat, or entering marriage counseling. Hopefully your objective is to resolve the problem, should one exist, in lieu of blaming the other.
With all of these delectable ingredients, it has to taste better than…than chocolate mallow mar cookies.
Walt Liebman, Ed.S. is a marriage and family therapist and parent coordinator in private practice in South Miami and an instructor at Miami Dade College. Additionally, he is a member of the Collaborative Family Law Institute and President-elect of the Miami Dade Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 305.665.4177. http://www.famtherapy.com