Her Highness Anonymous asked at 2216, “If you had had a daughter, what advice would you bestow upon her in the month preceding her wedding?” I would advise her how to hold her marriage together over a lifetime. Test and verify before the wedding. She can expect but can she live with these things? Test for what’s present:
- Does he cherish you? Can you see his devotion in his actions? Is he worth devoting your life to him? Worthy tradeoff? Good enough prospect as father of your children?
- Can you live with his faults—unchanged that is—for at least 20 years? It’s more about your commitment to him than his dedication to pleasing you.
Verify what lies ahead:
- Can you live with his two major expectations: a) Your loyalty as he measures it by your respect of, gratitude for, and dependence on him? b) Your likeability as measured by his personal pleasure and enjoyment being in your company? You have to participate, interpret, and accept all of what he is and does as his love of you. Every marriage starts that way or close to it. (Once he decides to marry, his expressions of devotion are required by his sense of loyal duty and he expects no rewards for just pleasing you, but he loves gratitude expressed by sex.)
- It’s not the big affirming emotions such as your love, his love, affection, intimacy, sex, and devotion that hold a couple together. Even romantic love fades in a year or two. If their mutual loyalty and likeability are missing, it was likely caused by the negatives described in the next paragraph. It means the foundation for enduring love was weakened or dissolved by their competing to express themselves, blame the other, get their way, or all of the above.
- Couples separate their bonding with little negative things that eat away at the other’s self-interest, -esteem, and –image. By either or both of them, demeaning remarks, reproachful comments, annoying habits, irritating behaviors, and critical judgments undermine her importance to him in her eyes and his dedication to her in his eyes. Their investment in the other appears foolish or worse. They compete over insignificant matters and judge harshly when they don’t get their way. Over time, repeated negative reaction to the spouse compounds into disarray and disinterest in what the other thinks, which rips and shreds sincerity when they try to make up and reaffirm their mutual love.
- She substitutes apology for actions to change and thinks she’s done her part. He substitutes disloyalty as easier and simpler than changing, and figures he’s done what he has to do. Two people living separate lives under the same roof until one or both decide to separate.
- She expects him to change and he doesn’t or won’t. He expects her not to change and she does. If she learns to live with him and his faults without competing with him, she finds little reason to fault him, and he gets to live with the woman he married.
I’ve just described how it’s far easier to ruin a marriage than sustain it successfully. I’ve told you what you can expect to happen unless you steer both of you away from the negatives that eat away at goodwill, respect, and love.
Now, daughter, if it sounds too complex or unworthy of your ability and goal, back out. Life isn’t easy and marriage is harder. When the choice is yours, choose what makes you a better person, which is usually done by making some man a better man without expecting to change him. Confused? Good. Work your way out of that dilemma—it’s a wifely duty—and you’ll more than likely have a happy marriage.