Making Love Everyday: The Diagnosis

After reading my first two posts, I hope that you have begun to understand that my purpose is to assist in bringing about lasting changes in your relationship.  I think it’s important that I emphasise that, when it comes to marriage, there is no such thing as a “quick fix.”  I’m sorry to say that there is no pill you can pop that will bring about these kind of changes.  This is a devastating realization for many of us as we come to understand that achieving the relationship we want requires far more “umph” than what we were hoping to have to give. 

To illustrate what I’m talking about, allow me to describe a scenario I have seen more times than I can count.  One spouse, determined to change the relationship, puts in a mighty burst of effort.  This may last a few days, or even weeks.  However, all the while they are doing this, they are watching carefully for a very specific type of response from their spouse.  If they do not see this response, they begin feeling as though they are being taken advantage of.  After all, it’s not fair that one partner should make all the effort while the other basks in the spoils, right?  And, of course, being taken advantage of is one of the greatest sins of all. 

Once this feeling of being taken advantage of sets in, the individual will throw up their hands in exasperation and say, “I will not be taken advantage of anymore!”  They feel hurt, bitter, and unloved.  All their efforts are withdrawn, and the marriage goes on in an even more miserable state than it was previously, due to the compounded feelings of resentment. 

The scenario I just described is a classic example of what I call the neurotic investor syndrome.  This is also the most dangerous barrier to making love everyday.  Let me explain.

As you look at the state of the economy today, there are varying opinions as to why it is the way it is, and what will make it better.  However, one point that seems to be universally accepted is that the economy will not improve until the public begins to invest in it once again.  Businesses simply cannot thrive unless the consumers will invest the money necessary for them to stay afloat.  Unfortunately, many consumers, panicking that they are not seeing returns on their investments, pull their money out, hoping to save themselves from further loss.  This, of course, only results in further damage to the economy. 

In my work I have seen a great many individuals and couples who treat their relationships as they would any other investment; they invest themselves in it only as long as they are getting back exactly what they want.  As soon as there is the slightest sign that they are not getting a return on their investment, so to speak, they pull out.  Hence, they earn the diagnosis of neurotic investors. 

One universal attribute of neurotic investors is that their goal is individual happiness.  On the surface, that doesn’t seem so bad.  After all, who doesn’t want happiness?  But, it is not the desire for happiness that is the problem.  It is the desire for individual happiness. 

I want to make something very clear…   If your goal is individual happiness, your marriage will not succeed.

No one can succeed in marriage unless their goal is not individual happiness, but relational happiness.  These two goals are very different, as are the means for accomplishing them.  To begin with, it’s important to understand exactly where your own goals lie.  It can sometimes be difficult to figure this out.  Most likely, you quickly thought in your mind, “Of course my goal is relational happiness!”  But, in truth, many people convince themselves that their goal is relational happiness, when their thoughts and actions speak very differently. 

In order to assist in determining where you are at, I’ve compiled a list of common “symptoms” of those who are focusing on individual happiness.  Consider each of these points slowly and honestly.

1.  You are convinced that you have tried everything and nothing has worked or will work. 

2. You see your spouse as stubborn and/or unchangeable. 

3. Your spouse’s flaws are far more apparent to you than are his/her strengths.

4. You have caught yourself saying or thinking something along the lines of, “If you are not going to _____, then I won’t______.”

5. You put in great flares of effort, but soon stop when you believe your efforts are not being matched.

6. You read articles and self-help books thinking all along the while, “Boy, does he/she need to read this!”

If some, or all, of these statements are true for you, then I have good news…  You have just discovered the problem in your relationship, and now you can solve it. 

In fear of turning this post into a novel, I will save the solution for my next post.  It’s also much more fun for me to leave you hanging.  🙂  Until then, consider this question very carefully: “How would my thoughts, words and actions be different if my true goal was relational happiness?”

Keep making love!

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Published in: on March 6, 2009 at 11:51 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well, that is why the truly happy marriage is one where each partner naturally gives what the other needs and neither partner has any desire to change the other spouse whatsoever. Or, so very little that it never becomes an issue. Such marriages do, in fact, exist. So I would have to say that the prime ingredient for the happiest marriage is to marry a truly compatible partner in the first place. 🙂

    But your analysis is exactly correct. I think people should behave a certain way because they believe it is RIGHT and not because they believe that they will be getting something in return.

    I also think that if you can’t deal with your spouse the way they are, it isn’t fair to try to change them.

    I also think, that if you really need different behavior from your spouse and they have no intention of engaging in said behavior that maybe, just maybe, the marriage isn’t going to work. It depends on how important it is to have that behavior, I guess.

    But, I can hardly imagine why a loving spouse wouldn’t TRY to do things that their partner wants and needs. To purposely NOT try to make the other person happy, or to at least acknowledge that they have a need seems very cruel.

    • Heatherlyn,
      You have touched on a number of significant areas of conflict and misunderstanding. I’d like to comment on some of them briefly, but will be writing about them more extensively in future posts. First, I particularly like your comment about simply doing what is RIGHT in a relationship. We all to often seek what we believe is FAIR, which inevitable leaves us disappointed. I will be writing a great deal more about this principle in my next post.

      In regard to your point about not working to change your spouse, I think that this is ground we have to tread on very carefully. I completely agree that your goal in your relationship should never be to change your spouse. At the same time, there is nothing wrong with making kind requests, as long as you are not basing your own correct action on their fulfillment. Any successful marriage is a story of two things: acceptance (which I believe you are referring to) and change. There is no such thing as a successful marriage based wholely on acceptance. This would create stagnation in the relationship and eliminate the opportunity for growth. So, in short, your spouse and your relationship a great disservice if you are not also encouraging gradual growth and change in a positive way. A very wise man once said, “If we envision others as perfect, and treat them that way, that is what they will eventually become.”

      As to your final point about why a spouse wouldn’t try to do things their partner wants and needs if they love them, this too can be a bit sticky. It does seem to be completely logical that couples will do all they can to fulfill each others needs, if they love each other. When I say that this is a sticky issue, I am referring to the fact that many individuals sincerely are trying to fulfill their partner’s needs, but those efforts are not being recognized. Many times I will have a couple sitting in front of me that genuinely do love each other, yet they both believe the other is not trying to fulfill their needs. But when you ask either of them about this, they will easily rattle off an entire list of things they do to show that they love the other. This problem is simply the result of speaking the wrong love language. Gary Chapman wrote and excellent book about this called “The Five Love Languages.” I highly recommend it.

      You really have brought up a great many important subjects. I’ll look forward to being able to spend more time in future posts addressing them.

      Thank you once again for your excellent comments. Please keep them coming.

      Matt


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