As a divorce coach, I’m often asked, “What makes a marriage last? Is it communication?”
Absolutely, communication is key. But first, you need self-awareness.
In my work with clients and in my own experience, I’ve learned that love isn’t enough. It’s essential that spouses are able to give and receive love in a way that is recognizable to the other person.
Sometimes I think luck is involved. Two people meet, and coincidentally they’re able to express their love in compatible styles. More often, we fall in love, but as time goes on, we begin to feel that our love is not being given or received in a fulfilling way.
After my marriage cracked, I realized that my ex-husband and I never were aware of how we needed to be loved. My need to spend time with him was in direct conflict with his need for me to acknowledge the things he could provide because he worked so hard.
He wanted me to accept and appreciate his gifts. Meanwhile, I wanted more of his presence. My requests for his time seemed to create even more distance between us.
If we both had possessed this awareness and the ability to communicate it clearly, could our marriage have been saved? I’ll never know.
Having learned my lesson, I tell my clients (and my adult children) to become consciously aware of the ways they know they’re loved and how they show their love. Without this self-awareness, and ability to share this a vicious cycle of miscommunication can begin.
Perhaps we’d rather not be aware. We may hesitate to ask our spouse or ourselves the right questions because we’re afraid of the answers. This can be a very scary exploration of ourselves, as individuals and as a couple.
Regardless, it’s vitally important that both parties are understood. Deciding how we wish to give and receive love can mean acceptance or rejection of the relationship itself.
- I appreciate my spouse’s ways of showing his/her love.
- I acknowledge and make a concerted effort to return love in ways that resonate with my spouse.
- I continue to show my love in ways that are natural to me.
- This relationship is precious to me. I’m willing to be open to change.
- I am only able to receive love in the manner that is familiar to me.
- I’m unwilling to take steps to show love in a way that is meaningful to my partner.
- I am who I am, and I’m not changing.
And now let me ask you:
- How long will your relationship last if you don’t address this critical topic?
- How might this understanding increase your chances of having a successful new relationship?
- What happens when we’re not feeling loved, or that our love is not being received?
For more on this subject, I recommend The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman http://www.5lovelanguages.com/. According to Chapman, a couple’s love can thrive even if their primary love languages are not perfectly matched. The key is to know your partner’s language and be willing to make an effort to speak it.