Marriage is rarely an easy union for anyone. Under the best of circumstances, it takes much love, devotion and commitment between partners to make this relationship work. Unfortunately, there is no rule book or owner’s manual that guarantees success.
Trying to give advice on how to make a marriage work is tricky, especially when speaking in general terms, because what might work for one couple might be exactly wrong for another. One thing is clear to those who are married or have been married: communication between partners is critical. There must be a mutually agreed upon process for each partner to express themselves and be heard by the other to have a chance for a happy and healthy relationship. Nowhere is this more critical than when there is a hardship that places more than usual stress on the marriage.
Situations such as a death of a loved one, serious accidents, critical illnesses, or very stressful external events can place undue pressure on the relationship. These trying times can sometimes make or break a marriage. When a trying and difficult life event occurs, it becomes mandatory that the lines of communication are wide open and honest between a couple. There is little room for thwarted intentions, suppressed negative emotions, and unfulfilled expectations that creates ongoing and potentially destructive conflicts. There is no luxury of denial or procrastination. A deep and respectful understanding of one another helps to make it OK to express oneself and then listen to the other without judgement and condemnation.
Our differences in temperaments, values, and preferences can sometimes make this seem impossible. Knowing yourself and your partner in depth will make it much more plausible. In my book Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values, this is covered in great detail by exploring and exposing the differences that create our humanity in its entirety.
For a simplistic example, research tells us that the majority of men tend to prefer the left side of their brain to help steer them through life, whereas the majority of women by their nature tend to be more feeling, and utilise their right brain preferentially. This sometimes makes communication strained by the different language of the different sources. This has been called the source of ‘the battle of the sexes’.
In times of conflict the ‘thinking’ man might want to sort things out logically in order to solve the problem. The ‘feeling’ women will probably need emotional support first and foremost. Can you see how a situation can be conflicting just because of these differences? Another example is the introversion/extroversion temperament trait that can create differences of opinions and perceptions. In times of suffering or sorrow, the introvert may need time to be alone to sort things out where the extrovert needs to talk it out and be listened to. Can you see that what works for one will be entirely wrong for the other? How can we overcome these differences?
Knowing these and other conflicts of the different temperaments ahead of time will make the process of conflict resolution more tolerable. This can help to create peaceful and mutually acceptable solutions to our problems. How do I know this? I know this from my own personal experience as my wife and I are opposites in every way. Both of us learned the hard way how our differences can lead to communication problems.
I found that conflict has no possible resolution when our egos are in control and we stand our ground in order to prove our way ‘right’ and the other way ‘wrong’. These are the conditions that create separation, alienation and breakdowns. This is how breakups have their beginnings, middle and end. If both partners become entrenched in their ways and don’t recognise the needs of the other, relationships can become disastrous.
Losing sight of your partner’s needs may happen if there is not enough commitment to the benefits of the relationship. Becoming engrossed in one’s own concerns can be too easy under stressful conditions.
So, what is the lesson to be learned here? Smooth seas don’t make for skilful sailors. Tough times are opportunities to create stronger than normal relationships. If we look at our problems in this manner, anything can be solved.
Scott Trettenero’s book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves.