I can already hear the snarky comments that a single person has no place telling any married couple how to maintain their relationship. I find that to be an interesting view because the premise is that an individual must have some experience with marriage before being able to speak on the topic. While that may be true for some things, it’s not true for all things.
If experience was the best precursor to sound advice, then couples would learn their mistakes through years of being married and therefore eliminate divorces. It would also imply that all second (and subsequent) marriages would be successful. There would be no need for marriage therapists or marriage seminars. If we are following that logic, then I might even extrapolate and say Jesus had no business talking about sin when he never sinned and the disciples should have kept all their heavenly advice to themselves because they never went to heaven.
What prompted this single to make blatant remarks about married relationships? An acquaintance on Facebook made a post that was so important I had to repeat it. Let me give you some background about this woman. She is married to a career military man, they have been married for forever, have 6 (I think) children who ranges from early 20’s to a 3 or 4 years old. She works and is taking classes as well. She even finds the time to ride her motorcycle with her hubby. Yep! she is one busy bee. I will paraphrase her post. She posted that her and her hubby made a room reservation and spent some much needed time away from their children in order to focus on each other and strengthen their relationship.
What’s so unique about that? Well, many married women have made their entire lives about their children whilst neglecting their partners. The more the neglect of a partner the greater the divide which can lead to a couple being so out of sync with each other and subsequently destroys a good relationship. In marriage, you make priority for what is important. Many women who are mothers have a misconception that their child(ren) is the center of their universe. If you are not one of those women, then you have certainly met at least one. They believe that childbirth and being a mother is the greatest accomplishment known to human kind and that this one aspect of their lives should be their every waking moment focus.
Marriage therapists and pastors will reiterate that there should be a horizontal line firmly connecting the spouses and a vertical line to link them to their children. There is never a time under the sun when a child should take the place of the spouse. The relationship between the husband and wife is the glue for the family. The stronger the relationship the stronger the family. The husband and wife’s relationship is the foundation on which a couple build. It’s equivalent to building a house on a rock (solid foundation) and when all the pressures of children and life sits on top of that foundation then its strength will determine whether the house will stand or fall.
Kids are cute little parasites. Kids need attention because they are small, weak, helpless, annoying, always present, selfish, demanding, fragile, clueless, and most importantly it is a parent’s job to attend to all their needs. I get the value of a child because I was also one of three little parasite to my parents. (FYI- Parents have survived us and they are still married 38 yrs later). When two people who were previously single are put into the parent situation, they tend to lose focus on almost everything outside of the child(ren). They forget their own needs and also forget their spouses. Ever so slowly, this cute helpless extension of yourself sits in the middle of the marriage relationship and becomes a permanent fixture in that position. In order to connect, the couple (woman) needs to physically and psychologically move the child who has become a barrier.
Let’s talk barriers single and married ladies. Kids are not the only barriers. As women, our dislike for our not-so-perfect bodies and low self-esteem can become an ever present elephant in a relationship. A married woman recently told me that she had refused sex with her hubby early in their marriage because she did not like her body. A divorced man stated after his ex-wife gave birth, their intimacy ended because she did not like her postpartum body (pregnancy and birth can ruin a woman’s body). If a married person cannot turn their spouse when s/he is needed, then the relationship has fallen through the cracks.
There are common sense things that ever single person and married person (who was once single) should know. Note that I said should not does. Someone told me that common sense is not always common. A single person who intends to be married should make it his/her priority to know as much about the responsibilities of being married. Marriage is not a unique phenomena. It is two single people coming together to share their lives. However, instead, marriage seem to be about two single people sharing the same space but having single lives. Singles, pay attention to the married people in your lives. What is it about their marriage that you admire or dislike? It’s better to get an understanding of expectations when one is single than after and become overwhelmed by the common sense situation life throws at you.
What else does this single notice? Communication is severely lacking in many marital relationship. Why? because it was missing when both people were still single. Marriage therapists have asked this question to every couple sitting in their offices “Have you talked to your (husband/wife) about how you feel?” Again, common sense all married couple should know. How the hell will your spouse know how you feel or what you are thinking if you don’t say something? How? How? Couples will talk to their friends more than their spouses and heaven forbid the preposterous idea that the individual should talk to the spouse. Do you know where that behavior starts? Yep, you guessed it, it starts when we are single. “I can’t talk to him about something like that” or “I just can’t talk to her at all.” Sounds familiar single and married people?
Complacency is the death of many relationships. Congratulations you have bagged your prize now let’s sit back and do nothing. I once read a comment from a woman who was married for over 20 years that she still missed her husband when he walks out the door and feels excitement when he comes home. I have heard and seen one too many married people who do not think it’s their job anymore to make an effort to spice up the relationship. “We are just an old married couple.” “We have been married too long for that….” “Been there and done that why even bother.” Oh and don’t even talk about sex. I once said to a friend, “I don’t understand you married people. You have convenient access to sex, access to immediate support, assistance and all the good stuff that comes with being married but you don’t use it.”
I find myself being the only single amongst a group of people. This does not bother me at all unless they decided to all make out with their spouses. Luckily, I tend to associate with mature and respectful couples. This group dynamic is not by choice but by demographics. The older you are the more likely the people around you are going to be married. This gives every single a first hand view of marital relationships. When the brave married person starts to talk about their marriage, I ask questions because I am curious. I have learned things and others makes me scratch my head. I always pay attention to couples who are reflective in their relationship and are willing to talk about the ‘what they would do differently’ or ‘what they are glad they did.’
I truly believe that married couples can learn from singles observation. Your single friends are sitting on the outside and they have a broader view. The couple is in the trenches and they typically take a egocentric view without being able to see the big picture. It does not take a another married person to see that something is good or ‘off’ in your relationship. It takes a person who knows you and has your best interest at heart to give you a warning that something may not be right in your marriage. It is now up to you to do your own assessment and act accordingly to strengthen your marriage relationship.