“My basic philosophy is we have to start with the premise when we choose our partner that we aren’t choosing with all the knowledge and information about them,” says Dr. Haltzman. “However, outside of the extreme scenarios of domestic violence, chronic substance abuse, or the inability to remain sexually faithful—which are good arguments for marrying the wrong person on a huge scale, and where it is unhealthy or unsafe to remain married—we need to say, ‘This is the person I chose, and I need to find a way to develop a sense of closeness with this person for who he or she really is and not how I fantasize them to be.’”
That choice to work on the relationship can lead to a more profound, meaningful experience together. Dr. Haltzman offers the following tips to help us reconnect or improve our bond:
- Respect your mate for his/her positive qualities, even when they have some important negative ones.
- Be the right person, instead of looking for the right person.
- Be a loving person, instead of waiting to get love.
- Be considerate instead of waiting to receive consideration.
To underscore the last couple of points, Dr. Haltzman says many people will put only so much effort into a relationship, then say, “I’ve done enough.” But very few of us will do that with our children. “Instead, we say despite their flaws, we wouldn’t want anyone else; yet, our kids can be much more of a pain in the ass than our spouses.”
Finally, he advises, “Have the attitude that this is the person you are going to spend the rest of your life with, so you must find a way to make it work instead of always looking for the back door.”
Fourth, we should commit to having a successful marriage, and let go any idealistic notion of being married to just the right person and having a perfect marriage.
Fifth, we should welcome a different conception of the values and rewards of marriage than what is so widely assumed today.
I think this is important, because really marriage is not about having fun every minute of the day. It’s about making a commitment to love someone else self-sacrificially for the rest of your lives! You’re not marrying someone to have fun with them. You’re marrying them to be miserable amidst many trials together. Be wary about picking someone who always wants to go out and have fun. That person is not going to be reliable in a difficult situation.
A good way to test a person prior to courtship is to give them difficult things to do – ask them to support you in your work, or to help you with your other responsibilities (pets, car, taxes) or to do research for you on a problem or to guest post on your blog (or edit a post). Try to see if they are a giving person, whether they are sympathetic with what you are trying to accomplish for the Lord. Remember that you are not just picking a spouse, but a parent for your kids.
I think that we all need to realize that the point of marriage (and the point of courtship) is not to be made happy by someone else – it’s to make someone who is trying to serve the Lord more effective and more comfortable doing that. You pick someone you think 1) is effective and 2) needs your support. It’s a positive and negative thing. If the person is not effective, then you will feel used when you serve them. If they don’t need you, then they won’t appreciate you.
UPDATE: She’s got more here.