“Ninety percent of the secret to being married is the commitment to the process of being married.”


This article is an excerpt from a book about marriage.  It tells the story of how an affair happened before the person involved got a divorce.

While that is undoubtedly a sad thing, it does happen.  Often.  The writer of the excerpt also talks about what she realized about herself in how she handled her relationship and some of the general principles for having a better relationship which I’d like to share with you.

My stepmom had all these great lines about marriage that I thought were completely ludicrous when I first heard them, but the longer I was married, I felt they were really right-on. One was: “You can be right or you can be married.” Or: “Marriage isn’t a 50/50 compromise — it’s a hundred percent compromise. Neither person totally gets what they want.”

I’m sorry if that sounds cynical but people who think that love conquers all, I just wonder if they’ve ever been married. Ninety percent of the secret to being married is the commitment to the process of being married. Whatever comes your way — problems with sex, problems with money, whatever — it’s essential that you’re both committed to working out a solution where both people are represented, where the well-being of the other person is just as — if not more important — than your own. It’s an easy thing to say ideologically, but it’s really, really hard to do, especially the younger you are.

Two points:  the secret to being married is not the commitment to the marriage or the other person, but to the process of growth that is marriage.  Critical to that is the realization that it is 100% compromise:  YOU WILL NOT GET EVERYTHING YOU WANT.  The giving in marriage, however, leads to growth in yourself.  Being able to see beyond your wants to see your needs and how you need to work that out and seek the support of your partner in seeking that is the key.

I like to say that marriage is not about compromise.  It is about complementing.  Not complimenting, but giving of oneself to the other person in a reciprocal way to help each other deal with their own needs by giving of your strengths.  As a result of this, you learn more about yourself and your capacity to give.

So what if you give too much?  That is the natural rub of doing this.  The way out of this is to answer these questions in order:

1)  Who am I?

What am I about?  What is important to me in life?  In being in relationship, you start from this point, not from the perspective of your partner.  This is what you need to communicate with yourself and with your partner.

An activity to get in touch with this is to take a piece of paper and fill it with a list of good and bad qualities about yourself.  I mean FILL it.  Use as much space as you can.

2) What do I want?

What do I want in my life?  What are the important things in my life for me, not for those in my life who want to tell me what I want?  What interests me?  What disinterests me?

An activity to get in touch with this is to go on a self-date.  Dress up nice, look in the mirror, and ask yourself out.  Out loud.  With feeling.  Go do something alone that you would do on a date.  Don’t invite others, either in person or mentally.  When you are alone in a public place, feeling alone, remind yourself that you are not alone, but that you are with yourself, the person you are going to spend the most time with during your life.  Don’t mentally invite others with you–that would be like dating someone who does nothing but talks about his/her exes.  Not fun.  Use the self-date as a way to explore who you are and what you want to do.

3)  Who do I want?

You should first want yourself as you really are, warts and all.  If you don’t, you aren’t ready for this step yet.  The question, although phrased this way, is not about the particular person you want, whether it be Dick or Jane.  It is about the kind of person you are ready to love and be with.  This does not mean that if your partner does not have these qualities that you should dump them.  It means that in the grand scheme of things, after knowing what you want and need, that you are able to discern if you are comfortable enough with your partner to know that you are growing in the right direction with that person in your life, accepting that it is a process, not an arrived-upon destination.

An activity to work this through is to do a pro-con list about your relationship in terms of things that you are learning from your relationship about yourself–what are the good and bad things you have learned in your relationship?  Then after doing this, ask yourself in the big picture if you are satisfied with your growth.

If you are not satisfied with your growth, ask if you need to change your partner or if you need to change yourself.  Or both.  We complement in order to love others and ourselves.

Marriage and relationships are not easy and need work.  Always and perpetually.  How committed are you to the process?  How committed are you to complementing the needs in the other and in yourself?

About Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW, CAS-PC

Nate Prentice, MSW, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Pastoral Counselor who maintains a private psychotherapy practice in Drexel Hill, PA.
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