Marriage: Bad Things Happen Because Good Things Don’t
Moral situations, where someone could be helped or harmed, exist when there is no neutral ground. That is, when faced with a decision or dilemma between two or more alternatives doing nothing has an impact as powerful as making the wrong or right decision. It is interesting that a marriage relationship has exactly the same quality, at least in one respect. There are times of course when it is best to say nothing, to do nothing, and to remember nothing. But overall, failing to do what will enhance a marriage has consequences that are often unseen but really powerful. It is expressed in the idea that bad things like conflict, criticism, and condemnation by one person or both exists because good things have not and are not present in the relationship.
This happens, in my opinion, because the positive conditions we hope marriage will provide do not appear to create themselves or happen by chance. Love and happiness and all other positive qualities we hope marriage brings to us typically result from effort, skill, and a willingness to improve ourselves through behavior change and growth. Less than ten percent of married couples report they have a relationship which seemed magical from the start and which continues throughout their lives together. The other ninety percent either end their marriages, or live in some times of love and happiness combined with resignation, acceptance of less than desired, reduced expectations, obligations for the children, and guilt for mistakes.
This might seem like dismal view of marriage, and it could be, but I do not intend it that way. I believe these conditions exist because most people do not understand the axiom. Bad things happen because good things don’t. If we understood that idea, we would look around ourselves, find out about the good things which are related to love and happiness we feel, or hope to feel for our partners and immediately and persistently communicate more about love, do things which show love, and share in anything which can produce more of it.
This is not a simple process, but when a person follows it well, marriage improves. Here is one example. There is a great deal of evidence which suggests that if one person decides to work a little harder to do things which communicate love and happiness, that same person will feel more love and happiness even if the other person does not. What does that mean? It might mean many things but there are two conclusions I would like to suggest. First, it is clear that one’s actions produce some part of what one feels. If that is the case, and it seems true to me, then anyone could increase his or her love and happiness by trying harder to create those feelings. Another, and second conclusion we could reach is that if we can cause some of our own positive feelings then our partner is never fully to blame for our negative feelings. We would need to acknowledge that both how we act and how our partner acts are responsible. Try out both of those ideas out. Set aside three or four days a week and on those days display several forms of love, warmth, kindness, gratitude, and helpfulness. Do not measure your success by anything you want from your partner. Measure it by your feelings. Then, during the same week, whenever you talk about your feelings indicate they are caused by what both people do. “I am happy and it is because of what I am doing and what you are doing, so thank you for your part.” See if you can reduce defensiveness and threat. If you can do that, you might at the end of the week discover the truth to the idea that bad things happen because good things don’t.
Posted in Marriage