Faith – Communication – Intimacy
Let’s take these one at a time.
Faith takes many forms.
It can be a home-grown faith, it can be Judaism or Mormonism or Catholicism.
It can be smoking – if you’ve never seen a zealot, try talking a smoker out of the cigarette they’re halfway through, using logic and reason.
It can be Veganism – that is an act of faith unsupported by science (as atheists accuse us religious types).
It can be atheism (it IS a faith) – you believe without any actual evidence that there is no God.
If you are of one faith, however defined, and your spouse is of another, it will chafe inwardly no matter what you say vocally. The first rule of relationships is:
You cannot change anyone. They are who they are.
You have to bridge the gap between your faith and the other person’s. Now don’t get me wrong – two Mormons or two Lutherans will have the same faith but will have vastly different intensities of that faith.
Here’s your warning sign:
Feelings of betrayal
The biggest disappointments come when one spouse tries to fake it. This betrayal starts off as them trying to shut you up – “Ok, I’ll join your religion/give up mine,” or “I would love to live as a vegan.” You are expecting them to change who they are – quite unrealistically, I might add. Ultimately you are who you are.
My former mother-in-law once said that the face resists plastic surgery, because you have an overall pattern of who you are – this is why pieces of Michael Jackson’s face would fall off periodically. It’s the same with your psyche. If you try to force your spouse to be someone who they are not, they may fake it awhile but will ultimately revert to who they are.
They will feel betrayed that you don’t love them for who they are, and you will feel betrayed that they lied to you.
You simply cannot have a successful relationship without communication. You have to understand the minutiae of who they are, and accept it. Then you have to be conversant in the subjects that matter most to them. You can’t sit on opposite edges of the couch watching the boob tube (yes it’s a dated term but I love it) until you get to escape to bed to sleep so you can face yet another day desperately trying to avoid speaking with the person you’re supposed to cherish for eternity. And don’t think you can just avoid certain subjects and get along fine! In all likelihood the things you want to avoid are subjects that matter a great deal to your spouse, whether it’s cooking or movies or sports or reading or fishing or beer.
Here’s your warning sign:
Every conversation that happens, results in an argument/misunderstanding.
Now of course you want to be able to talk to the person you wake up to every day. You want to be able to relate to them, to lean on them, to have an eternal companion. You married them (and are highly encouraged to do so, if you haven’t yet), after all! In order to do so, you smooth the skids by starting to sacrifice you you are. The next rule of relationships is:
Each spouse sinks to their lowest common denominator.
If you don’t like facets of your partner/spouse, you will absorb some of those facets just to survive in the relationship. This is because marriages and other relationships are built on the common experience, and you have to bridge the gap between two people or else you can’t have that commonality. You need to survive the relationship! And so you give.
You may give up meat.
You may give up smoking.
You may give up your religion.
You may start eating meat.
You may start smoking.
You may join their religion.
But if this change doesn’t sink into your bones, the nagging feeling at the back of your mind will ultimately take over and consume you. You’ll cast off the poseur mantle and return to who you are fundamentally! Are you a smoker? Are you a vegan? Are you a Wiccan? If not, and you’re posing as one to please your spouse, your days are numbered.
Now for the fun part:
First of all, my disclaimer. If you’re born without boy or girl parts, or your boy/girl parts are gone or useless thanks to disease/surgery/accident, of course you can have a healthy relationship. You make accommodations for actual barriers, but you don’t make them for virtual ones.
Once upon a time I was a middle schooler where we had to poll people we knew on the subject of your choice. I called divorced people I knew and asked them what makes a successful relationship. Nine respondents said “Communication,” (and some of them divorced again) and my grandmother said, “Lots of sex,” (and she never divorced again). See above for my thoughts on communication.
If you can’t hold onto your spouse for dear life at every opportunity, if you buy the world’s largest bed so you can be safely far away from your spouse’s drooling/kicking/snoring/fighting, then you are avoiding the intimacy that will bind you together with your spouse. They need you, and you need them. If that need isn’t there, then you have bigger problems to worry about.
Here is your warning sign:
Opposite ends of the couch, and opposite ends of a very large bed.
We are human beings with tactile needs. We need touching, affection and love. We expect that marrying someone means that we will get these needs fulfilled. We invariably use it as a weapon, denying our spouses what they need as payback for whatever injurious betrayal (see above) we feel they inflicted upon us. But take this food for thought in the third rule of relationships:
If your spouse isn’t getting it from you, they will get it elsewhere
Men sink into porn (and some women do too), women sink into Twilight (only slightly tongue-in-cheek here), and at the extremes one spouse sinks into the arms of another person. We are desperate for the person we married to treat us like they did when they were trying to convince us to love them. But feelings get in the way of touching. Do not let this happen!
Back in the 1950s, wives were taught to submit to their husbands. That has now become perverted so that the very thought is an affront to feminist women everywhere. But the fundamental idea is sound: husband and wife submit to each other to retreat from the stresses of the day. You should forgive each other their offenses (see the Catholics’ Our Father prayer) and harbor no ill will for the person you’re bound to for Eternity.
I firmly believe (Mormon talk time) that a person who denies their otherwise well-behaving spouse the intimacy they need, they are breaking their Temple covenants. There are many ways to do this of course, without just saying “No.” And I’m not talking about a one-off night with a headache. I’m talking about a systematic denial of what your spouse needs through action or inaction. So what if he didn’t initiate the intimacy enough times in a row? Do it yourself! There are so many “So what’s” I can’t cover them all. But do not destroy your bedroom (virtually) to satisfy your pride. Remember, the other columns will fall if you tear this one down with that pride.
When first I decided I needed to divorce my ex-wife, I looked at the relationship and realized all three columns had been ground to dust. When I talked with my ex-wife, she said I had overblown everything, that it wasn’t that bad. She definitely didn’t think we should divorce.
The first thing she did was start scrutinizing my every activity and proceeded to browbeat me into regretting my request for divorce. But you can’t bully someone into staying with you. She failed to internalize that she had any part in the sickness of our relationship. I put my divorce plans on hold and took all of her complaints about how terrible of a husband I was and conquered them to the level of my personal satisfaction. We even had twin sons.
When I had squashed every one of her complaints, I assessed the situation again and realized nothing had improved. I felt dirty from my personal sins in the relationship and there was nothing clean about our marriage (other than the children) to help me feel better. I also felt like I was not where God intended me to be – the only thing I can liken it to, is feeling like you’re in the wrong place, or on the wrong track. I would be alone in my car, crying in prayer to God to show me where I had gone wrong.
When I approached my ex-wife and told her that nothing had improved, that everything was still broken and that I would be divorcing her, I walked through all of my complaints – no communication, no agreement on our faith, and no intimacy, she said that all my complaints were “Stupid and fixable.” But do you know what? They weren’t stupid and 4 years of fixing had shown nothing was fixable. I’m in the relationship too, and I should be satisfied. Satisfaction was the furthest thing from how I felt.
I am now married to a wonderful woman who found me as I was begging God to show me the way. After I initiated my divorce proceedings, I discovered she was the love of my life. She moved 1,500 miles to be with me and has spent every day building these columns with me.