By Byron and Francine Pirola
MANY people in our society measure a successful marriage simply by its longevity, and a long marriage is certainly something to celebrate.
However, most of us want more than longevity – we want a quality experience in our marriages, an emotionally satisfying encounter that encourages each spouse to become spiritually mature and fulfilled.
Aiming high in marriage pays dividends in at least one important way: you’re far more likely to succeed if you begin with high expectations.
Think about it: if your goal is simply to “avoid divorce” (ie you have low expectations) you’re inviting trouble.
It’s like a student who only aims to pass: if you miss the mark by even a little, you are already in deep water.
Approaching our marriage as simply avoiding divorce also introduces a dangerous “equality” mentality.
Fifty-fifty doesn’t really work in a marriage because it leads us to hold back and to keep score.
Yet marriage is never perfectly equal all the time; there are some days or weeks or even months when one or the other is more needy.
If our expectation is equality, we easily become resentful when our spouse needs us to give more than 50 per cent.
We have a different proposition: forget about who is giving more and make marriage your vocation, your whole life’s work. Convince this man that he is loved and appreciated; convince this woman that she is understood and cherished.
See yourself as missioned by God to give your spouse as best as humanly possible an experience of God’s unlimited love.
That’s the job description. Actually, it is more like a mission, and if you approach it with a pro-active mindset, you can take it on with confidence and enthusiasm.
You can dedicate all of your talents and intellect to achieving your goal.
Put your whole self into this mission as a total gift of self-donation.
When we make something our mission, we orientate our life around it and everything we do is in service of that mission.
So our money, time and decisions are spent or made with our spouse in mind.
And just like dieting or fitness or academic excellence, it’s the myriad, small, daily decisions that cumulatively add up to a major focus.
Successful dieters know that it’s the small daily decisions that collectively result in either a weight gain or a weight loss.
It takes focus, self-discipline and constant self-reminders of your goal. Marriage is no different.
When we approach our marriage as a mission, we focus on our own obligations to serve our spouse rather than the expectations we might have of our spouse. As a result, we’re more likely to count our blessings and to see our spouse as a blessing, even when it’s tough going.
Every couple wants to avoid divorce and get along without too many fights.
A successful marriage however, is much more than just this; it is a life-long union in which both husband and wife flourish as individuals and enjoy a deep intimacy.
Francine and Byron Pirola are the coauthors of the SmartLoving Series at www.smartloving.org