Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Corey of The Simple Marriage Project.
Tell me if this has happened to you: You wake up one morning several years into your marriage and wonder how in the world did I end up here? Not wondering this in an overly negative way, as in I can’t believe I am with this person (although that may indeed be the case) but instead wondering how marriage ended up being so far from what you thought it would be.
Think about it. How did you think marriage would be when you were growing up? Did it look anything like what you are experiencing? There are very few people that when honestly assessing their life, can say that everything turned out thus far like they dreamed.
Many people go into a marriage with an ideal in mind. After saying “I do” to him or her, life will be happily ever after. Long walks on a sunset beach, hand in hand, staring into each others eyes, and then making love in the morning with the cool breeze through the window and the birds singing in the trees… Blah, Blah, Blah. If you are married, you know full well that this fairy tale seldom, if ever occurs.
Many people also don’t go into a relationship having thought through worst case scenarios. What’s the worst that could happen in a marriage? Is it the prospect of divorce? Maybe. For me, the worst case scenario would be marital monotony. Settling for the same thing each and every day for as long as we both shall live. Where do I sign?
How do so many marriages end up ho-hum? I think the answer lies in this statement: people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.
They choose to settle with their spouse. The idea becomes “well if this is as good as it’s going to get, ok,” or “they are never going to change so I might as well get used to it.” In this scenario, the only thing left to do is wait for death, which may be a long way off.
So what’s the secret to a lasting marriage? It’s simple, two people who choose to stay together. That’s it.
But what’s the secret to a passionate and adventurous marriage? Glad you asked.
At first guess, your answer may be love. The cynic Ambrose Bierce defines love as “a temporary insanity, curable by marriage.” The answer really lies in the realization that marriage is not about happiness, it’s about the two people becoming better humans.
Marriage done right is a people growing machine.
Marriage will test you, stretch you, and cause you to grow. This is inherit in every committed relationship. We want the best from them. They want the best from us.
Rather than making marriage more complicated than it has to be, here are 6 principles that are key to adding passion and energy to marriage.
1. Grow spiritually. Whether you believe in God or some other higher power, it’s safe to say that many people believe there is a spiritual nature around us. We are interconnected to the world. The spiritual nature of the world frees us from acting as the end-all-be-all. It’s not our responsibility to keep the world functioning. But I am connected to the world around me. To others around me.
To grow spiritually, I need to acknowledge this interconnectedness and seek to serve others. To love more. To give more of myself. Leo has previously addressed this idea: Love thy enemy, Live the Golden Rule, Help a fellow human being.
2. Learn to live complaint-free. The world around us is not as many would like it to be. Things don’t always go our way. It’s easy to react to life’s disappointments by complaining. The problem is, complaining doesn’t help the situation. It’s like sitting in a rocking chair. It’s comfortable, and you may even feel like you’re getting something done. But you don’t end up going anywhere. Try the 21-day complaint-free marriage experiment. Offer solutions to life’s problems rather than complain. Take action in life and marriage and you won’t have time to complain.
3. Live passionately. There’s countless ways to go about living passionately. Do the work you love. Give to a cause you care deeply about. Serve others. With so many ways to live with passion, there are still many of us who struggle to make it happen.
In order to discover your passion, grab a cup of coffee and a some paper. Spend a morning with these questions:
What excites me in life?
What stirs something deep in my soul?
What can I offer to others that no one else can?
Begin by writing down initial reactions in the form of lists, then work to narrow it down to the main ideas. There’s your passion. The next step is up to you. What keeps you from living from your passion?
4. Live simply. I don’t know if you’re like me, but one of the reasons I’m a daily visitor of Zen Habits is the practical tips for simplifying life. Enough said.
5. Have sex. While this may appear to be one of those no-brainer principles, you’d be surprised at the number of married couples that have trouble in this area. Now before you head off and have sex with someone other than your spouse, realize that research continues to say that the marital bed is still the hot bed of sex. However, every couple is not immune to difficulties in this area of the marriage.
Men and women are different when it comes to sex. I realize this is not groundbreaking news but it plays a major role. First, there are biological differences. Research shows that most men need about a second on average to be interested in and ready for sex. If you’re an older male, it may be 2 seconds. Women on the other hand, need about 20 minutes. When you add to this that research also shows the length of time sex actually lasts is 3 minutes, it’s no wonder there may be problems. 17 minutes after sex if over, the woman is ready.
Second, more than just an act, sex is a language. You communicate in many ways during sex. Likes, dislikes, love, passion, energy, fears, disappointments.
The best part, you can learn to be a better linguist (shameless plug: I’ve written many posts on this subject as well as other marriage topics at The Simple Marriage Project. Now off to class you go!
6. Live in community. Much like the first point, life is better when we live in community with others. Aligning yourself with others who have similar dreams and goals will produce a tremendous synergy. You can feed off each other. The same is true when it comes to couples. Seek out other couples with similar philosophies on life. Spend time with friends. Dream together. You will find that other people can be a great resource to challenge you to get more out of life.
We are relational beings. Things are better when shared with others.
That’s it. Did I miss anything? Care to add to the list or replace one of the principles?