Having a shared belief system is a good indicator for marital success. It means that you share common resources for getting through when you encounter obstacles. But there are many successful marriages that don’t have that commonality. One of the things that can help build spiritual intimacy in marriage is to share practice or observance. So, people with different belief systems may take solace in sharing practices: whether that’s meditation, yoga or simply a walk in the woods when looking for reflection time.
Whatever your belief system, here are some things that are fairly true about people and what they believe, which are good to keep in mind as you and your beloved figure out what works spiritually at your house:
- What a person believes is central to who they are.
- Who they are and what they believe are unlikely to change.
- You fell in love with who they are and what they believe.
- It is not fair to ask them to change such a fundamental truth about them.
- It’s pretty unrealistic to think that that’s likely to happen.
- You need to be clear that you have compatible belief systems because it is difficult to find shared values and shared lives without them.
- People with unlike but compatible belief systems can have similar spiritual practices that make it quite easy to share life.
- You cannot make disparate belief systems work if you can’t find a way to talk about them.
Tip: Explore ways to be together in your most reflective moments. Find ways to talk about what you believe and how that impacts your life. There will be hard times and you’re going to need one another and need to know how to comfort each other. You love your partner. You want to do this!
OK. Gender differences make this one of the most hotly contested and ickiest issues in heterosexual marriages. And while the gender differences are real, the human differences are pretty real too, because I’ve never had a same-sex couple who was immune to the eye-rolling or grumpiness about differing emotional needs of partners and partners’ ability to meet them.
So as far as I can see, there are three appropriate places to be getting your emotional needs yet. Once you identify your style and your beloved’s you can begin the balancing act.
- You. Where and how do you deal with your emotional needs? Identifying the answers to these questions will be very helpful. Then take a good look. What part of your needs do you need to supply yourself? Do you need some coaching or some counseling on this? Boundaries are fabulous things!
- Your community. What do you share with your girlfriends or guy friends. How does that change as you marry? Don’t turn your beloved into your only friend.
- Your beloved. What needs does your partner fill easily? What needs do you need him or her to stretch to? How realistic are you being? What if you can’t get everything you want from your beloved? (Hint: Go back to #1!). Learning non-judgemental support, desiring, offering, receiving, may be the sweetest part of having a relationship. Develop an open-hearted, supportive relationship.
Tip: Relationship is all about finding the balance! Make this your marital goal! You cannot believe how much it will deepen your marriage. It will also make planning that wedding a lot easier, when you take your frets and worries to the right audience! (Do remember the shrinks!)
Because we’re different people, we think differently from our partners. And this can be difficult as we begin to figure out how we work together to figure things out and plan for our future. And quite frankly as we figure out what we’ll talk about at the dinner table and over the news at night.
Being successful in marriage means navigating and negotiating the way you think together. The marriage you want to have is one in which you respect and look for your partner’s point of view. Nothing is more fun to watch than a marriage where a couple will turn to one another, curiously, to ask, what do you think about that? as if they can’t wait to find out!
Your partner doesn’t need to be the only person you think with, but you want to be able to think with him or her. It’s worth doing the work to get to where you think easily together.
Tip: How can you make things better and understand what’s going on in your partner’s mind? Take a look at one or a couple of the tests that point out how we process information (Myers Briggs is a good one). Please Understand Me, which is based on the MBI is really great about helping you find out not only how your partner thinks but where your thinking will best intersect. Take those conversations from stilted to flowing! Share your creative processes!
The fabulous and the horrible thing about marriage is that we process information very differently from our partner. While this can lead to incredible creativity, it can also lead to stuckness. The thing you want to get working on before you get married, or even start planning is how to maximize your ability to complement one another’s way of thinking before you settle into bad habits of arguing or withholding important information. (Withholding a great way to build a grudge and ruin a relationship!)
So how do you think about things and how do you reason them through? There are also lots of tests that help you identify how you create and how you problem solve. But you may just want to sit down and take a look at this, separately and together. Who knows, you might wind up knowing a lot more about yourself and finding even more reasons to respect your partner!
If you’re too different, it can make life difficult. But those differences can be lessened if you just figure out how each of you thinks about things and find ways to enhance one another’s thinking. You want to be a couple who respects and values one another’s opinions. You want to be people who seek your partner out because you know they will have something to add to the way you think about things. So:
- How do you get your information? Are you a reader? A listener?
- Once you have it what do you need to do with it? Mull? Or discuss?
- How do you feel about input? When is it helpful?
- When you ask someone to think with you are you asking to close the problem or open it up?
- Can you live with stuff that isn’t tied up neatly at the end?
- How do you think your partner is like you or not like you?
- How much mental messiness can you tolerate?
Figure out what works for your partner AND understand that that doesn’t make your partner wrong.
This is really difficult. But the payoff if you can get this working is enormous. This is what keeps you dashing home to find out what your partner will think about this, or what your partner is going to share with you. This is what makes you listen to your partner at a party because you know something new and interesting is coming.
Most of us don’t do this well. All of us could do better. So sit down. Ask yourself these questions and then look at your answers with your partner. Think about how you can make your process more accessible to your partner and give your partner more of what they need.
Tip: Can’t do it all on your own? That’s hardly surprising! Go find an old copy of David Keirsey and Marilyn Bate’s Please Understand Me and read it together. It’s great. You’ll find out so much about yourself and loads about your partner. Or find a personality test that works for you. Or a counselor that can help you. This is a partnership worth polishing. If you work at this, you’ll be happy, your partner will be happy and people will point to you and say, “I want us to have a marriage like that!” Now who doesn’t want that?
Wedding Priestess is the first to admit that she is not a sexpert. I’m a ceremony maven. But I can tell you this. Couples that have active and healthy sex lives, who can talk about their pleasure and take the time to be with one another have a much easier time planning the wedding and better relationships and marriages. I’ll be on the look out for some good experts, but in the meantime here are some things you might think about doing because they’re going to help you keep your sex life active and loving.
- Spend time together out of bed having fun.
- Spend time together in bed not having sex and not watching tv (remember talking?)
- Be tender with one another. Hold hands, kiss, be proud of each other!
- Do things for each other. Sex is more attractive when there aren’t chores and errands piling up.
- Do romantic things that lead toward sex and romantic things that lead nowhere but towards romance.
- Talk about sex problems out of bed.
- Work at pleasing your partner. Find out what rocks their world. Try it!
- Remember that your brain is the largest sex organ we have. Your skin is the second. Seduce yourself and one another.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Understand that having sex is a great and wonderful thing.
And remember, they’re now thinking that having sex satisfies your hunger for food. So if you’re working at losing weight before you get married, working on your sex life will not only make the whole wedding planning process more fun (oh, boy, if we get this chore out of the way, we can spend tomorrow in bed!) it’ll also have a side benefit of keeping you svelte. there you go.
Tip: Couples that have healthy sex lives, based in mutual affection and pleasure have healthier marriages. Let’s see, have great sex and a healthy marriage? Sounds pretty good to me!