The Gift of a Good Marriage
by Lynn M. Griesemer
During the holiday season, our thoughts often turn to what we are thankful for, then, all too often on gift-giving. Gift-giving is a wonderful gesture of gratitude and love and is noteworthy when done in the right spirit.
However, it is easy to get caught up in the pressure and rush of the holiday season – making lists, checking them twice, and purchasing the perfect gifts by a certain date. Not only do many feel financial stress this time of year, there is pressure on our time. Seasonal parties and activities can throw us into a tailspin. You’ll hear people say, “Don’t talk to me until after the holidays.” “We’ll get together after the holidays.” “Let me just make it through December 26 (or a certain date).”
My children used to ride their bicycles around our old neighborhood when they were young and counted the number of Christmas trees tossed to the curb on Dec. 26! It’s as if people had had enough and were relieved that Christmas was over.
In our fast-paced materialistic culture, even volunteer work and charitable activities can cause an increase in blood pressure. I don’t mean to paint a negative picture of the holiday season. What we need to do is slow down. When I suggest that we slow down, and embrace the holiday season in simple terms, the words often evaporate into thin air. Many people are not willing to do what it takes to slow their lives down or agree that it is a worthy goal. We must be careful about this frenetic pace that creeps into our lives. When we are speeding along the journey of life, we might forget to pay attention to the obvious, important treasures.
The greatest gifts are not of the material kind. One of the greatest gifts you can give your family is the gift of a strong, solid marriage. Creating a strong, solid marriage is not hard to do, but it can take some effort, depending on your situation. If you’ve been listening to my weekly blogtalkradio show for the past year, you will have heard many ways about how to deepen your relationship in order to make it a happy, solid marriage. Happiness is available to everyone, right here and now. It is a decision and attitude.
When I say “good” marriage, I mean one where partners are truly happy with each other. Marriages can be good – where the partners exemplify solid character traits, such as honor, trust, honesty, respect, and responsibility. Good marriages often involve parents who raise children with these values and we know this is important in a civilized society.
But to go one step further, a good (or great) marriage is one where it is obvious that the partners are happy with their relationship. They enjoy each other’s company, they smile and laugh a lot, they are emotionally comfortable with each other, they make an effort to spend time with each other and with their family if they have children, and they share and instill responsible values in their offspring. There is mutual respect, acceptance, affection, and conversation that takes place freely and frequently. To have this in your relationship is a gift. Yes, it takes effort, but it is also a gift when the chemistry in the relationship seems to synchronize in major ways, for long periods of time or throughout the marriage.
There is no acting or pretending this type of relationship. You can put on a phony smile, project something you are not feeling, or present a certain image, but sooner or later, the reality shines through to those who spend a lot of time with you or live with you. Children can detect a lot, more than parents realize. Children often know the truth. The energy of a happy marriage is evident.
Why is a good or happy marriage so important? Whether or not a married couple has children, couples in happy marriages are usually more emotionally and physically healthy. Research also points to greater financial stability (not necessarily wealth, but stability) in strong, nuclear families. When people are willing to sacrifice for another or when their life directly impacts another person, there is an increase in purpose for living, an additional sense of responsibility and meaning. This often translates to people being more responsible, and less of a burden in the workplace and on the healthcare system.
Couples who are also parents know that the family is the first and primary learning place for their children. The most prominent example of marriage that children observe is the one they see their parents living out. This will shape and initially define a child’s view of marriage and could have a major effect on the child’s experience of marriage throughout his or her entire lifetime! Research on attachment theory supports this viewpoint.
Not only are good marriages good for society, but a happy household has an effect on the emotional development of children. Happy, cheerful, genuine parents who are instilling solid values and virtues is a good starting point for responsible, secure, mature adults.
I want to briefly mention that good marriages which practice fidelity and strive toward sexual monogamy can be an important component of civilized societies. While reading a book titled Romantic Love: Using Your Head in Matters of the Heart, Dr. James Dobson said, “Anthropologist J.D. Unwin conducted an exhaustive study of the 88 civilizations that have existed in the history of the world. Each culture has reflected a similar life cycle, beginning with a strict code of sexual conduct and ending with the demand for complete ‘freedom’ to express individual passion. Unwin reports that every society that extended sexual permissiveness to its people was soon to perish. There have been no exceptions.”
It is important to build and maintain a strong marriage, not only for your own happiness, but that of your children, your children’s future and society in general.