How do you define your relationship goals? What is a successful marriage like in your eyes?
We men like result. It’s good cos it drives us to work hard & be a better man – but to channel this emotions well, we must clearly define what is the desired *result*, and then break that down to the specific KPIs (key performance indicators).
To have a successful marriage, we must not measure our marriage success with the lovey-dovey feeling. If we do, the measurement would not objective: we may feel great about our marriage one day, & then feel disappointed next day just because we’re quarreling. Hoping to keep a loving feeling constantly sets us up to get disappointed constantly.
That’s why I don’t believe in “honey moon”. It makes moving out of honey moon into the next step sounds like a bad thing. Right from the beginning I told Cicilia, “let’s not dwell in the honey moon”. We agreed that it’s a false reality, an illusion setting people up for disillusion.
In the movie “I Origins”, the main character (a scientist) was experimenting with different species to improve their eyes. He’s a realist/pessimist – even when he had his first breakthrough, he told his assistant, “this is just one step in a very, very long process.”
But his assistant is an idealist (acted very well by Brit Marling, creator & star on “The OA“). Instead of adopting his attitude, she took the experiments to a even tougher goal: to find a species with a gene-zero to grow an eye from scratch. At one point in the movie, while she was recording all the failed species, he said, “you know we could be looking forever & find nothing?” To which she replied, “turning over rocks & finding nothing IS progress.”
Turning over a stone in our partner & finding new problem underneath IS progress. Some people think they’ll be happier if only their partner have no more dirt underneath, but the truth is we’ll only be happy in relationship when we’ve accepted that we ALL have dirt underneath, & we’ll keep finding new dirt. In fact, we must keep digging new dirt; healthy people do that regardless of whether they are married, only a love relationship forces us to dig faster because we need to love our partner.
A marriage success is in the collective happiness of the couple.
Looking to maximize happiness is not the same as maximizing the loving feeling because:
- We can’t make our partner be more loving to us, but we can make our partner happy by giving them what they want; &
- We can’t force ourselves to feel more loving feeling towards our partner, but our happiness is in our control – e.g. it lies in how we view the new dirt we found.
In practice, it means the following KPIs:
When our partner find new dirt in us, do we work hard to clean it up to make our partner happier? Do we see this as an opportunity to love our partner more?
When we find new dirt in our partner, do we force them to change even if it makes them unhappy? Or do we challenge ourselves to be loving and patient enough to both help them change and yet accept them if they don’t change? Remember we all have some dirt that we are not ready to change yet. Just because we have overturned our partner’s rocks faster than they do ours, doesn’t make it their obligation to clean up faster than we do.
Even as you are reading this, do you find yourself focusing on your partner’s dirt, or are you loving enough to first think about your own? It takes no strength to find dirt on someone, but it takes tremendous strength to admit our own dirt, and takes even more to clean it up.
In short, does finding the new dirt make us better lovers? Do we realise we are all work-in-progress and so it doesn’t make sense to judge another? Do we realise how weak we are & draw us closer to asking God for help?
That’s exactly what marriage was designed to do – it was not good that we should be alone, so God make us a helper comparable to us, to teach us to love, & in the process prompts us to overturn those stones.
So, every stone we turn IS progress.