Love and Marriage
Andrew R. Warnecke, MA, LPC
I have started many a marital seminar with, “Marriage is made in heaven, but so are thunder and lightning.” I don’t know whose quote that is, but I sure do like it. I have been married to my wonderful, beautiful wife for almost 10 years. I have come to the realization that my marital success is dependent on the effectiveness of my strategies for meeting my wants and needs and avoiding pain. I strongly believe that love is indeed an art that must be practiced just like the piano or the guitar if one is to excel at it. We are all often ignorant to the fact that kindness fosters kindness, respect elicits respect, and love begets love. My favorite all-time book on love is by Erich Fromm. It’s called The Art of Loving. Like Fromm, I have learned that the active character of love is primarily giving, not receiving. He writes that the idea of giving is actually filled with “ambiguities and complexities. The most widespread misunderstanding is that which assumes that giving is giving up something, being deprived of, sacrificing.”
I work with a lot of couples who are struggling with “being loved” rather than focusing on and practicing the art of loving. I know that my wife responds best when I spend money on her. I don’t mean that paper stuff or coinage with past presidents, I mean time and energy. That’s all I really have to spend. The laws of physics say that we have a certain amount of time and energy to spend each day, and how we spend it is really important because it creates a domino effect that will in time resonate throughout our life. So how do I spend money on my wife? I spend time with her. We talk about our GDAs (goals, dreams, and aspirations). We go for walks with the kids and dogs. We have a regular date night, and we share in and collaborate with the finances.
One thing that is very helpful is written communication. My wife and I learned of this technique in our premarital counseling. We were challenged to get a communication book and write in it several times a week. The only rule being that we remain kind and only use “I” statements instead of “you” messages. For example saying, “I feel hurt because you…” instead of, “You hurt me because you…” We have benefitted from using this technique, and it has been really fun to get a bottle of wine and read some of the older ones that we have boxed in the basement. What a hoot to see how far we have come and how much we have accomplished together!
Fromm also writes that “love is an activity, not a passive effect — a standing in, not a falling for.” Human beings are creatures of habit and routine, and if we are going to be successful in our most intimate and important relationships, then we must develop habits within the marital relationship that create fertile ground for the art of loving. I see so many children who are hurting really bad because their parents don’t actively love each other. I am convinced that the greatest gift parents can give their children is a happy and thriving marriage. It’s also a pretty good gift to give to ourselves! I have been honored with the ability to help people repair and strengthen their marriages. Even the most difficult situations can be handled if both parties decide that they can get past whatever it is.