Welcome to Marriage Myth #7! As you read about the Relationship_Stages_Myths and read on here, you might consider talking with the people in your life about what marriage means. What do you believe is the purpose or point of marriage? When I talk to my spouse about our beliefs about marriage, our connection grows, our patience increases and our love deepens. Give it a shot and please let me know how it goes! (PS – What did you and your spouse discover about your endorsement or rejection of Myth #6?)
Myth #7: Maintaining romantic love is the key to marital happiness over the life span for most couples.
ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” series nearly destroyed my marital satisfaction. I watched Ashley and Constantine launch love lanterns in Thailand while I sat on my unmade bed folding my husband’s socks. I sliced potatoes while Chantal and Brad snuggled on a zip line in the Amazon. I hear Luke Bryan’s “Drunk on You” while I’m out running errands and I’m instantly transported back to the small town, private street concert where Emily and Chris started falling in love. Sometimes, I allow myself to feel slighted because I see more routine than roses in my relationship.
On a cognitive level, I’m aware that these elaborate dates are not reality – not even for the “reality” stars. If you’re familiar with the shows, you know that none of the couples I mentioned above actually ended up together at the end of the show. Even the winning couple’s connection rarely stands the test of time. It’s no secret that the season finale engagements typically fail to translate into fulfilling marriages off screen. My brain knows this. My heart, however, really wants to be whisked away by helicopter to a private candlelit dinner amidst the fountains of the Bellagio.
I had nearly reset my expectations about realistic marital romance when Season 8 Shawn’s desperate dash to find Emily in Prague threw me for a loop. She was fresh off a date with another man and Shawn just couldn’t stop himself from running through the twilight streets of Prague calling her name. There were no producer-driven romantic touches to the moment. It was just a man standing on a non-descript section of the street, professing his affection for the girl he was courting. This moment gave me pause because I could actually see this happening for a normal couple in real life. So why wasn’t my husband running down the street for me?
I sulked for a minute before asking my husband directly. He gave me his “you’re so adorable” smile and cuddled me close before explaining. He started off with his perspective that he is not typically placed in situations that call for grand romantic gestures. He pointed out that full teams of people are employed to contrive romantic interactions for the shows I’m watching. He then went on to say that his romantic feelings for me haven’t faded. It’s just that his trust in our commitment allows him to expend his energy on earning a paycheck, keeping up with car maintenance schedules and managing family gatherings. He reassured me that he would absolutely chase me down the street if he perceived a threat in our relationship. He reaffirmed his plans to whisk me away for our anniversary every October. He also mentioned his efforts to scout out cozy, out-of-the-way bed and breakfasts for the occasional, spontaneous weekend getaway.
My husband and I still want romance, but as yet, we haven’t found our bed and breakfast reprieve. Dating-style romance takes more planning and energy when school, work, kids and married life join the picture. My husband’s perspective reminded me that I can still have my candlelit dinner by a fountain. To make that happen, I can either accept a mason jar candle and a sprinkler head fountain in my own backyard or I can wait a little longer for a specially scheduled occasion. Famed marriage researcher, John Gottman reminds us:
Many people think that the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a candlelit dinner or a by-the-sea vacation. But the real secret is to turn toward each other in little ways every day. A romantic night out really turns up the heat only when a couple has kept the pilot light burning by staying in touch in the little ways.
So, I suppose that I agree with the myth. Romantic love is important to lifelong marital happiness. However, I will probably be most satisfied with the romance in my life if I expect the frequency and type of romantic gestures to fluctuate as my relationship progresses.
Gottman, J. & Silver, N. (1999). The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.