Healthy Marriage 101

Joey Garcia

My fiancé and I plan to be married in July. I was excited until my aunt and uncle, who have been married for 31 years, announced that they are getting divorced. I thought they had the perfect marriage, and I vowed to have a marriage like theirs. Now they are just another statistic, and I don’t want what they have. How can I be sure my marriage will last?

Are you willing to be emotionally vulnerable with your partner, and is he with you? Honest communication is the heart of a healthy relationship. Each time you lovingly reveal your feelings, opinions and dreams for the future, you create and nurture intimacy. Strong communication skills include understanding how to reduce and resolve conflict. Cut the potential for conflict by reducing personal stress instead of carting it home. Then, handle small marital disagreements as they arise—sometimes by confronting only yourself and other times by negotiating change with your partner. Make it a policy that every argument ends with both parties feeling like winners. If one wins, both lose.

Your values (the principles you claim to live by) and ethics (your beliefs about right and wrong) should align with your partner’s. And you must both be committed to removing any personal issues that inhibit you from being present and loving. The attraction between you should be beyond physical. If one of you became terribly disfigured, love would live on through intimate communication, common values and a soulful physical connection.

If you have these elements in your relationship, you can grow into the deeper reality of genuine love. If not, don’t fret; develop what’s missing. But accept the hard truth that even if these qualities are present, there is no guarantee that your marriage will last forever. This is life, after all. We don’t have complete control.

I have been married for 11 years to a man who is 18 years older. We really love each other, but we only have sex four times a year. When we do, he does not satisfy me. I spoke to him about it and demonstrated, but he was so dispassionate that I gave up. He says I am interested in sex, not lovemaking, and that I am not a good kisser. I feel like a failure. We considered divorce, but my husband is dependent on me, so leaving because of my sexual desires feels superficial. I could not live with the burden of his unhappiness. Medical exams show nothing wrong with him. Is it a fantasy to think that a marriage could be sexually satisfying?

Be courageous and ask the right question. Can your marriage be sexually satisfying? That’s a doorway. Now take a step. Sexual problems can represent power struggles elsewhere in the relationship. For example, if your husband depends on you financially, you may unconsciously act like he owes you emotionally or sexually. That’s grounds for resentment. Also, if he found your instructions intimidating, he might not be willing to risk reprimand too often.

Another step: Was sex ever satisfying between you? If not, admit that your sparse sex life is normal for you. Your choices include accepting life as it is, self-pleasuring more often, meeting with a licensed sex therapist or trying Viagra.

Another step: Stop blaming each other. This is an opportunity to decide what is important. Ignore the cultural lies that say marriage meets all needs. Explore the reality of marriage archetypes. There are arrangements (separate lives in a shared household); passionate, sexually driven marriages; best friends; and spiritual friends on a shared spiritual journey. We expect one marriage to contain all archetypes, but that requires more personal healing than humans are willing to do. So, try this: Without expectation, experiment with your man’s notion of lovemaking. After all, the more you focus on what you don’t have, the more painful your life becomes.

Meditation of the week
Dr. Phil once said that if a couple is having sex, sex is 10 percent of their relationship, but if they are not having sex, it is 90 percent of their relationship. Consider what is lacking in your relationships. Now, reread Dr. Phil’s statement and replace the word “sex” with your own problem. What are you willing to alter in yourself to tame that dragon to 10 percent?

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