When you fall in love, everything is beautiful, young, new, and so full of hope. The glass is perpetually half-full and the possibilities seem endless, and there are no limits to your love. Naturally, we want to take that next step: marriage, a family, forever. But the day-to-day is hard. And life, we hope, is long. Inevitably, things won’t always be so rosy. That glass will – at times – be half empty. Or even altogether empty. There is always hope.
Photo credit: Jessica D’Onofrio Photography
A June article in Time Magazine featured the book, The Marriage Book: Centuries of Advice, Inspiration, and Cautionary Tales from Adam and Eve to Zoloft, ” and asked the authors what the single best piece of marital advice they discovered is. The authors, Lisa Grunwald and Stephen Adler, share the best piece of marriage advice as told to Time,
“With the caveat that there are 3.7 pounds of other wisdom in our book, this is it. It was written in a notebook in 1909 by the poet William Butler Yeats when he was 44:
In wise love, each divines the high secret self of the other and, refusing to believe in the mere daily self, creates a mirror where the lover or the beloved sees an image to copy in daily life.
Simply put: If you’re smart about it, you’ll rise above the inevitable setbacks and stresses of a shared life, and you will make it your lasting mission to bring out the absolute best in your spouse.”
Photo credit: Mademoiselle Fiona
Grunwald and Adler point out that, sadly, William Butler Yeats never got to marry the woman he spent all these years loving, but his wisdom certainly brought him to the forefront of thousands of letters, interviews, and photographs the book’s authors poured through. The authors explain that a successful marriage is one in which both partners rise above the everyday challenges of spending their lives with one another by pointing out flaws and things they want to change, and instead, focus on helping one another be the best versions of themselves. So how exactly do we do this? Grunwald and Adler say,
“You have to banish contempt. Contempt is an acid, and it etches ugliness into love. To banish contempt means that when your husband has given in to his least attractive tendencies, his most fearful, or fearsome; when your wife has lost her focus, her patience, or her heart, this is the moment when you must exercise the x-ray vision I’m sure Yeats would have mentioned if he’d known about Superman. This is the moment when you must see through the annoying, demanding, complaining, failing, faltering wreck in front of you—and find the strong, kind, fascinating, functional person you know your spouse wants to be.”
When the person whose opinion you value the most, is also the person you feel is the most critical of you, it can lead to incredible anger, resentment, and contempt. It may not even be intentional. The idea of spending the rest of your days with one person is a romantic one, but not a thought to be taken lightly. Think about you on your very worst days, and multiply that by 2. And then tell yourself that there may be more days like that than not. At least for long stretches. A realistic optimism is healthy, and one in which you remind yourself, of your ultimate goal: to support one another through life.