Want a Long, Happy Marriage? Be Loving AND Stubborn

by Jamie C. Williamson, PhD

You might be surprised to learn that stubbornness in marriage is a good thing.

Some spouses try to create a happy marriage through grand romantic gestures like sending flowers, planning romantic dinners, or wearing sexy lingerie. While that is a pretty good plan for creating a Happy Valentine’s Day or Happy Anniversary, it is a woefully inadequate plan for sustaining a happy marriage.

Other, more enlightened spouses realize that love is an action word.

They know that to sustain a happy marriage over long term they must (1) act like (not just say) they are best friends with their spouse; (2) show physical affection and passion toward each other; and (3) demonstrate commitment to each other and their relationship.  These spouses understand that it takes all three sides of the Love Triangle to sustain a happy marriage.

In fact, they make it look easy.

Clearly, this kind of an approach to marriage, does make day-to-day life easier and more pleasant, in part, because relationship intimacy, commitment and passion fuse together to create a Teflon-type protection against routine ups and downs.

But, when real challenges enter a marriage, spouses need to show commitment on steroids! To sustain a marriage through life’s big challenges, couples need to be stubbornly persistent.

Some big challenges are invited, like raising children and building a career. Others are unwanted, like illness, job loss, alcoholism, or a big mistake.

But, what it takes to sustain a happy marriage through both invited and unwanted marital challenges is good, old-fashion stubbornness.   That is, couples have to want to stay together and to be unwilling to accept any other outcome.

Judy C. Pearson author of Lasting Love: What Keeps Couples Together, included in her book an explanation of the value of stubbornness provided to her by Larry Constantine, who at the time was the editor of Lifestyle and a professor of family studies.

Mr. Constantine explained that in this context,

“Stubbornness is a quality which keeps people hanging in there when problems seem to defy solution, when logic or fear or pain might otherwise lead them to quit”.

Relationship professionals like me often talk and write about the value of commitment in a lasting relationship. But, I think Constantine was on to something when he said that the important, but complex concept of commitment “pales beside the adrenaline of real stubbornness when it comes to sustaining a vital relationship”.

So this year on Valentine’s Day go ahead and display a grand romantic gesture, as it will create a happy memory and earn you some relationship points.   Go ahead and profess that your spouse is your best friend, your lover, and your soul mate all wrapped up in one.  But, if you really want your spouse to feel the love, repeat the  promises you made on your wedding day.

Or you could channel Colbie Caillat and sing “I’m never gonna walk away….always gonna have your back”.   (Or maybe you might just want to have this cued up on your I-Pod. )

However you declare your love on Valentine’s Day, why not also share this post with your spouse and talk about the importance of being stubbornly committed to your marriage.   Then, when times get tough (and they will), you can remind each other of your promise to be stubborn.  If you are already in tough times, maybe these ideas will help you “work it out”.

Let me know if I can help.

You’ll find me at Amity Mediation Workshop.

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