When my wife and I decided to get married it coincided with the release of the film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, set on the Greek island of Cephallonia. It’s a love story and the film provided the romantic and tear-jerking soundtrack as my wife walked down the isle on our wedding day-all very romantic!
However, in the midst of the film one of the main characters, Dr Iannis, pricks the romantic bubble with words that point to a more enduring love. He said this:
“Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision… Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day…That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
Many of us have the good fortune to find safe, intimate relationships in adulthood that have the potential for healthy growth but there is an ‘art’ (and a science) to achieving that growth. Good fortune may have brought my wife and I together but that didn’t automatically endow us with the skills to successfully navigate and bring together our expectations, our families of origin, and in our case the forming of a stepfamily.
We think nothing of investing in our skills or reaching out for support when it comes to the workplace but why, when it comes to the one thing that matters most to us all –relationships -do we fall into the trap of assuming no learning or skilled help is required?
“William Morris wrote a poem called ‘Love is Enough’ and someone is said to have reviewed it briefly with the words ‘It isn’t.’…To say this is not to belittle the natural loves but to indicate where their real glory lies. It is no disparagement to a garden to say that it will not fence and weed itself, nor prune its own fruit trees, nor roll and cut its own lawns. A garden is a good thing but that is not the sort of goodness it has. It will remain a garden, as distinct from a wilderness, only if someone does all these things to it.” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)
Healthy marriages don’t just happen; they are created, or rather, co-created. The difference between couples that enjoy good quality relationships and those that don’t is not that they are better matched, better looking or more in love. It’s not that they have fewer differences or less to fight about. In fact, research shows that all couples disagree about the same basic issues -money, children, sex, housework, in-laws, and time. The difference is in how they handle these disagreements and the context in which they do so matters too. Married couples that enjoy a good quality, healthy relationship are more likely to disagree in a way that makes their relationship stronger within the secure base of their publicly declared, lifelong commitment to one another. They are also more likely to have other skills, knowledge, and attitudes that help them build and maintain the commitment, stability and quality of their relationship.
Healthy marriage matters-making a real difference to children’s life chances, to adult wellbeing, and to the emotional and economic health of our society. And it matters to a lot of people! Nearly 80% of all couples are married, half of all parents are married when their child is born, and another quarter will marry at some stage later.
Marriage Week UK gives us the chance to acknowledge all the work that is done to help couples build and sustain healthy marriages, to recognise the importance of healthy marriages in our society, and to celebrate the commitment and dedication of the couples that make it so.
Chief Executive, Marriage Care