Maybe….just maybe… marriages break down for one simple reason no one is paying attention to.
I had an interesting epiphany as I conversed with a friend last night. It was not a Eureka! moment, nor did the word Voila! come to heart. It was a theory that formed as the conversation progressed, highlighting what I believe may be the reason marriages go from “I can’t get enough of you” to “It feels like we just live together”.
In this age of information, there are so many ideologies and notions about marriage that are passed on to people via all information platforms, especially social media. If you are an African woman, the list might be along the lines of:
- Submit to your husband at all times
- Learn the art of silence
- Know his favourite meal and cook it all the time
- Learn the best sex moves you can and impress him every time
- Wash his clothes – it’s a sign of love (Just in case you have been looking for the recipe to keep a traditional man happy, this is it).
The list for men is pretty short
- Provide (Yep that about sums it up. You want to be a man now, don’t you?)
But there are no guarantees that all of these things will be sufficient to keep your marriage afloat. As a matter of fact, many of these marriages which are built on efficiency still somehow find a way to fall apart. And of course, many of us these days are so disappointed in the institution, we are beginning to view it as a burden. But what if we start to do some things differently?
You see, in my many years of relating with people and being a ‘life coach’ for romantic relationships (I should get that business card printed now), I have learned one very important lesson.
It is not your efficiency in the fulfilment of your ‘expected obligations’ that keeps your partner happy, interested or committed.
If it was that, then so many marriages will be happy considering the Voltron mode many women assume once the ring touches the finger. It is not about how much you get done or how well you get everything done. It is not about how early you rise in the morning to ‘do something around the house’ or how dinner is ready at 6pm everyday. It is not about how you sort out the bills or get the children ready with little or no help. It is not about how skilled you are at ironing your husband’s shirts or how well you have mastered the art of handwashing his pocket squares.
These are all activities that keep you busy and for some, come with the territory of marriage. But maybe, just maybe these activities keep you so busy you ignore the most important thing you should be doing.
You stop learning about your partner.
We all hear of the couples who drift apart and settle for divorce in the end. We see those who live like flatmates even though they try to present rosy romance on Instagram. We know them, we’ve heard their stories. Yet, for some reason my brain cannot grasp, we repeat their patterns, assuming erroneously that Sally at the office was the reason hubby left or Ben the gardener was the reason Mrs Simpson no longer found pleasure in her husband.
I’ll tell you my theory: Maybe Sally at the office was paying hubby so much attention and learning his new interests that he felt like his dreams were valid again. Perhaps, Ben the gardener noticed the new hairdo every week and the change of nail colour that made Mrs. Simpson feel visible again.
Perhaps, people are too busy trying to efficiently run their marriages like an operations managers runs a fleet of deliveries, that they forget to communicate with the person who makes the marriage.. (I mean, you can’t exactly be in a marriage with yourself now, can you?).
Perhaps people are too tired from the 101% level efficiency they have to be on, that they forget to sit and crack jokes with their partners, listen to new music, try out food, and learn a new dance together. Perhaps people just get so involved with the symbol of the marriage, they forget the substance of it – a relationship – a ship where two people should relate. Sure, the ambiance in the ship is not always endearing but perhaps, there will be more days of love than days of heated words. But even heated words show some form of relationship, and they definitely beat days of silence- not silence from anger or pain, but silence because the fire has fizzled out and no one is willing to light another match.
I put it to you that this efficiency mode of running your marriage is not even for the survival of your marriage. Deep down, it’s for your ego. You view marriage as a cotton field and you want to be the best cotton picker who always exceeds the quota for the day. You want to say you earned it, and pride yourself as you tell people it’s hard work to be married and oh well, you just know how to keep it together. You focus so much on doing the work that you forget to relate with your partner.
So the point? You are more likely to keep your marriage alive if you don’t get up in the efficiency of maintaining the symbol more than you get caught up in discovering more about your partner and relating endearingly.
Advice: Know you can’t do everything. What technology can do, let it. What money can sort out, let it. What a third party can do, let them. Get excited about spending quality time with your partner and discovering more about them. Take every chance you get to peel another layer of partner and marvel at the pleasant surprise (well, not all the time) you will find. XOXO