Looking around at car lots a couple of weeks ago, my partner and I were deciding whether or not to update our car. While for most people it would seem like a relatively simple procedure, I was met my mixed feelings as we looked across the rows of shiny cars, all begging to be taken for a test-drive and taken home.
We both looked closer at a shiny red BMW. To me, it stood out from the silver BMWs in the row alongside it and I pictured my partner and I driving around in the summer, sunroof open and a favorite CD playing. I have a red two-seater convertible I drive during the week, and our four door sedan for weekends together with the dog didn’t seem nearly as exciting, which prompted us to go car shopping.
My partner has a four door sedan, a sensible car, peppy and good looking, but not exciting in the same way that my convertible is. So looking for something new was going to need to be a compromise. Something that was exciting like my car, but also had room in which to grow. The BMW seemed to fit that criteria, but after driving it I still wasn’t sure…
Are we the same in our relationships? Does the person we think we want remain the ideal person once we have them? Are we happy with what we got, or are we always looking to trade up to the next model?
I guess we build illusions in our minds of what we picture the perfect relationship to be, and when this becomes a reality, we freak out and reasess what it is we want. Once we have what we want, are we fulfilled? Or are we still looking for ways that it could be better?
I thought the BMW would be perfect, but once I drove it and had the opportunity to purchase it, I wondered if I really did want it. The moment of indecision I experienced troubled me. It troubled me because I didn’t have the emotional investment in the new car like I did the old. To make it the perfect car I would have to invest in it and make it mine.
Are we the same with our marriages?
I get emails from clients all the time looking for marriage counseling and marriage help telling me that their partners are perfect, but they are not "in love" with them. I guess they assumed that once they got the perfect person that their problems would be over. Real love, the kind of love that exists in real marriages, is not that simple. It takes effort and a willingness to grow.
The point I am making here is that it takes more than the perfect person to create a good relationship. Even if you have a person who possesses all the qualities that you have ever looked for in a husband or wife, making a marriage work still involves effort. Every day of your married life you are called to grow in your love for one another, and to grow in your understanding of what this love is.
The love you feel for your partner in the first year of marriage will be a different kind of love to the love that you feel on your 25th wedding anniversary. And this will be different again to the love you feel for each other on your 40th wedding anniversary.
Your marriage is a journey of love, and on this journey you are called to find new ways of loving and expressing this love for your partner. The bumps you face along the road are reminders to the both of you that changes need to be made. Nothing remains static, and this includes your marriage. Just like changing cars, loving the person you are with involves you investing in them and the relationship. They may still be the perfect person, but in order to have the perfect relationship, you have to always put the effort in. Marriage problems surface when you resist change and refuse to grow in your love for one another. Love is a constantly evolving process, and successful marriages are ones that are always growing in understanding, never staying still.
Are you commited to growing in love together? There is no such thing as a free ride.