With passion you want to possess. We say “I want him!” or “I want her!” “Must … have…” Compassion is to share and sacrifice. And if we are really mature we understand the sacrifice isn’t necessarily for the spouse directly, we realize that the sacrifice is for the relationship. Mormons who are married in a LDS Temple are actually “sealed” together.
I have felt the need to comment a little about marriage. After all, I am a Marriage and Family Therapist. This will definitely not be the last time I comment about marriage. I actually like to read some blogs out there and I was taken back at how often people regurgitate research about marriage even though they themselves might be considered experts in other areas. This is fine, I have no problem with people commenting about whatever. It just made me think about how important marriage and relationships are to people since all walks of life are writing about it.
Most of the time, people will cite John Gottman, and they should. He really has done more helpful research than any other expert in the field. He also has written some helpful parenting ideas that often get missed because of his prolific research on marriages. He and other experts recognize a number of things that help marriages and relationships grow.
For now, I really want to emphasize the quote from Joseph Campbell about marriage as a priority and passion and sacrifice. One thing that I strongly believe, and find super helpful to remember is that Love Is a Choice! With a caveat recognizing that some people are easier to love than others. I find that when couples meet with me they want more qualification before they accept that principle. Some ask, “Don’t you think we sometimes grow out of love?” Absolutely! Choices have been made to grow that way and that means you can grow to love each other more deeply. Divorce can be so devastating emotionally because the message is being sent, “Now that I really know you well, I don’t want to be married to you anymore.”
Otherwise, you are leaving love to chance or in reality you are justifying your lack of commitment to external forces.
Of course there are exceptions – I sympathize with people who are not married who want to be, and people who are married to someone who is not willing to work on their anger problem or pornography addiction or whatever they are struggling with. I never tell people when they should get divorced or stay married, that’s not my responsibility. I don’t want someone blaming me for a decision that important. Part of growing up is taking ownership for your life. When the passion wanes, the compassion motivates us to sacrifice for the relationship. That means there are hard choices to make. You can’t just take off into the mountains without telling your spouse, right? You let them know – a small sacrifice. Sometimes it means going to an in-law family function instead of watching the football game. Time to grow up. If marriage isn't your first priority, you’re not married. I think I might have something to say about how to make your marriage your first priority in some future post.