The Secret to Lasting Love
We are always looking for a “secret” to something. If we just had the silver bullet, the ONE thing that makes everything fit into place, then we can live with confidence that life can be good. I’ve recently solved such a mystery with my sleep. Always having been somewhat cold natured, I’ve recently encountered a challenge, call it male menopause or whatever. I like sleeping in a cool room with heavy blankets, but for the past five or six months have been waking in a sweat. After only a few minutes of kicking the covers off, I’m cold again. Until the Silver Bullet. One of my best purchases in decades. I now have a king-sized mattress top that is climate controlled by a water tubing system that keeps me at 64 degrees all night long. No more sweating, no more kicking the covers off. And…it is dually controlled! My wife can stay on 90 degrees and I can enjoy the chill. Problem solved. I’m sleeping like a baby…for now.
Not so fast with lasting love! Although I am about to reveal the “secret”, it anything but easy. It is simple, though. I’ll give you the “secret” to lasting love, but I also want to give you a quiz to see how you are doing with that. This “secret” is very clear to me after interviewing hundreds of couples in counseling over the past twenty-five years and going through three graduate degrees, an intensive training with the (Dan) Allender Center (specializing in trauma and how your style of relating has formed) in Seattle and the Gottman Institute (specializing in couples work) and anecdotal listening to the wisdom of couples who have great marriages and have never neededto come in for counseling.
So, here’s the secret to lasting love: an enduring friendship.
Couples who enjoy lasting love have worked hard at an enduring friendship. Within that friendship, they delight in one another’s company, they solve problems, celebrate the little things, share the hard things and bear witness to one another’s lives. So, here are five quiz questions to see how you are doing with friendship.
1. Do you know one another’s internal world? John Gottman calls this knowing one another’s “Love Maps”. This has to do with knowing the preferences of another, anticipating the thoughts he or she may have, recognizing the non-verbal language of one another, sensing emotion and responding accordingly to all of the above.
2. Do you engage one another? I don’t mean WERE you engaged? But, do you connect? In the last issue of this journal, I wrote about “turning towards”. In other words, when your mate issues an invitation to connect, do you ignore, engage or contradict? Lasting love is full of turning towardsone another and acknowledges, with delight, invitations to be closer.
3. Do you conflict with curiosity? When conflict arises, many fail to realize that this is an invitation to intimacy. Conflict is an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of one another. It is the price you pay for closeness. Couples who conflict poorly approach conflict with “what the heck?” and that attitude is followed with defensiveness and contempt. Couples who conflict well, enter the same conversation with “hmmm….what’s this?” and take advantage of the opportunity to learn more about their partner.
4. Do you dream together? The Bible tells us that people without a vision will perish. Dreaming together could be an exploration of “what ifs?” about your children or grandchildren or could involve a discussion about your individual bucket-lists. Lasting love entertains the possibilities of what the future may look like to each of you or both of you.
5. Are you on a shared mission? Couples with lasting love have a shared sense of mission. Most often this mission is around a shared sense of faith, but it is not limited to that. It is important to note that a mission should be larger in scope that child-rearing or careers or jobs because all of those have ending points. Shared mission can change from time to time too. Every couple needs a rallying point, something that unifies their focus, strengths and energy.
So how did you do? I’ll end with one of my favorite marriage quotes by pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Church in New York City,
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”
Want lasting love? Build a friendship.
Pepper Pratt, Ph.D. is a licensed professional counselor in Jackson, TN. Areas of specialty include couples work, trauma, depression and anxiety. Learn more at www.ThePrattClinic.com.