The Gottman Institute reports that the average couple waits six years before seeking help for marital problems and that half of the marriages that end do so in the first seven years.
As a wedding celebrant I see couples flocking to Maui to get married every day, and yet, as a relationship coach I rarely see them seek to learn tools and skills at the beginning of the relationship that can help keep that marriage strong. Quite simply put, love is not enough to make a relationship successful.
We’ve all heard the Serenity Prayer: “Lord, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” However, I have added one more piece to that soulful request: “And the strength and tools for doing so.”
Love Tip: Seek the skills you need for the tasks you undertake—even love.
In a National Institute of Education study, one thousand thirty-year-olds were asked if they felt their high school education had equipped them with the “skills they needed in the real world.” More than 80 percent answered, “Absolutely not.” The number-one thing they wished they had been taught is relationship skills.
The success of our relationships impacts every aspect of our lives—our moods, our finances, our children, and our society, and they absorb a lot of time. We are all trying to maintain one, fix one, get in one, or get out of one. However, in the thirteen years of required schooling, we are rarely taught more about relationships than “Keep your hands to yourself,” and “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” (We are not prepared for the reality that words actually have the power to break hearts, if we don’t learn how to manage them.)
Love Tip: We need to introduce a new level of consciousness to our relationships, one of mindfulness, personal responsibility, and authenticity.
A study of 160,000 high-school seniors in the United States asked this: “As you look ahead to the future, what’s the one thing you want most out of life?” The most frequent answer was “To be loved.”
To love and to be loved is the essence of our soul purpose. The unfortunate thing is that most of us don’t know how to bring that about in a healthy, authentic way. Consequently, we operate our relationships from our egos—and try to manipulate others so that we can love them and be loved by them. Eventually, this always leads to the death of either the relationship or the relating in the relationship.
Love tip: Love skills come from being constantly mindful of aligning our words, thoughts, and actions with what we are trying to create. When we take responsibility for how we respond to the other person, we discover our power for creating change and restoring the love in the relationship.
The Case For Marriage, by Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, reports that in a study of more than 550 adults from a national database, 64 percent of those who said they were unhappy but stayed together anyway reported that they were happy five years later, while 50 percent of those who divorced or separated were still unhappy five years later.
Unhappiness doesn’t have to be a permanent condition! Somehow when we hit the difficult moments in our relationships (or our lives) we think they will last forever. Then, we resort unconsciously to permanent solutions to those temporary problems (suicide, divorce). In my experience, we create unhappiness when we think the only solution to the problem is that our partner, spouse, child, boss—someone else—has to change. When we think that the only other solution is to change partners and we seek someone new as a solution, it is akin to looking in the fridge for something you lost in the car.
Love Tip: Rather than Seeking Love, Seek Skills for Love. When we have the skills, we begin to see that the love already exists, and all we have to do is access it, align with it, and share it.