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Honey, Love Alone Will Not Do

By Barrington H. Brennen, 2003, 2019



Question: Dear Sir: I was taught from a child that once you love someone dearly, thatís all you need to have a healthy marriage relationship. Iíve been married for eight months now and I really love my husband, but things are not really working out. Is love enough? Signed, Need Something More.

Answer: Dear Need Something More, Love is not enough. It is a myth to believe that love alone will guarantee a successful marriage relationship. Too many married couples in our country are experiencing a dearth of true marital happiness because they thought that just saying "I love you" would help them ride through the difficult times or to prevent problems in marriage. I have quoted my Jamaican college professor, Kenneth G. Vaz, several times with these words: "When hunger walks in the front door, love jumps out the back window." Itís such a fitting statement on the problem of what basic ingredients are lacking in many marriages today.

What is needed to make a marriage work? Good communication and conflict resolution skills, a compassionate attitude, knowing and understanding your spouseís needs, a sound couple financial plan, humility, unconditional acceptance, and common sense. 

David Olson, professor of family social science, University of Minnesota, in his book "Empowering Couples" clarifies the point this way: "Although love is indeed a powerful emotion, it is idealistic to think that love is all you need. Love alone is not enough to make a marriage work. . . Love is important, but love alone is not sufficient to maintain a healthy, vitalized, and happy marital relationship. Relationship skills, particularly communication and conflict resolution skills, are necessary, as is a strong commitment from both individuals"

Here's a fresh concept.  I have realized over the past decades that compassion is more important that passion.  Or to better understand, compassion comes before passion.   Compassion is kindness, understanding, respect, caring, sharing, fairness, cleaning the house, unconditional acceptance.   Passion is the results of compassion.  Passion reveals itself as tender closeness, good love making, unconditional giving of self, etc.  Hence, if there is not compassion there will be no passion and the marriage will not last

Over the years of my counseling career, I have worked with hundreds of couples who love each other dearly but seem not to be able to move out of the rut of habitual conflict-ridden behaviors. Research also verifies that the best predictor of marital health is not how much a couple loves each other but how well they handle conflicts. Therefore, it is imperative for marital health that couples learn how to "fight" well.

I have also discovered that too many Christians are making the mistake of getting married too quickly. Their excuse for the rushing into marriage is that since they are both "born-again-believers" this would assure them that they would have a wonderful relationship. They believe that if they have similar beliefs, go to the same church, are excited about their relationship with Jesus, have no conflicts as "brother and sister in Christ" then why wait. "We can become friends after we get married" one partner said to his wife-to-be. What a big mistake. Too many Christian couples are painfully learning too late that similar beliefs in God do not guarantee compatibility in the home or the marriage bed. It is so true that committed friends can be seat-mates in church, cry and laugh together, share mutual interests, and encourage one another when life becomes difficult, yet if they become married partners they can become angry enemies. If they remain just friends, they may both experience the joy of heaven together, but if they get married they may lose their souls in hell.

It is most import that couples take the time to be friends before they even think about getting married to each other. They must also learn that good friendship does not automatically spell good marriage. Each individual contemplating marriage must ask himself/herself questions like some of the following:

  • Am I comfortable with the family culture of my friend? Would our family habits and beliefs be a plus or negative to the relationship?
  • What are the expectations my friend has of me when we get married? Do these conflict with my own expectations in marriage?
  • Are we giving ourselves sufficient time to experience each otherís own cultural and ritualistic behaviors so we can objectively evaluate how comfortable we are with them (For example, birthday, public holidays, family occasions)?

These are only sample questions to help the couple understand that the decision for marriage is serious and its preparation must be thorough. The secret is to take the time (18 to 24 months) to become friends before you get married.    

Barrington H. Brennen, MA, NCP, BCCP, is a marriage and family therapist and counseling psychologist. Send your questions or comments to barringtonbrennen@gmail.com  or write to P.O. Box CB-13019, Nassau, The Bahamas, or visitwww.soencouragement.org  or call 242-327-1980 or 242-426-4002.






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April 26, 2000, TAGnet / Network Solutions

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