In light of the trend away from marriage in our country, I wonder if there is something parents could do now to help make the institution better by teaching kids about commitment.
Perhaps if children understood early that commitment, and then unconditional (not romantic) love, is what actually keeps a marriage together, they would be mentally prepared for the gradual loss of the sweet butterflies feeling that was so magical on their wedding day.
Not that those fluttery feelings can't return, but they'd understand that commitment houses that love and that being committed to work on their marriage before any problems emerge is smart.
Several years into their marriage, they may look at the dirty dishes in the sink, the socks on the floor, the lack of bedroom activity and sigh, thinking, "Mama said there'd be days like this...," rather than enter into a time of shock and resigned withdrawal.
They'd know that listening to the other's views and feelings with respect can work wonders, that they're actually supposed to help make their spouses' lives better, that forgiveness is not an option but a necessity, and that successful marriages don't just happen, they take huge effort until overwhelming logic or safety issues cause you to change course.
Perhaps it's easier for me to say certain things out loud because I'm unmarried. I'm thinking these few tweaks along the way could make a big difference for the future.
First and foremost, I think it would really change the world for women if more boys were taught how to cook, how to clean an entire house, and how to keep a yard beautifully. They should know that doing these types of things regularly can improve their marriages.
More women than I can count have expressed their great need for more household help and their mounting frustration when their requests are ignored or half-heartedly responded to. They are exhausted from working plus doing the majority of the cooking, cleaning, homework help, carpooling even date-planning. They have very little time for themselves, and often the needs of their husbands also suffer.
Though this reality only makes their husbands frustrated, they don't always connect the idea that cleaning up the kitchen or doing laundry could make them much happier in more private arenas.
Young women may not know how much it means to men to show interest in their hobbies, games or activities. Men love to be watched doing manly things, which somehow makes them feel admired and supported. They also like knowing that they are desired just as much as women do.
Boys may need to learn to indulge the emotional upheavals of girls objectively and not take them personally. That it is possible to be a good husband even if one's wife is crying or yelling, and that often just giving a hug or a calm, "I am listening to you and I care about you," would solve half the dilemma.
Girls should know that assertively asking for what they want is going to move them exponentially forward in the game of relationships. Men will not automatically know what to do for them; they may need some gentle coaching and creative requests. There is nothing wrong with saying, "I just love beautiful flowers on special occasions." Or "I so appreciate it when you listen to me in the evenings." Or "This is how to make me feel loved."
Parents, you've got your work cut out for you.
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc, is a therapist at CBI Counseling Center and founder of www.chattanoogacounselor.com. Email her a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.