Young couples often dream of growing old together. How can you really stay together for a lifetime? Are feelings of happiness the kind of “glue” that keeps people together? Not likely, and certainly not alone. What about commitment? Does it take a strict sense of duty and conscious decisions to make a lifetime marriage possible? That’s part of it. But there is something more.
The noted actress, Simone Signoret, wrote: “Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.”Day-to-day activities and events give partners shared experiences and memories. Over time, these small moments grow into a shared history that is deep and binding. We feel strongly connected to our spouse not just because we feel love for him or her, but because we have a life together, every day, including good times, and bad times.
Children bring new threads that can tie us together even stronger as a family. Their day-to-day smiles, tears, and growth tie us to them as well as to each other. The tiny threads of our interactions and care for them over time weave rich bonds between us in the fabric of our lives.
When we married we made a commitment. As our shared history builds on our commitment, our sense of being part of one another takes that commitment to a higher level called loyalty. Loyalty is both this powerfully binding feeling and the quality of our actions, both with our spouses and with others, to strengthen our ties and keep us together.
There are two places loyalty is especially important in character friendship marriages: in our conversations and in our priorities.Are you your spouse’s first critic or first champion? In popular culture, sarcasm and playful criticism are often glorified. Sometimes we’re entertained by television and movies that show spouses mocking each other and that negatively emphasize differences between men and women, especially in parenting.
What we really need to emphasize is the togetherness between husbands and wives. Parenting is hard, so it’s easy to feel incompetent as a new parent. As you struggle to adjust to the demands of parenting together, it’s especially important to defend and generously build each other up in your conversations with each other and with friends.Another way to be loyal in conversation is simply to listen to our partner with our full attention. Supportive, whole-hearted listening lets our partner know that he or she is really our first priority.
It takes time and effort to understand one another and to be cheerleaders for each other. And, because new parents go through so many changes and life becomes more hectic, loyal listening can be even more difficult. But we also need it more than ever.Keeping your partnership a priority is a big part of being loyal. Living with a new baby is also a time when friends and hobbies may seem like an easy way to escape from tough daily problems. Being loyal takes staying focused on your shared life goals, even when it is difficult and takes sacrifice.
You may have to reexamine the time you give to other interests outside your family. Everyone needs time to rejuvenate, but you’ll probably have to adjust the way you use your time to make sure that your family becomes your highest priority.A unique challenge to your loyalty that some couples experience during the transition to parenthood is getting too much advice from family and friends.
For the most part, becoming parents has a wonderful effect of bringing extended family and friends closer together in a supportive way. But, sometimes, the advice from family and friends divides you as a parenting team. Being loyal to each other may mean letting well-intentioned people know you appreciate their help, but keep the boundaries around your relationship firm.
Your spouse is your first and most important advisor. Making decisions between the two of you about how to care for your child as he or she grows will strengthen your loyalty and partnership.Practicing loyalty to your partner means remembering all that you owe to your spouse and being true to your shared history and shared future. That leads to a constant effort to keep your relationship strong. Cultivating the character strengths of friendship, generosity, fairness and loyalty is a life-long process, but it gets easier over time as these traits become second nature to you. The birth of your child is only the beginning of many new adventures. As your relationship grows stronger through practicing character friendship, generosity, fairness, and loyalty, you will go beyond “happily ever after” to discover that the every-day moments in your marriage are deeply meaningful and rich with real joy. – Author Unknown
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