You have to do the work

I was flipping through the television channels one night and heard Life Coach Iyanla Vanzant say that to someone on her television show “Iyanla Fix my Life”. I thought to myself how simple and true, but how it is so often not done.

During my preparation to teach the Eight Habits of Successful Marriages/Relationship, I came across statements that suggested whatever someone wanted OUT of a relationship had to be put it INTO the relationship. In other words “you have to do the work.” There is a direct correlation between what we are willing to put into our marriage or relationship and what we get out of it. In order to have a marriage filled with rewarding companionship, sexual fulfillment, love romance, and enduring friendship you have to put those things into the marriage.

Dr. J. Allan Petersen wrote about a “marriage myth” in his book The Marriage Box. He says most people get married believing a myth—that marriage is a beautiful box full of all the things they have longed for: companionship, sexual fulfillment, intimacy, friendship. The truth is that marriage, at the start, is an empty box. You must put something in before you can take anything out. There is no love in marriage; love is in people, and people put it into marriage. There is no romance in marriage; people have to infuse it into their marriages. “You have to do the work.”

I came to the conclusion that each person must decide to become responsible for putting into the relationship what he/she wants out of the relationship. It is a mistake to look or expect things in our relationship that we have not taken the time or made the effort to put into the relationship. It is easy to think that it is there because our partner put it there, however if only one person chooses to “do the work” it will not be enough. One person alone cannot fill the marriage relationship with love, companionship, romance, sexual fulfillment, intimacy, friendship etc. A partner waiting or expecting the other to take full responsibility for doing the things to make the relationship successful is making a big mistake. Both must make the effort. Both must do the work.

Dr. Petersen says a couple must learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising—keeping the box full. If you take out more than you put in, the box will be empty. What you put in your marriage depends upon what you want to get out of it, and this is based upon what you want your marriage to look like. Some have compared marriage to a beautiful rose with a few thorns or a soup with lots of ingredients. What would you compare marriage to?

Dr. John Covey in “Eight Habits of a Healthy Marriage” compares building a marriage to building a home. It requires a plan, commitment to a lot of hard work, skills, the right tools, and even a permit. He further states that just as a stable home has three basics- a firm foundation, a well- connected framework, and a roof that does not leak, so also a stable healthy, successful marriage has three basics called the 3 C’s: character, communication and companionship. All requires work to be successful.

Dr. Covey believes that a relationship, like a home, becomes unstable when any part of its structure is not sound. For example, a low trust character (the foundation) weakens the communication (the framework), making it less effective. This in turn, causes the companionship (the roof) to be self-centered and not provide the protection necessary to sustain the relationship in challenging times.

Covey said that stable relationships like stable homes are built on a foundation of high- trust character. This strong foundation creates a safe environment that promotes and supports a framework of effective communication. With these in place the protective roof of service-oriented unselfish companionship is assured.

To learn more about ways to promote a healthy marriage contact Ethen Gillespie at the Building Strong Families office at 662-615-0033 or 662-769-1723. Building Strong Families is a federally funded grant awarded to the Starkville School District’s Department of Family Centered Programs.