What does marital communication have to do with the word ‘forever’: a popular word on YouTube with more than 1 million hits. A quick scan suggests that it is most often associated with music across a broad range of genres. My suspicion is that most of those songs relate to one person’s love for another and that the word that comes to mind is the word “forever.”
So, when we marry we say things like “till death do we part” and “through sickness and health, for richer or poorer” and more. The words forever, love, marriage, family have traditionally been bound together.
Yet, we now live in a culture where the words are broken out into conditional sentences. Often words like ‘forever’ are rendered emotional sentiments that have little basis in reality.
Part of this is anchored in our experience. “Nothing lasts forever” is not only a colloquial phrase; it is the truth. Then, there are the things that were supposed to last forever, meaning, a person’s lifetime. When those lifetime things end through death we all understand that the phrase is true: nothing does last forever.
On the other hand, when children see their parents divorce the sense of permanence and stability engendered by lifelong commitments is challenged to reorient itself to words like disposable, temporary, and transient. So, we do what we can to assure each other that our commitment to each other is ‘forever’ while we work out the pre-nuptual agreements…just in case. So many couples, now, are foregoing the forever commitment of marriage and opting to live in the same house to enjoy the sweetness of commitment without having made ‘the’ commitment to each other.
Of course, the fear of any forever commitment to someone else entails an acceptance of responsibility that can be severely tested by a car accident, an unfortunate diagnosis, or a mid-life wanderlust. Perhaps one reason for not wanting to make those kinds of forever commitments is that we have seen too many failures coupled with our desire to avoid the pain of disappointment and regret.
The reality is that there are no risk-free commitments, nor is there an insurance policy to protect us from emotional and psychological pain. At the same time there are ways to increase the probabilities for success and preventive measures that can be taken to reduce the likelihood of dissolution when the times get tough…and those times will come. The pain that will come in interpersonal relationships can provide the impetus for doing the things that will deepen and enrich our appreciation and love for each other if we take advantage of the tools that will open the door to healing and growth.
Among the most useful predictors of success or failure can be found in the basics of communication. If we can refine and develop the skills needed to talk about tough issues we can navigate our ways through other potential trouble-spots such as financial management, religious beliefs, familial relationships, and parenting philosophies. Conversely, if the art of good communication and conflict resolution skills are not built into a fledgling relationship early in a couple’s life together, these areas will predictably become problem areas later on.
So, while there are no guarantees for success in relationships it is still possible to make ‘forever’ promises when you know you have taken care of increasing the probabilities for success. Coaching in basic communication skills can help and there are wonderful resources available to help people along the way to understanding and appreciation of our similarities and differences so that the whole becomes greater than just the sum of its parts.