Family Holiday Survival Guide

The New Marriage - Part One of Four

By Dr. Linda Miles

If life is a journey across uncertain terrain, love is the mountain commanding the landscape. When you scale that mountain and survey the area, everything falls into place, and everything makes sense. You can see forever, and it all seems so simple. “Why did it take so long to get here?” you wonder.

From ground level, if you can even see the peak, obscured as it so often is by unsuitable weather and intervening hills, scaling love’s heights may seem an impossible task. Some people never set foot on the path; others fall by the wayside after encountering an obstacle or two. Still others settle for temporary respite, lured by the attractions of oases in an immense, empty desert. There is much to be said for the comfort afforded by casual relationships, but a watering hole cannot sustain life indefinitely, and sometimes what seemed an oasis turns out to be just a mirage.

No doubt there are many false starts, detours, and dead ends on life’s journey. There are pitfalls and jungles where fearsome beasts lie in wait, but there are also magnificent gardens where the sweet fruits of success, family, friends, good feelings and well-being proliferate. One can live and do well in such places, but life without true love and deep intimacy leaves one feeling somehow unfulfilled, somehow cheated.

The terrain may be rocky, but your age, gender, or sexual preference shouldn’t be obstacles. It helps if your heart has already been broken. Fixing a broken heart is easier than setting out on a journey blindfolded by inexperience.

Even after you’ve made your journey through the valley and emerged on the other side, you’ll encounter a certain adjustment period when you come to grips with your partner’s faults. You might get angry about those faults. You might not be able to accept that your partner isn’t the perfect person you imagined. To deal with this, another trip to the valley might be inevitable. However, once you’ve been there, it’s not nearly as big a drop-off as before, because you have the tools to cope and you won’t get stuck.

Because so many of our committed relationships are based on childhood expectations, we have little idea of what it takes to maintain a successful adult relationship. After experiencing the heights of early romantic love, most of us are ready to call it quits when faced with the rigors of daily living. We are unprepared for the journey it takes to reach lasting love. For those of us who believe in fairy tales, this new terrain is foreign and unmapped. No one has shown us how to traverse it, or given us directions on how to get there.

Through the ages there have been couples who, despite cultural barriers, have maintained a lived experience in their marriages. How have they accomplished this? Carl Jung believed that there is great wisdom in spiritual traditions, literature, and mythology. Most fortunate couples throughout the ages, who have learned to live according to these deeper truths, beat the odds. It has become clear to me through my own personal and professional experiences that there are some universal truths that provide a model for fulfilling relationships, regardless of programmed learning from childhood or cultural limitations. These truths transcend culture and our own limited egos.

Copyright 2005 Linda Miles Ph.D

Author, Dr. Linda Miles, is deeply committed to helping individuals and couples achieve rewarding relationships. She is an expert with a doctorate in Counseling Psychology, and has worked in the mental health field for over thirty years. She has been interviewed extensively on radio, TV, and in newspapers and magazines. Find more relationship ideas and relaxation techniques on her web site and in the award-winning book she co-authored, The New Marriage: Transcending the Happily-Ever-After Myth, and Train Your Brain: For Successful Relationships, CD.