Making Love Last Foreverby Gary Smalley
From first attraction to lifelong commitment, Gary's proven techniques and practical advice show you how to pursue and keep the love you want, and how to energize your relationship with enduring, passion-filled love.See more details below
From first attraction to lifelong commitment, Gary's proven techniques and practical advice show you how to pursue and keep the love you want, and how to energize your relationship with enduring, passion-filled love.
- Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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Making Love Last Forever
By Gary Smalley
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 1996 Gary Smalley
All rights reserved.
Love's Best-Kept Secret
If I were to ask the question: "What is human life's chief concern?" one of the answers we should receive would be: "It is happiness." How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness, is in fact for most ... at all times the secret motive of all they do, and of all they are willing to endure. —William James
Will our love last forever? It's the hope of every starry-eyed bride and groom who clasp hands and say, "I do."
If your marriage is anything like mine, a few years after the wedding, you or your spouse—or both of you—were wondering why you had ever chosen this person to live with. "Till death do us part"? Impossible! "To love and to cherish"? You've got to be kidding!
I take much of the blame for the first disastrous years of my marriage. I was a wounded young man who had learned wounding tactics from my wounded, angry father. I knew how to lash out, clam up, lecture, and get my own way. In response to my tirades, my wife, Norma, learned how to cope.
But for Norma and me ... something happened on the way to "forever." We discovered the principles I present in this book. We set a new course that has renewed our love and deepened our relationship. Today after thirty-one years of marrage, we are in love—with life and with each other.
Is it really possible to marry and then see that starry-eyed love actually get better? Yes.
Restoring a Wrecked Relationship
Whenever I see love win out in a marriage that looked hopeless, my confidence is increased, and I've found ways to help almost anyone stay in love despite impossible odds. Take this seemingly "shipwrecked" relationship:
Who would have thought that John and Sharon would reconcile and eventually enjoy a good marriage? It was eleven o'clock one night when the phone rang. Norma and I were already in bed. At the other end of the line was John, a popular, local business executive. He was locked in a major argument with his wife, Sharon, and the dispute was so fierce that he was glaring and saying things like, "I'm sick of trying. I want to get on an airplane and fly to another state. I just don't have any energy left to stay with this woman." Before he took such a drastic step, however, he was making this one last attempt to reach out for help. "Is there anything you can do for us?" he asked. "Can we come over tonight and talk with you?" Norma and I had a quick discussion, and we invited them to come over.
John and Sharon made their way to our home, and the argument continued in front of us. The issue they were facing was serious: John was addicted and out of control sexually, and to add insult to injury, he had given Sharon a sexually transmitted disease. She was nauseated by his behavior and disgusted with him.
Despite the gravity of the situation, a couple of things happened that night that are comical in hindsight—especially if you like seeing Murphy's law lived out. For instance, at one point in their arguing, Sharon kicked our coffee table, driving it toward me and causing it to cut my leg. At another point, Sharon was nearly breaking my fingers in an effort to get out of my grasp so she could run outside and attack John. (Norma had taken him into the front yard in the hope of cooling things down a bit.)
By 12:30 or 1:00 A.M. I had been beaten up, yelled at, and deprived of sleep, so I felt I had earned the right to say something to this couple. (They hadn't allowed us to give them any advice yet.) I began, "Well, as I've listened to both of you, I think there's something you can start working on even tonight."
But John looked at his watch and said, "I am so tired. I am so discouraged. I don't have any more energy. I've got to leave."
And with that they both left. I fell asleep that night thinking, This will never work out.
I share this extreme case because unfortunately more than 50 percent of the marriages in this country end in divorce—and it doesn't have to be that way. In time John and Sharon acted on most of the principles I've shared in these pages—and their relationship turned around. When things had cooled down, we met several more times, and we helped them connect with a counselor who specializes in their particular conflict. Finally John accepted the need to address the issues head-on with their counselor and with the help of a small support group. He came to understand that he had used illicit sex as medication for the pain of being hatefully rejected by his dad and of knowing his marriage relationship was weak. For her part, Sharon came to understand how her anger had blocked her ability to establish any type of meaningful relationship with John. She didn't understand how conflict can be the doorway to deeper intimacy.
Now, several years later, this couple whose relationship was so critically fractured is together and, believe it or not, they are in love. What's more, John and Sharon are helping other couples discover the joy they found as they made the midcourse adjustments that renewed their love.
I trust your marriage is far from being on the rocks. Maybe you're reading this book simply because you want to do everything you can to make a new marriage last a lifetime—or because you want to revive a love that seems a little off course. You can avert the loss of your love by heeding certain warnings and choosing to make small changes to get yourself back on course. Later I'll show you five important choices that can make the difference between disaster and a satisfying voyage.
Not long ago I was bowled over as I was reminded of how every aspect of my life is influenced by the choices I make. This particular wake-up call had to do with my physical condition, but the lesson I learned opened my eyes to these five choices.
The Lesson of the Titanic
When it comes to my blood-pumping heart, I know I'm a high-risk patient. My dad died of a heart attack in his fifties. One brother died of heart failure at fifty-one. My oldest brother had a massive heart attack at fifty-one and has since had another. Now that I'm fifty-five, my own medical exams have prompted the doctor to shake his head with concern.
For years, although I knew our family history, I chose to believe that I didn't need to pay much attention to the doctor's preventive (I called it drastic) advice, though at Norma's insistence I did occasionally get myself to the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, which specializes in heart-related matters. Recently I was in Texas for another exam. After all the tests had been completed, I sat in the doctor's office, listening and laughing, trying to make light of some of the results. Then I noticed that the doctor had a painting of a ship hanging on the wall. In a joking way, I pointed to it and said, "That's the Titanic, isn't it?"
The doctor didn't miss a beat. Playing along with my jovial mood, he nodded and said, "It's interesting that you'd bring that up. Do you know why I have it there?"
"No," I responded.
"Do you know much about the Titanic, Mr. Smalley?"
"No, I don't," I admitted, walking into his trap. I know it's at the bottom of the ocean; that's about it."
"Well," he explained, "the experienced captain of the Titanic was warned six separate times to slow down, change course, and take the southern route because icebergs had been sighted. But he ignored all six specific warnings because he was the captain, and he thought, This ship is unsinkable ..."
"I had no idea the ship received that many warnings," I said, still not seeing where he was leading me.
"... then rip—the ship hit the iceberg. It went down quickly and disastrously," he said. Then he leaned across his desk and looked me straight in the eye. "And how many times have you been warned about your heart?" he demanded.
"Lots of times," I replied weakly as his point struck home.
"And when will you take it seriously and change course?" he asked.
As a result of that conversation, I've made some basic lifestyle changes that have great potential for improving my health and prolonging my life. Almost anyone can make small adjustments if he or she believes it will make a lasting positive difference.
If you change course when warned, you can avoid disaster—and then celebrate the voyage. It's the strongest principle anyone can learn from the Titanic. And it's also the best-kept secret of making love last forever. If we tune our ears and eyes to the warnings, we can change much more than our life expectancy. Here in part 1 of this book, I give you my sighting of five icebergs that can sink your love forever. Only you can make the choice to heed those warnings and change the course of your voyage. In part 2, I'll share eight thick "steel" linings that will make it nearly impossible for your love boat to sink.
I've designed this book to help you stay in love with your mate but also to fall in love with life. What does loving life have to do with loving your spouse? Much of what you read in the first half of this book is based on this truth: For your love to last forever, you must be in love with life. Think in terms of the oxygen-mask instructions given by airline flight attendants. They say that passengers flying with children or others who need assistance should fasten their own masks first before trying to help someone else. If you don't make the choice to reach for oxygen for yourself, there's no point in your trying to help anyone else. You won't have the strength or ability to do it. That's how it is with love: Learn to love your own life first, and then you have the resources to give and receive love.
Your life or your marriage doesn't have to hit the rocks—the icebergs or immovable objects that can sink your love. Your discontent can be a warning you can heed. Change course. Avoid disaster. And celebrate your life and love together—a long and gratifying voyage.
Note what I didn't say. Love's best-kept secret is not change (or exchange) your spouse or change your job or change your address. It's change your own course. Even small changes in your behavior can lead to major changes in your life—no matter what your past, no matter how much pain you've plowed through. In the same way, even small personal changes can have enormous positive effects on your marriage, according to research on the crucial factors that keep a couple happily married. (Personally, this gives me great hope, because, though I'm calling for change, no one's talking about sainthood!)
You Can Choose to Get on Course
Do you want to know the deep satisfaction that comes from being in love? It's simple. It's your choice.
My choice? you're thinking. But you don't know what I've been through. You don't know what I have to live with. You don't know my mate!
I agree this may be a hard truth to swallow, because it also means you no longer have any excuse to be miserable! I hated the idea at first. For more than half my life, I would find all kinds of reasons why I wasn't fulfilled and in love. I could place blame with the best of them. Then, little by little after age thirty-five, I started seeing what so many had already said about our enjoyment of life and our love being in our own hands.
Someone who continually blames problems on others or on his or her circumstances becomes what author Stephen Covey calls "the reactive person." Reactive persons allow others to rob them of their quality of life.
Covey sees another group of people as proactive. They're ones who believe "as human beings we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions—our choices—not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen."
One of my favorite writers in this area is Dr. Harriet Goldhor Lerner. A chapter in her book The Dance of Anger could convince anyone that one's marital happiness is mostly in one's own hands. She also says that putting our energy into changing another person to enhance our own enjoyment of him or her is a solution that "never never works." If we focus our attention on adjusting someone else's life so we can find happiness, we fail to exercise the only power we have for enriching our own lives: the power to choose for ourselves. In short, here is the formula: (1) We can't change other people. (2) We can choose to make changes in ourselves. (3) As changes occur in ourselves, people around us usually adjust their responses and choices according to our new behavior.
If this seems too hard for you to take right now, please withhold judgment until you've finished the next few pages. Then see if it doesn't make more sense.
To flesh out this truth, let's look at someone who chose to take responsibility for his own emotional well-being. When Richard first came to see me, he was not a happy man. Picking up the phone to call a counselor was a first step in acknowledging that his dissatisfaction with life was a warning that something was wrong. He was frustrated, disappointed, and fearful things were never going to change. And yet a wee bit of hope for something better prompted some changes in his life.
Richard was in his fifties, a husband and dad, a classy dresser, and the president of his own large company. After more than thirty years of marriage to Gail, he'd grown tired of her nagging and hatefulness. But he had also grown tired of expecting Gail to change and meet his relational needs, as she had in the early days of their marriage. And even though he hated the thought, he was contemplating divorce. But before he took that drastic step, he sought out and acted on my advice.
After the usual counselor-client preliminaries, I asked what had brought him to me. He answered, "I'm aware of my part in messing up with my wife and kids. I've spent so much time building this company. Now I recognize that even though it's late, I want to have a better relationship with them. I'm very successful financially, but I'm not very happy, and neither are my family members. I don't know how to go about changing things, especially after being the way I've been for so many years."
Then he added something highly significant. "I didn't have much of a relationship with my own dad," he said. "In fact, he was always too busy for me, just the way I've been with my family."
Right there was a key factor in Richard's past failure as a husband and father. His own dad had never built a close relationship with him, and that pattern probably had gone back for several generations. So Richard's model as a parent was weak, and Richard didn't get the opportunity to see a man loving his wife. His grandfather's example as parent and husband got passed from generation to generation. As a result, Richard didn't know any other approach.
If Richard had been hooked on the blame game (where you "win" by finding someone else to blame for everything wrong in your life), he could have stopped his growth at this point. With a little bit of new insight, he could have said, "Okay, it's mostly my father's fault!" Or he could have said, as so many workaholic people do, "But I was providing for my family! I did it all for them so they could have a better standard of living. If they can't understand my good motives, it's their problem. Hang this 'relationship' bit."
If Richard had chosen to blame his father for his own problems, he might have had some justification. Research has shown that people raised under strong, controlling, and rejecting parents may, in turn, reject and control their own families. But Richard was no longer looking for a scapegoat. He took responsibility for his response to the way he had been parented. At this point Richard learned two powerful truths:
1. What I am today is because of the choices I've made in the past.
2. I am 100 percent responsible for all the choices I've made.
Richard began to distance himself from the age-old rationalization: The devil made me do it. Richard no longer was going to empower his father to ruin his relationships. He took responsibility for himself. He said things like, "No more, Dad; I'm not going to follow your example any longer. I'm going to discover what I need to do for myself and for my wife and children and finally find satisfaction in these vital areas of my life." All he needed was some guidance to start avoiding the icebergs and sail toward warmer seas.
Excerpted from Making Love Last Forever by Gary Smalley. Copyright © 1996 Gary Smalley. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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