Marriage--Who Shall I Mary?

"A man shall leave his father and mother

and hold fast to his wife,

and they shall become one flesh."

Genesis 2:24

Most youth wonder with whom they will spend their lives. They ask, "How will I know if I really love somebody?"

Psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan's a definition of love serves as a benchmark for answering this question. You may remember that he says, "A state of love exists when the satisfaction and security of the other person becomes as significant to you as your own satisfaction and security."

I like this definition because it provides an ongoing personal metric for gauging a love relationship. In some ways it appears to be counter-cultural to what is called a "Me, Me, Me" generation. But sincere love for the other person coupled with concern for his or her satisfaction and security is necessary for personal happiness.

Lena Dunham (one who appears to understand contemporary culture and is a two-time winner of Golden Globes), has her TV character comment on her two-day experience in a loving family relationship, "What I didn't realize is that I was lonely in such a deep, deep way. I want what everyone wants, to be happy."

Mentors and parents likely would agree that Sullivan's definition of love is relevant today because they understand that if love is to be long-lasting, it requires that individuals actively seek the satisfaction and security of the other person. It is that security that provides a foundation for personal growth, for self-expansion, for happiness.

Happy marriages are based on a love commitment rather than feelings because, although powerful, feelings are temporary. Beauty fades. Hormones quiet down. According to many studies and hundreds of my own counseling cases, it appears clear that sustainable happiness in marriage requires a love commitment described by Sullivan.

Marriage Facts to Consider

Young adults need to understand some basic relational truths so that they can enter a relationship with their eyes wide open.

* The U.S. Census Bureau records that around 50 percent of marriages in the United States and other developed nations end in divorce.

* In a 2012 study that analyzed 172 married couples over the first eleven years of marriage, UCLA psychologists reported that a deep level of commitment is a good predictor of lower divorce rates and fewer problems in marriage.

* Research suggests the more couples experience "self-expansion" in marriage (where both partners encourage the self-development of their spouse), the more committed and satisfied they are in the relationship.

* Good marriage relationships are built on learning to listen and talk well.

* Looking for new topics that interest both you and your partner leads to interesting discussion.

* Laughing together is strong relational glue.