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Partners and friends

Posted: Monday, Mar. 30, 2009

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Planning a wedding is exciting. You and your fiancé are embarking on a whole new future together. But when the wedding is over and the guests have gone home, how will you create a marriage that lasts? Most experts say that the single most important element of a happy and satisfying marriage is the quality of the friendship. But how is deep friendship formed and nurtured?

First, it is important to realize that marriage unites two separate, whole people who retain their uniqueness, even while being in partnership. Gary Zukov, bestselling author of “The Seat of the Soul,” describes marriage as a “spiritual partnership not separate from life.” Cathleen Medwick, contributing writer for O Magazine, says marriage is “looking out in the same direction instead of always staring into each other’s eyes.”

Second, partners must have a true respect for how each person deals with the world. This means understanding and respecting each other’s approach to family, friends, money, work, leisure activities and spiritual life.

So how do you develop this kind of deep friendship? Before you walk down the aisle, ask each other some important questions: How do we each view time, work and money? What are our core values of family, health, sexuality, spirituality and lifestyle? Do we laugh together? Do we have shared interests and activities? Do we feel free to express ourselves with each other? Are we ready to accept and share each other’s world? And do we value our relationship more than individual issues that may come up over the course of a lifetime together?

One of the most common reasons couples cite for a marriage gone wrong is “growing apart.” This might seem inconceivable as you plan for your special day, but change in a marital relationship is inevitable, and change breeds conflict. As each partner is allowed to grow and change, the relationship must grow and change, too.

Surprisingly, happily married couples often have as many unresolved problems as those who are unhappy. The distinction is that they are able to keep their differences in perspective; they don’t let arguments get out of hand, because they value the relationship more than the issues. By nurturing their close friendship, couples can sustain their relationship through the hard times and thrive in the good times.

Pepper Schwartz, Ph.D., author of “Peer Marriage,” says “friendships form most naturally when people are involved in each other’s lives.” They share laughter and tears, joy and sorrow. They realize that life is not just about their relationship, but about their shared world. On that beautiful wedding day, no one can guarantee that a marriage will last. But by building a strong friendship based on sharing, respect and laughter, you are on the road to living the marriage of your dreams.

Read more of our Planning Articles.

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