In Hope of Happily Ever After

Communicating before and after you say 'I do' helps you make the leap to a stronger, happier marriage.


(Excerpted from Love Language by Erin Casey,, 4.11) 

In Hope of Happily Ever After

Every year, almost 4 million people pledge to love, honor and cherish  each other in ceremonies across the United States. “Almost all of these couples anticipate ‘living happily ever after,’ ” Chapman writes in his  latest book, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. “No one gets married hoping to be miserable or to make their spouse miserable. … People do not get married planning to divorce.” Chapman believes divorce is often the effect of poor planning and  lack of understanding about what marriage means. Individuals plan for  their careers, families, finances and vacations, but rarely do they have  a plan for marriage. Perhaps that’s because they wander into this  life-altering arrangement while intoxicated by the effects of what  Chapman calls “euphoric love.” You know the feeling: Your stomach does a  flip of excitement every time you see your true love, your heart beats wildly when you hold hands, you feel an electric jolt when you kiss. It’s often while in this he/ she-can-do-no-wrong phase that people pledge undying love to one another. The trouble is that the effects of  euphoric love are temporary. “The euphoric experience we typically call falling in love has an average lifespan of two years,” Chapman says. When the feeling of euphoria wears off, you suddenly have a little more clarity about the person with whom you’ve committed to spending your life. “Before, you saw them as a perfect person. Now you see them as a real person, a human with strengths and weakness. Most couples are not prepared for that,”  he says. First things first. If you’re not yet married, come to grips with the  fact that the euphoria won’t last forever … and that’s OK. Enjoy it  while it lasts, but realize that something better could be around the  corner—if you plan for it. Having spent the past 35 years counseling  couples who were blindsided by the realities of housework, conflicting  work schedules, debt, parenting and in-laws, Chapman says, “It is my conviction that many of these struggles could have been avoided had the couple taken the time to prepare more thoroughly for marriage.” How, exactly, does one prepare for marriage? It sounds like a  no-brainer, but the place to start is in getting to know the other  person. Find out what your sweetheart thinks about politics, debt, religion and faith, charitable giving, whether they want children or pets or pizza every Wednesday night for the rest of their lives. What was their childhood like? What does success mean to them? Do they like  sports, movies, going out with friends, or staying in and enjoying a  quiet evening at home? Talk about your likes and dislikes. Share your  thoughts about how the details of housework, financial planning,  child-rearing and caring for elderly parents should be handled. And, by  the way, if you’re already married and you don’t know the answer to any  of the previous questions, there’s no time like the present to learn  about your mate. Creating a plan for life together will put you on the  right track. 

What to Do When the Buzz Wears Off

Maybe you’re already married and that feeling of euphoria is long  gone. You’re in the thick of real life—bills, busy schedules and  babysitters. It’s at this point that “for better or for worse” takes on  new meaning. Under the effects of the love drug, “for worse” seemed  impossible. You might have even ignored admonitions from others who  advised you to plan if you want a great marriage. Like a teenager, you felt invincible. We’re in love; what could go wrong? you thought. As it turns out, plenty. But the maladies of marriage aren’t always rooted in major disasters  such as terminal illness or bankruptcy. Real life creeps in, and suddenly you and your spouse are bickering about whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher. “Couples find themselves arguing because they do  not have a plan to deal with things like that,” Chapman says. The  day-to-day pressures of life combined with the fear caused by losing  that loving feeling stress couples out. “They say, ‘Oh no! I don’t feel what I used to feel.’ ”

Additionally, there’s a tendency to get busy and distracted. “I think  often couples who have been married for a number of years, who have  children and have careers, begin to realize they’ve drifted apart,” Chapman says. “When you neglect a marriage, you begin drifting, and you never drift together. You always drift apart. If you don’t make an  effort to reconnect, you’ll drift further and further apart.” But that  doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. On the contrary, Chapman says once  you get past the tingles of early love, it’s possible to create a  stronger, happier marriage: “If you learn to speak each other’s love  language, you can keep the emotional connection alive. And that is far  deeper than those temporary, euphoric feelings.” Even better, it’s never too late to rekindle that connection. Chapman  says he has worked with a number of couples who finally learned to  speak one another’s love language after 20 or 30 years of marriage: “Many couples have told me they realized their marriages weren’t super  warm, but they didn’t fight either. They’d say, ‘We were like roommates.  But when we started speaking each other’s love languages, it changed  our marriage.’ Regardless of your stage of marriage, understanding your  spouse’s love language has the potential of greatly enhancing the  relationship.” 

Now You’re Speaking My Language

In his best-selling book The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, Chapman defines love languages as the “five ways people speak and understand emotional love.” Take a look at the abbreviated definitions, and see if  you can identify your love language. 

Words of Affirmation:

Words matter. This person treasures hearing, “I love you.” Honest  compliments and praise mean a great deal, and insults or harsh words are  taken to heart. 

Quality Time:

This person wants your undivided attention. The gift of your time is worth more than any material present you could give. 

Receiving Gifts:

From trinkets and flowers to diamond rings and season tickets, this  person feels loved when you present them with a token of your affection. 

Acts of Service:

Doing household chores or helping out in the home office is, to this person, the equivalent of saying, “I adore you.” 

Physical Touch:

A gentle hand on the shoulder, a peck on the cheek, a warm embrace or simply sitting beside this person makes them feel loved. Understanding your spouse’s love language is the first step to  connecting. “Seldom do a husband and wife speak the same love language,” Chapman says. “We naturally speak our own love language. But if your  love language is different from your spouse’s love language, you’re  missing them. You may be sincere, but you’re not really touching their  heart.” Once you understand your mate’s love language, start using it. But be  warned, you may have some difficulty at first. “If you grew up in a  home where affirming words were seldom spoken, it may be hard to speak  words of affirmation,” Chapman says. The same principle applies to the  language of physical touch if you grew up without a lot of hugs and  hand-holding or to the language of receiving gifts if you’re especially  frugal. Chapman’s advice: Take baby steps. For example, if your mate’s love language is words of affirmation, start by looking for a few phrases in a magazine or book; listen for  kind words spoken by other people. When you’re alone, stand in front of a mirror and say those phrases aloud. “Then you can pick one of the phrases and say it to your spouse when they’re not looking at you … then  you can run!” Chapman says with a chuckle. If your spouse’s love language is physical touch, but you’re not a touchy-feely person, start small. If you need to, write down a few  potential touches: a hand on the shoulder, a pat on the back, reaching  over and putting your hand on their leg while driving. “Pick out one  that seems easier for you and do it,” Chapman says. “Over time, you can  learn how to touch, even if you didn’t grow up receiving a lot of  touch.” The more you practice any of the languages, the more natural they will feel for you. “The good thing is that it’s extremely rewarding, and  any of these languages can be learned.” Ideally, both partners will make an effort to speak the other’s love  language. But that may not always be the case, such as in times of  stress or emotional rifts. Still, it’s important to speak your spouse’s  love language even if the favor isn’t returned at the time. “Love is the choice to reach out to the other person no matter how  they reciprocate. You may even want to ask your spouse, ‘On a scale of  one to 10, how much love do you feel from me?’ Then ask, ‘What can I do  to make it a 10?’ Before long they may ask you the same question,” Chapman says. “Love is a way of life. Love is a part of who you are so that when a person encounters you, they’re going to feel love. The reality is many times people may reciprocate, but that is not the  objective. The objective is to enhance others’ lives.” Make that your  objective with your spouse, and you might just find that you are happily ever after. 

For wisdom in putting these things into practice in your marriage, call Life Counseling in Lafayette at: 337-704-7550 and make an appointment with our counselor.

(premarital counseling, marriage counseling in Lafayette)