Mel Schwartz, LCSW

#073: Your Best Chance at a Successful Marriage

Episode 073 of the Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz exposes what’s wrong with most marriage vows… and reveals the right approach to your vows — and to all committed relationships — that will give your union the best chance to succeed.

Listen to learn…

    • Why promises in wedding vows will almost certainly fail
    • How to phrase our wedding vows with growth and mutual transparency in mind
    • Why it’s a mistake to put our best foot forward
    • What most successful marriages and committed relationships have in common

Have you considered how to give your marriage or committed relationship a fighting chance? Can you think of ways you might? Let me know in the comments!

Want to watch this episode?

Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #073

Hello everybody and welcome to today’s episode.

Just last week I was sitting listening to the wedding vows of this beautiful young couple in their early thirties heading off toward this wonderful excitement  and a great adventure of a marriage, perhaps a future family and I listened to these vows.

I’m going to love you forever. I will cherish you and value you and respect you forever.

I looked around at those seated in the wedding, the relatives and the friends of this beautiful young couple, smiles on their faces, and here were my thoughts. Oh boy, good luck. Maybe five, 10% chance of them actually achieving and sustaining that for any period of time. Meaning, passion, love,  honoring, cherishing, excitement, connection. All the things that brought them together are not likely going to survive for the length of the marriage. How tragically sad but what a myth is going on here.

Why do we fall out of love? Why does passion die? And why are we pretending that these things are not likely going to happen and sending and launching this couple off into life thinking that they will.

We’re all conspiring. It’s a conspiracy of silence here which is no, we want the love to continue. What do we have to do to make this, this union, this partnering, thrive, navigate what’s going to come in front of them. We cannot succeed in relationship, committed relationship or marriage at the same time that we ignore the reality and ask, what do we have to do to survive?

You know, it’s kind of like, if you have a kid in school, let’s say high school and they’re getting Cs and C minuses and you’re giving them the speech about you need to do better and they come to you one day and they say, mom, dad, I’m going get an A in this course. You say, that’s great. How are you going to do it? They shrug their shoulders and they say, I don’t know but I’m going to do it.

That won’t work. It won’t work to say I will love you and honor you forever if we are not prepared to learn the things we need to learn to thrive in committed relationship. You can’t get a driver’s license without passing a road test and yet we go ahead and launch into committed relationships without any  education. This is terribly, terribly tragic. It makes absolutely no sense. On occasions, rare occasions, I have couples coming to me for premarital counseling or even if they’re not getting married, they’ve decided to move in together and declare their commitment in a relationship and they want to learn the skills and the insights that they’re going to need to develop and demonstrate and share with each other throughout their relationship. Bravo. They just increased their odds of success by maybe fifty percent.

As you’ve heard me say before, the fact that half of marriages end in divorce? Smaller problem. The larger problem is that the majority of intact marriages or committed relationship over a period of time begins to wither. Only a small percentage of committed relationships continue to thrive down the road. That’s a staggering staggering rate of  failure. We don’t permit that failure in business. We cannot permit it in our relationships.

The costs are enormous. The emotional devastation. The impact on children that you may have. Who profits from this miserable, horrible descent into frustration into conflict into disharmony. Well, pharmaceutical companies profit to the drugs that may be prescribed to you, matrimonial attorneys may  profit but no one else does.

The first problem is  that we deprioritize the relationship once we secure the relationship. There’s a turning away. Going back to the wedding. Well, the focus on the wedding plans, the honeymoon, the seating plans. We’re not discussing with each other the valuable, absolutely essential things that we need to know about each other. We don’t even ask the questions like, have you ever had your heart broken?  How did you deal with that? What are your fears? What did you learn from watching your parents’ relationship? What are the things about you that you’d be embarrassed if I knew? Share them with me now.

We can’t put our best foot forward. We need to put our actual real self forward. We need to become comfortable with vulnerability and not defend against  it. Nobody ever taught us the  emotional skills around intimacy, the communication skills that we need to learn to transcend falling into the right versus  wrong argument. Understanding the validating each other’s feelings doesn’t mean I agree with you. It means I care how you feel. If I don’t care how you feel how we ever going to thrive?

This is complex but it is learnable. It is teachable. A relationship that’s going to thrive doesn’t mean a relationship that never has problems or challenges. The measure of a relationship is not how good is it when it’s good. It’s how do we handle ourselves when things are rough and challenging.

So let’s come back to those marriage vows. I will love you forever. I will honor you forever. What we should be saying is I would like to love you forever and honor you forever. Now, what do I need to learn to accomplish those goals? What do you need to learn to accomplish those goals? We have to stop being naive. Again, the impact is just horrible and insidious. We don’t have to pay this price.

There’s nothing more valuable in life than thriving in our closest relationships but we don’t. We have to come out of this mythology, relationship it’s an art form. I call it the art of relationship. It’s not a rule book. It’s not about the six steps to this and the eight steps to that. A relationship is alive, it’s dynamic, and it’s evolving. So, you take two people who commit to each other in a relationship. Those two people shouldn’t stagnate nor should the relationship stagnate. The challenges in a relationship become opportunities for growth. My growth and your growth. If we think of a relationship as two individuals engaged in their own process of growing and evolving. I call it becoming rather than a fixed state of being it’s a process of becoming.

If we look at a relationship is a process of becoming then those marriage vows, they have merit to them. There’s an opportunity and chance that those marriage vows, those commitments can work. We have to get past the emptiness of these words and ask the hard questions.

Please before you  enter into a committed relationship or a marriage, before you have children, ask yourselves, am I engaged in this process of learning to the best of my ability how to communicate with understanding and compassion and empathy, how to get out of my own way, how not to default to right versus wrong so I can put my money where my mouth is and make my very best effort for this relationship to thrive so you can thrive and I can thrive and
those around us can.

You can make those marriage vows come true. At least you can make those marriage vows stand a much better chance of succeeding. It requires much more than lip service. It requires new learning. It’s the most rewarding learning you can ever do. So please, it’s never too late. Get started.

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