When I got introduced to Life Leadership, and decided to start my own business, one of the things I did not expect to gain was an amazing marriage. It was a business, I expected to gain business knowledge, hopefully make some money, gain my time back, but I did not expect to have the marriage I do today.
Our marriage is at where it is today because of two things; the influence of other great marriages like Orrin and Laurie Woodward and Claude and Lana Hamilton, and because the books that we have read because of our involvement in Life Leadership. Our marriage was never terrible, but it was never as good as it is today, and it only grows stronger everyday.
When I thought about marrying Raylene, I thought that everything would be smooth sailing. We would cook our meals together, go do things together, be happy all the time and never have any real problems. We wouldn’t have to put any real effort in, everything would just work out. That image of a marriage I realized, was a mirage. It wasn’t real and it didn’t exit anywhere. The reason why marriage doesn’t work like that is because a marriage is a relationship between two people who aren’t perfect, have different personalities and different needs and desires.
Early on in our time in business Claude recommended I read Personality Plus by Florence Littauer. While this book can be applied to any relationship in your life (friend, child, co-worker, bank teller), I found it especially enlightening in our marriage. I discovered that Raylene had phlegmatic tendencies which made her very easygoing. I thought that was a great trait for my wife to have, until reading further and learning that “Peaceful Phlegmatic never wants to cause trouble and will quietly accept the status quo rather than ask for a change.” I would ask Raylene what she would like to do, or like to eat and because she didn’t want to upset me, would just let me pick. Often however, I would pick something she didn’t want and she would be upset and I didn’t even know why! Learning about her personality helped me understand her so much better, and made our marriage stronger the more I applied what I was reading.
Another book we read early on was The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book was huge in breaking the mirage I thought was our marriage. I would love Raylene the way I would want to be loved but it never really made a huge impact. I never understood why she didn’t appreciate it as much as I did when I would do the dishes for her; because my love language is acts of service, and her’s isn’t. This book is where I learned that I really had to put in some hard work to make our marriage as successful as it could be. Chapman says “I am convinced that keeping the emotional love tank full is as important to a marriage as maintaining the proper oil level is to an automobile. Running your marriage on an empty ‘love tank’ may cost you even more than trying to drive your car without oil.” To make Raylene feel loved I have to consciously make an effort to speak her love language; spend quality time with her and give her gifts. This isn’t always easy, as it is so much easier to just love her in my love languages, but loving her in my love languages is no where near as effective in keeping her love tank full.
Claude recommended another book to me to read, The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley. One of the most critical points I took from this book is that “though we can choose how we will participate in relationships, we have no choice about whether we will participate in them… Our only real choice is whether we will work to make our relationships healthy; whether we will do things that hinder or enhance them.” Gary talks about how relationships are a natural part of human life, we have no choice about having relationships, it is in our DNA. But we have to work to make those relationships thrive. This is what I had never understood. I thought people got married because they loved each other and they didn’t have to put in a big effort to make the relationship work, it just happened by itself. The illusive mirage.
I have learned so much through my years being involved in Life Leadership and through all the materials available. These books have been invaluable to me as their effect on our marriage cannot be measured. Having a good marriage is a lot of work, some days you may not feel like putting in the extra effort; folding the load of laundry, spending the extra 20 minutes talking to your spouse, complimenting them on an accomplishment, but those little bits of extra effort accumulated over time is what makes a marriage great. Like Orrin Woodward always says, “I can’t promise you easy, but I can promise you worth it.”