Like most relationships, ours has experienced some very tough chapters. There were times we didn’t think we’d make it together, times we wanted to call it quits, and even times we haven’t liked one another. But through the trauma, loss, grief, infidelity, and broken promises we’ve inflicted and experienced together, we never called it quits. Considering we’ve both ended other relationships for far more trivial transgressions, it’s impressive we have always maintained our bond despite any pain we endured. It wasn’t until a good friend Dave dropped this knowledge bump on me that I realized the success to our marriage has been simple all along. Dave told me the secret to his relationship success was, “We choose each other, every day.”
It seems a simple thing to choose each other, “no duh, we’re together aren’t we?” Yes but being together, is much different than choosing each other. Making the choice to get down on one shaky knee and proclaim your love by asking your spouse to marry you was a choice. Hearing your mate profess his love and devotion and responding with a “yes” was also a choice. Those were simply choices you made that day. Because tomorrow is a new day, with new problems, and new hurdles to overcome together. There will be new opportunities to grow together and new chances to grow apart.
Choosing to marry someone and making promises may be the first step in a lasting relationship, but once that’s done the real work begins. Because choosing each other every day for the rest of your life is a different topic entirely. People stay together for all sorts of reasons. Many times the glue that holds them together can be toxic and they maintain an unhealthy dynamic simply because nobody leaves. Addictions, finances, dependency, child custody, etc. are all things that keep failed relationships together. The problems created by a divorce can often feel more overwhelming than living unhappily together. So what are successful relationships doing? What is their recipe for success? Why do they stay together?
Well, first lets look at why they don’t. We as people don’t stay together simply because we said we would. We don’t stay married because we assembled all our family and friends together in one place, spent obscene amounts of money on the event, rattled off some fancy vows, and put an overly priced rock on his/her finger. With 2019’s divorce rate held at 40-50% it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that simply saying “I do” doesn’t ensure a lasting marriage. Most families have felt the devastating impact of a separation or divorce at some point.
Don’t get me wrong, your word should mean something. A promise made should not be broken. When I promised to Aubrey I’d always love her and take care of her, I meant it. I also meant it the first time I said it to my previous wife. “Whoa dude, you just threw yourself under the bus… that you were driving!” I’ll gladly throw myself under the bus if it helps get this point across. Because unfortunately, I would have to fall into the category of spouses that has broken a promise. Though I have regrets, and I have grown from mistakes made, the fact remains I’ve screwed up. Sure fault can be dished out in may directions, but I’m only accountable to my own actions, and they haven’t always been good decisions.
I know I’m not standing alone on the island of people that failed at marriage. Humans, we make promises… and we break them. No? Take a look around. How many people are you aware of in your sphere of influence that are cheating or lying to their spouse? People you know that have broken promises, hurt feelings, and did not live up to their vows? Yes of course we should work to keep our promises and live a life full of integrity. But when we don’t, and clearly we don’t always, is that then the measure of our bond? The ability to hold to a promise made a year ago? Five years ago? Or even twenty years ago? Is relying on that promise really working for us? No, the answer is it is not. If people were able to maintain that principle, divorce wouldn’t exist, everyone would live up to their promises. The hard truth of the matter is, a relationship dies when people stop continuing to choose each other. We can talk about what sounds nice in the storybook narrative society has written on what a marriage “should look like”. Or we can talk about reality and what’s actually happening in our relationships. As the age old expression goes, “actions speak louder than words” and it’s never rang more true than in our own relationships.
Successful relationships stay together because they choose each other every day. Not just that one time they chose each other in front of family and friends, but every single day. It’s a matter of setting an intention, recognizing the worth of your partner, expressing it, and giving him/her reasons to continue choosing you. It seems like such basic advice, but living it and saying it are two different things. So often we get complacent and assume our spouse will stay in love with us because they said they would all those years ago. To rely on that promise alone is a recipe for disaster.
Are you truly finding ways, every day, to show your spouse you’re deserving of their love and affection? Do you at least recognize the fact that if you don’t continue giving your spouse reasons to choose you, your relationship will suffer and possibly lead to a divorce if not corrected? Shouldn’t we be more deliberate in recognizing that choice more often? We need to come to terms with the fact that we make that choice EVERY SINGLE DAY! Let me say that again, every day you are still with someone, it’s because you choose to be. You are in control of your life. You could quit, walk away, leave the relationship, people do it every day. But you didn’t today.
Let’s play a game. If I gave you these two options, which would you choose?
- A) At the end of ten years, I’ll give you a million dollars. You won’t see or hear from me much during that time. I’ll be around, but I won’t invest much effort in our friendship. You’ll just have to trust that in ten years, I keep my promise.
- B) I deposit $273.97 into your bank account every day for the next ten years (totaling $1M). You can’t touch the money until ten years is up, but you own the account and can see the deposits being made every day.
Not really a difficult choice to make right? Of course you’d choose B! It feels more secure because you can see I’m showing up for you, I’m trustworthy, and I’m investing in my promise every single day. The promise has been made in either scenario, but which option shows I’m keeping it? Relationships are the same! Are you investing daily or did you make a promise and now you’re going to sit back and let time tick on by without putting action behind it?
I’m not bashing marriage vows by any means, I think they serve a purpose and set an intention. I’m merely suggesting that too often we rely on them as a means to hold our relationships together. When times get tough we site them as a reason to stay together rather owning our actions. I’m also not implying relationships are all on such thin ice every day that one wrong move and we risk losing it all. (Although, an argument could be made that’s also entirely possible depending on the way you’re living.) What I’m saying is, we need to abandon the idea that we reached the finish line when our spouse agreed to spend their life with us, it’s only the beginning. Now the real test of your relationship begins, how long will you continue to choose one another?
So if it’s true that we choose our partner every day, shouldn’t we be placing an emphasis on giving him/her a reason to choose us? Hey we all have good days and bad, and relationships are about balance. Let’s face it, we aren’t always on top of our game. But why not strive to be? Why not find a new reason to have your partner choose you every single day? Whether it’s through a kind word, a loving deed, a gentle touch, whatever love language your partner feels best, why wouldn’t we work towards finding new reasons to be chosen? Wouldn’t it feel good to have your partner desire to give you reasons to continue choosing him/her? Sure sounds like a lot of emotional talk coming from a guy right? Damn straight it is!
Fellas, this is aimed at you. Men are every bit as capable of expressing feelings as women. It may not come as naturally, let’s face it, as a whole they’re more introspective and thoughtful than us. All women reading this are nodding their head in approval, and all men that have daughters are doing the same. After all, any guy that’s raised a daughter knows those angelic little creatures possess something special that our gender just doesn’t have. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn or be taught.
I lived most of my life with a “tough guy” mentality. My brother ingrained the words, “pain is weakness leaving your body” into my mind. I bought it and applied that theory to every aspect of my life. I thought crying was a show of weakness and expressing love felt like a feminine trait. I was programmed this way. I was raised idolizing Conan the Barbarian, Rambo, and Chuck Norris, I didn’t see those guys expressing their feelings to their spouses. It wasn’t until I grew up that I realized the foolishness in trying to live like a fictitious Hollywood character. Turns out, I’m a pretty emotional dude after all. Guys, take the time to lower your “tough guy” wall, and show her some genuine emotion. Thank her for choosing you and ask her if you’re doing enough to continue to be chosen. That isn’t weakness, it’s emotional intelligence and a desire to show your spouse you’re invested in her and your relationship. (Check out Five Ways to Empower Your Wife for more ways to show her you want to be chosen)
Knowing Aubrey could have the affection of a billion other men (or women) out there, but she chooses me, makes me feel like a god. I know what an amazing person she is, and being the target of her affection goes far beyond a boost to my ego. It gives me purpose. We spend so much time in the early phases of our relationships trying to get our partner to choose us, and when they do, we become complacent and the trajectory we were on slows to an idle. We allow the business of day to day life to impede our efforts and we get lazy. We need to adjust our thinking, change our perspective, and realize the narrative of the roles that society has written for our relationships have some flaws.
We only have this one life to live, and if you’ve attached yours to someone else’s, make your investment worthwhile. Give to something that matters, have pride in your spouse and what you’ve built together. Express it and continue giving one another reasons to make the choice to be together every single day.
I want to thank my dear friend Dave for truly opening my mind to this idea. Making a choice to be together every day was a concept he introduced me to and ever since then I’ve adjusted my thinking as it relates to my relationship. I always want to give Aubrey reasons to choose me each day, and I have you to thank for that shift in my thinking..