Monday, June 30, 2008

Keys To Lifelong Love (by Dr. James Dobson)

This advice is a bit too late for some of us but still it makes good readings. Anyway, you can pass on the tips to your children and grandchildren.

Keys To Lifelong Love

For anyone who is married, here are some straightforward recommendations that will increase the chance of living happily ever after.

A teacher once gave me some advice that I never forgot. He said, “Don’t marry the person you think you can live with. Marry the one you can’t live without.”

There’s great truth in this advice. Marriage can be difficult even when two people are passionately in love with one another, but it is murder when they don’t even have that foundation to build on.

Don’t marry someone who has characteristics that you feel are intolerable. You may plan to change him or her in the future, but that probably won’t happen. Behavior runs in deep channels that were cut during early childhood, and it is very difficult to alter them. In order to change a deeply ingrained pattern, you have to build a sturdy dam, dig another canal and reroute the river in new direction. That effort is rarely successful over the long haul. Therefore, if you can’t live with a characteristic that shows up during courtship, it may plague you for the rest of your life.

Do not marry impulsively! I can think of no better way to mess up your life than to leap into this critical decision without careful thought. Remember, the dating relationship is designed to conceal information, not reveal it. Both partners put on their best faces for the one they seek to attract. They guard secrets that might be a turn-off. Therefore, many newlyweds get a big surprise during the first year of married life. I suggest that you take at least a year to get beyond the fa├žade and into the inner character of the person.

Don’t get married too young. Making it as a family requires some characteristics that come with maturity, such as selflessness, stability and self-control. It’s best to wait for their arrival.

Finally, the ultimate secret of lifelong love is this: Simply put, the stability of marriage is a by-product of an iron-willed determination to make it work. If you choose to marry, enter into that covenant with the resolve to remain committed to each other for life. Never threaten to leave your mate during angry moments. Don’t allow yourself to consider even the possibility of divorce. Calling it quits must not become an option for those who want to go the distance.

Question: Do you believe love at first sight occurs between some people?

Answer: Though some readers will disagree with me, “love at first sight” is a physical and emotional impossibility. Why? Because love is much more than a romantic feeling. It is more than a sexual attraction or the thrill of the chase or a desire to marry someone. These are responses that can occur “at first sight” and they might even lead to the genuine thing in time. But those feelings are usually very temporary, and they do not mean the person who experiences them is “in love.” I wish everyone understood that fact!

The primary difference between infatuation and real love is where the emphasis lies. Temporary romantic attractions tend to be very selfish in nature. A person may say, “I can’t believe what is happening to me. This is the most fantastic thing I’ve ever experienced! I must be in love.” Notice that she’s not talking about the other person. She’s excited about her own gratification. Such an individual hasn’t fallen in love with someone else; she has fallen in love with love!

Genuine love, by contrast, is an expression of the deepest appreciation for another human being. It is an intense awareness of his or her needs and strengths and character. It shares the longings, hopes and dreams of that other person. It is unselfish, giving, and caring. And believe me, these are not attitudes one “falls” into at first sight, as though one were tumbling into a ditch.

I have developed a lifelong love for my wife, but it was not something I fell into. I grew into it, and that process took time. I had to know her before I could appreciate the depth and stability of her character – to become acquainted with the nuances of her personality, which I now cherish. The familiarity from which love has blossomed simply could not be generated on “some enchanted evening, across a crowded room.” One cannot love an unknown object, regardless of how attractive or sexy or nubile it is!

Question: Is it possible to love someone and not feel it?

Answer: It certainly is – because love is more than a feeling. It is primarily a decision. Married couples who misunderstand this point will have serious problems when the feeling of love disappears for a time. Couples who genuinely love each other will experience times of closeness, times when they feel apathetic, and times when they are irritated and cranky. That’s just the way emotions operate. What, then, will hold them steady as feelings bounce all over the landscape? The source of constancy is a commitment of the will. You simply make up your mind not to be blown off the limb by fluctuating and unreliable emotions.

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia and the Questions and Answers are extracted from “The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide” by Dr. James Dobson.

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