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3.4 Being Good to Each Other

After three decades of marriage, a couple we will call Gloria and Matthew felt that their marriage was empty. Communication was non-existent, there was little or no affection, and there was no motivation to work on the marriage. They had promised to remain married to the end of their lives, so divorce was not an option. Matthew, feeling isolated and alone, felt there was no way to work on his marriage and gave up on it. He could not picture being married to Gloria in heaven. Still, he realized that even though his marriage was at a dead end, he still could strive to improve himself. Even though he could not really love her, he could treat her with respect. Gloria felt estranged from Matthew, and was certain she did not want to be with him after death. Still, she believed that he would be married to someone there. Gloria thought, "I can take care of Matthew for the sake of his future partner in heaven. After all, it could be a long time before I get to heaven and find my true partner, and in the mean time I want someone to take care of him for me." Neither Matthew nor Gloria saw any possibility of their marriage improving, but even though they could not love each other, they had each separately decided as least to be good to the other.

After six months they were having a conversation with a friend who casually said, “You really don’t know if you will be married to each other in heaven.” Immediately they looked at each other with a flood of affection, and Gloria burst into tears, throwing her arms around Matthew. She realized that love had returned. Matthew too, felt a renewal of love. They have had a couple of decades of very happy marriage since then.

This couple found a secret to happiness that has helped many other couples. If you focus on what your partner isn’t doing for you, you will probably find only resentment. If you focus on what you can do for your partner, it will lead to happiness. The book Married Love says that partners who truly love each other have “a mutual desire of the mind and heart to do the other every good” (ML 180). Even if there isn’t a strong feeling of love and romance, just deciding to do for your partner “every good” can set the stage for the fire to be rekindled.

The task for this stage is to do for each other every good. Meet as many of your partner’s needs as you can, and identify hurtful habits that need to change. It might be helpful to make a list of good things you can do for your partner and see how many you can check off (without “keeping score” by expecting your partner to pay you back). Just focus on the good you can do.