In preparing for marriage many couples possess a romantic idealism of what marriage might be like. And while the spirit of romance continues long into married life, couples realise that in living together they discover aspects about their partner and themselves they never imagined. In this manner couples become aware of one another’s likes and dislikes in an intimate manner and what it is they essentially need from one another. For one partner this may be emotional security or closeness and for another attentiveness. Along the way couples will put in place a set of rules that accommodate each other’s individual needs.
The big challenge confronting couples in accommodating one another’s needs is moving from the “I” to “We” mentality. And sometimes this isn’t easy. In adolescence each partner will most likely have begun the psychological journey of separating from his or her family of origin and moving towards individuation. And while individuation is a very necessary and frequently a wonderful time in life, it is primarily centred on the “I” and satisfying one’s own needs. But when the “self’ becomes the dominant feature of daily living it can be difficult to change. An essential task of marriage is putting together a shared vision of how couples want to live their lives. This means moving to a place where togetherness and autonomy can be realised. It is this shared “we-ness” that will protect, insulate and safeguard the marriage from the destructive forces, pressures and stresses of modern living.
To achieve this objective each partner will have to relinquish self-centredness and sacrifice a portion of his or her former independence. The resulting creation will become a new shared identity of togetherness and autonomy. This new reality is manifested through a way of being in which decisions are no longer taken on what is best for “me” but in what is best for the relationship. And this way of being also fundamentally respects and is inclusive of the autonomy of both partners as individuals.
Many relationships encounter difficulty when this union of togetherness has not been realised. If partners become isolated in focussing exclusively on their own careers or social interests it can be difficult to find the room to be inclusive of their partner within that world. Or if somebody is totally intent on having his or her own needs satisfied they are unlikely to focus on meeting the needs of their partner. Couples find togetherness and autonomy when they learn to acknowledge and accommodate difference, respect individuality and work together to support the wellbeing of the marriage. When couples engage emotionally with each other and meet each other halfway they become stronger as a unit. Within this worldview they become part of an entity that’s larger than them. And it’s this shared sense of autonomy and togetherness that consolidates and energises marriage.
Discuss with your partner how you can better build togetherness and autonomy within your relationship! What are the challenges that may confront you? What is it you would most like from one another that would contribute to a greater sense of autonomy and togetherness?
The Accord marriage preparation course, “Marriage – A Journey Not a Destination” offers an extensive series of activities around issues relating to the preparation for marriage. For further information visit: