Betty W. Phillips, Ph.D., Psychology
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Keeping Your Love Alive


This is the second in a two-part series on the importance of maintaining and strengthening the marriage partnership after the honeymoon. As romantic love fades we find ourselves focusing on our jobs, homes, finances, all the issues and pressures of modern life. Let's remember to pay positive attention to our spouse, the love partner we have chosen to love and to cherish, to have and to hold from this day forward.

By now you probably know how to invest money. But how do you invest in your love bank? One article will not answer this question, but I will address critical issues today. Simply put, you want to maximize your deposits. You will also want to protect the principal from harm by: conquering the challenge of anger and arguments; dealing with the big five marriage problems; coping with the ghosts of your first family, and managing external stress. Are all these tasks impossible? No. Daunting? Sometimes. Worthwhile? Of course. You'll find that love and family are more precious then the finest gold and diamonds.

How can you invest in your marriage love bank? Just do it! Put your stress aside and pay loving attention to your spouse every day. Remember the golden rule? What it really means is that we should treat others as we want to be treated. We want our love partner to think of us with fondness and admiration. We want our love partner to be our best friend. Every day we can spend a few minutes connecting with our partner. We should think about our partner's good qualities, not just the problems that intrude upon everyday life. We need to share good times and pleasures. Date nights are great! Friendship, intimacy, fun, laughter, play, all add to your love bank.

Let me mention an interesting book, "The Five Love Languages";, (Northfield Publishing, 1992) by Gary Chapman, a marriage counselor and minister. I came to read this book on the recommendation of several of my clients who found the experience worthwhile. Chapman's book advocates "keeping the love tank on full" by matching love languages between husband and wife. Chapman states that we need to discover whether our love preferences match the needs and wishes of our partner. He describes the five love languages as: "words of affirmation; quality time; receiving gifts; acts of service; physical touch."

I want to emphasize that a loving relationship and close friendship between marriage partners is the most important factor in keeping a marriage together. That said, I will mention some of the problems which must be addressed in each marriage.

Anger and arguments. It is difficult to keep making and protecting your investment in your love bank while your marriage is being eroded by this normal but often destructive emotion. A key component to addressing this challenge is a commitment to let your rational mind moderate your marital discussions instead of your angry emotions. Let's take a peek at our neuroanatomy. The lower part of our brain, sometimes called the "lizard brain" is the part of the brain that will take over uncontrolled emotional expression. It's best to let the rational "higher" brain of the prefrontal cortex stay in charge as we communicate with our spouse. You will find my thoughts/guidelines about this topic in an article on my website entitled "How to Argue and Stay Married." Please also note that indirect anger (criticism, cynicism, hostile teasing or stonewalling) is also destructive to a marriage.

What are the big five marital challenges? finances, chores, marital intimacy, in-laws and parenting. Again, I remind you that these issues must be discussed and rational minds must prevail. . No business would survive without key issues being addressed and resolved. Problem-solving is one of the business matters of any marriage. Yes, you need to talk about all of these issues, even your most private needs, with your spouse. Guessing games don't make good marriages.

What do I mean by the "ghosts of your first family"? We all develop conscious and unconscious habits, values and expectations based on our experiences in our original family. As a child our parents were the representations of reality and the models for marriage partnerships and family life. As we watched our parents we learned, for example, how husbands and wives greet each other at the end of the day and how people talk at dinner. We need to bring these experiences into conscious reality and discuss these choices with our partners, realizing that our attitudes are conditioned by our early experiences and our spouse may have different memories and expectations.

Does a crisis or loss strengthen marriage? This popular myth is unfortunately not true. While a serious crisis may initially draw a family together, after awhile hurt, anger and disillusion invade the marital relationship. With no one else to blame, the couple begins to argue about how to deal with the problem, blames each other and then withdraws from the hurt place between them. Becoming aware of this probability, marriage partners should channel their stress outside their relationship while seeking assistance in resolving the crisis.

Is marriage counseling the only answer? Your love for your spouse and your determination to preserve your enduring love is the most important factor. That said, use available resources. My message is that you should consider a therapist as important a resource for your marriage as a doctor for your health or a dentist for your teeth.

So, doc, where's the joke? I noticed you've been ending your articles with a joke. Unfortunately most marriage humor is based on sarcastic or hostile comments about husbands or wives. I rejected all those "jokes"for this article. Instead, I'll offer some humor about my profession.
A marriage counselor, attempting to give a couple hope for the future, attempted to offer
sympathetic advice. "I know how you feel; I had the same problem with my fifth husband."