"Building a successful marriage is like building a house!"- Elena Tonetti Vladimirova
Our friends Adrienne and Jerry had a beautiful wedding on October 12, 1996. Part of the ceremony was a circle of nine married couples, who are considered to have successful relationship. My husband and I were in that circle. Each of us had an opportunity to bless the newlyweds by sharing our insights on what keeps our marriages strong and happy.
After the ceremony many people came to me asking “ How did it go, again?” So I thought to put it in writing and share it with all of you. Here is what I said:
Dear Adrienne and Jerry,
Fairy tales all around the world end up with weddings and the mysterious phrase “and they lived happily ever after”. Without the slightest hint of what exactly that is supposed to mean. That was left up to us to figure out. When you invited us to share our personal findings, this analogy came to my mind.
Building a successful marriage is like building a house. First you build the foundation, which is the same good old - marry the right person!
Then you build the “floor” , which would be some basic and some pretty sophisticated maintenance skills. It’s about taking care of feelings. Nothing in the sphere of relationship comes with that bumper to bumper warranty. Things do get broken and nobody is going to fix it for you. And the very awareness about that fact is one of the basic maintenance skills.
The “walls” in my house would be the attitude. That delicious enjoyment of each other; liking each other! Loving is easy. We all are good guys here. But I am talking about making a continuous effort to keep liking each other after the original liking wears out. Marriage is marriage. How common is that sibling syndrome - “we love each other dearly, but we can’t stand each other.” Siblings normally do love each other, but they don’t have to like each other. So, don’t fall in that trap, have fun together! Have that playful teenage attitude instead of sibling syndrome, please.
Now the “ceiling” would be Full RESPONSIBILITY, with all the capital letters. Which is sort of in contradiction to the “walls”, because some times it is not fun at all. In the “maintenance skills” category we pay a lot of attention to our feelings. The “ceiling” category requires one to make a priority on family as an independent entity. And sometimes family interests are in contradiction to my feelings and I discovered greater satisfaction in raising above them. Not ignoring them, god forbid, but being aware about them, tell myself: “There is more to life then indulging, I am bigger than that”. That feels so sweet!
And the last step - the “roof.” It’s self-awareness. Remember who you are. Remember that separateness exists only in our perception. That you and your partner and the rest of the world are just different forms and shapes of the same Life Force, of God’s longing to experience God. Like roof protects us from the weather, self-awareness protects us from getting lost in details.
So, here is my dream house that I share with you on your wedding day and with all my heart I wish you to live "happily ever after."
by Elena Tonetti Vladimirova, 1996