In the session When Real Love Begins, husband and wife team, Boaz and Claire Nazar, marriage educators with 16 years of experience, engaged the audience with amusing anecdotes from their 20-year marriage and highlights from the evidence-based Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program® (PREP) at the Marriage Convention 2016, which featured experts sharing know-how and tips on building happy and strong marriages.

Puppy Love, Warts and All

Speakers, Boaz and Claire Nazar, examined the idea of “real, enduring love”, what commitment involved, how it is eroded, and explored steps to preserving marital harmony.

Flashing a picture of an adorable, wide-eyed puppy with the question “Do you want me?”, Claire likened the work of marriage to taking care of well-loved pets. She quipped, “For every cute puppy face you see... you’ve got the mess back-end to clear up!”

The husband and wife team of marriage educators with 16 years’ experience, engaged newly-wed couples with amusing anecdotes from their 20-year marriage, whilst revealing insights from the 12-hour evidence-based Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program® (PREP) course conducted by them, to help couples prevent divorce and preserve lasting love.

Strengthening Dedication

Commitment in a marriage comprises external (constraint commitment) and internal factors (dedication). 

Constraint commitment obliges parties to stay together, for reasons of maintaining legal/marital status quo, discharging financial obligations (for example, an outstanding mortgage) or moral considerations. 

Whilst constraints per se are good and necessary, more is needed to build a strong marriage. Husband and wife need to work on dedication — the sense of truly wanting to be together and giving one’s best to the other for the long term. 

Dedicated couples:

  • show ‘differentiated oneness’. That is, they may develop a common ‘couple identity’ but still retain their unique individuality. 

  • understand how to give deeply, whilst gaining satisfaction as they make sacrifices 

  • accord greater priority for the relationship

  • exhibit less ‘alternative monitoring’ behaviour towards third parties

In building a future together, it is vital for couples to cultivate a sense of where their relationship is headed. Those lacking a ‘relationship agenda’ risk losing connection, purpose and engagement with each other. Commitment is key in protecting the sanctity of marriage boundaries.

“Fun” Nights and “Business” nights

Managing expectations and keeping the fun alive, are key to strengthening couple dedication. It is recommended to set aside time for ‘fun/date’ versus ‘business/issues’ nights. Once you develop an effective strategy to deal with the mundane ‘administrative’ side of marriage, you can focus more on aspects of ‘fun/friendship’. To keep things fresh, occasionally venture out of your comfort zones to try something new together to create a new shared experience! 

Forgiveness is Like Cancelling a Debt

Over time, married couples may develop differences, fight and suffer hurt. Many find it hard to forgive. Experts advocate parties to be accepting of each other’s imperfections and forgive quickly, especially if the issues are minor.

Forgiveness is ‘the giving up of one’s perceived right to get even’, that is much like ‘cancelling a debt’.

Claire also highlighted that forgiveness:

  • is not the same as forgetting, reconciliation, or pretending the event didn’t hurt

  • does not excuse unacceptable behaviour or mean that trust has been earned

She asked rhetorically, “If you understand that forgiveness is not all these things, can you still forgive?”

Forgiving is beneficial as it:

  • helps one to overcome bitterness and move out of pain

  • increases one’s capacity for love, making reconciliation possible

For major transgressions (for example, infidelity), however, the process will take much longer. Spouses need to learn to talk openly and explore their feelings. The party who is hurt needs time to fight the bitterness, and grieve. Only then can the couple heal and move forward together. Sometimes, they may even need counselling.

Allowing for personal space
The experts advised that, whilst an inclination to seek solitary moments is normal, the key is to:

  • find a mutually acceptable solution

  • build up a healthy ‘trust bank account’

  • keep communication channels open and safe

  • understand the partner’s personality (For example, is he predisposed to worrying?), family background and upbringing (For example, is he influenced by his parents’ lifestyles in his growing-up years?), without second-guessing or prejudging

Real Love is Mature

At the end of the talk, many were gratified and buoyed with hope when they heard the Nazars share that:

“…The more problems you overcome, the more confident you get; the more satisfaction you will get out of your marriage!”

Ah! Real love is mature and tested — just like a bottle of aging, quality-assured, sparkling wine that satisfies.