Ghasoon Majed and Dawood Summa, met at a Communion celebration party. “We were both friends of the family. The parents of the boy that received Communion had a barbeque and invited friends and family to their home. I was a friend of the boy’s older brothers and Ghasoon was a friend of boy’s aunt,” Dawood fondly remembers. “I was around 24 and she was 20. I kept bringing her tea so we could talk. We must have finished two pots by ourselves. The worst part was that we both had to use the bathroom after drinking so much tea. The best part was that neither of us wanted to go because we enjoyed talking to one another so much.”
After several hours of conversation—and several pots of tea—Ghasoon and Dawood knew they wanted to be together. Some 20 years have passed, living in four different countries since that tea-filled talk, but when Ghasoon phones her husband to say she's on her way home, Dawood ready reply is, "I'll put the teapot on." For Ghasoon, that simple phrase, loaded with memories and meaning, tells her she is still loved by the man she fell in love with.
In America and Europe more than 40 percent of first-time marriages fail. Chaldean couples continue to need both an understanding about what it takes to make their marriages last in Western society. Latifa Seeba examines the latest research and studies on Marriage and shares some of the “Do’s” that Chaldean couples can use to make the journey together easier and more rewarding.
Is that all it takes for Chaldeans to have a successful marriage—just some schmaltzy words and fond memories? Hardly, according to experts who study the dynamics of marriage relationships. But it doesn't hurt to take part in a little ritual only the two of you share. Similar words and actions that show love and respect, care and concern, interest and affection are all part of the answer to the question: What "works" to keep a relationship together and growing?
Many Chances may already be doing some of these. If so, Try others on for size, but don't go into this thinking there is one little trick you can learn to turn your married life into paradise. People are more complex than easy solutions. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn't cut it. But if there's bedrock to the relationship, simple things do work.
Here are 10 tried-and-true tips revealed by research and the latest experts:
1. OPEN COMMUNICATION: Be able to tell each other how you feel.
Happily married Chaldean couples know their spouse is not trying to hurt them by expressing his or her own feelings.
Helping Chaldean couples express feelings was often regulated to close family members and the in-laws. Family discussions were often therapeutic and offered an opportunity for both husband and wife to share their concerns, find support, and feel safe. Chaldeans in Western society do not have the added advantage of having family members so close or so willing to intercede on their behalf. When a spouse feels the criticism is biased having a mutually close friend or family member share the concern can be helpful. Just as long as both husband and wife feel their interceding peace maker is loved by both.
Chaldean couples in Western countries have to learn to develop the ability to share how they feel, all the while remaining respectful, dignified, and open minded. Once the Chaldean couple has developed the ability to communicate about an issue of contention, they have reached a place of intimacy where they can start building instead of fighting.
Some good marriage reads on helping Chaldeans strengthen their marital communication skills:
1. Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart (Guilford Press, 2001) by William Doherty
2. Marriage and the Spirituality of Intimacy (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 1997) by Leif Kehrwald
3. Marriage and Sacrament: A Theology of Christian Marriage (Liturgical Press, 1993) by Michael G. Lawler
4. The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate (Northfield Publishing, 1992) by Gary Chapman
5. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Crown, 1999) by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver
6. When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages (Zondervan, 2001) by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
7. The Heart of Commitment (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998) by Scott Stanley
8. Promises To Keep: Developing the Skills of Marriage (Paulist Press, 1991) by Kathleen R. Fischer and Thomas N. Hart
9. Called to Marriage: Journeying Together Toward God (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2001) by Carol Leubering
10. Becoming Soul Mates: Cultivating Spiritual Intimacy in the Early Years of Marriage (Zondervan, 1995) by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
11. A Daring Promise: A Spirituality of Christian Marriage (Crossroad, 2002) by Richard R. Gaillardetz
12. Why Marriages Succeed or Fail (Simon & Schuster, 1994) by John M. Gottman
Chaldean couples are encouraged to keep their faith as a foundation for a good marriage. If the couple use their faith as a continual reminder of what they have and they we need to do to make our marriage work they are much more likely to succeed.
2. TWO BECOME ONE: Be deliberate about forming an "US."
Chaldean partners in a successful marriage work at being a couple. They do things together—work in the garden, attend a concert or sporting event, even paint or clean the house—because shared activities make them feel bonded. They take time to have intellectual intimacy by sharing ideas, asking each other for advice, talking about what each other is reading, or sharing what they got out of a book or movie.
Happily married Chaldean couples balance their own needs and desires with one another. While that may seem to be common sense, it usually is not practices. An entire book published by Sorin Press titled God Knows Marriage Isn't Always Easy: 12 Ways to Add Zest, by Maureen and Lanny Law points to a major question: What do we need and desire in our lives with one another? The book shares real world scenarios of couples losing balance between their desires and needs. Some of the couples in the book regain their balance while others lose and miserably end in divorce.
While there is always discussion as to the roles and responsibilities of the couples, Pope John Paul II is clear on the mutuality of the couple. In his words marriage is an intimate partnership of love and life, and refers to males and females as equals. In other words, the misconception that marriage is 50 – 50 is not accurate. A healthy marriage is 100 – 100. Both spouses must give 100 percent of themselves to the relationship.
3. CONFLICT RESOLUTION: Deal well with conflict.
Resolving conflict is among the key pieces to the happy-marriage puzzle. Every healthy marriage has conflict. You have two people with their opinions, ways of solving problems, seeing problems differently, predicting consequences differently, and bringing their own unique experience to bear. It's not that you have conflict it is how you deal with conflict that makes a marriage last says John Gottman.
John M. Gottman is one of the country's top researchers on marriage. With more than 20 years of studying diverse couples. He has authored some of the best books and studies on marriage. One of the best is published by Simon & Schuster titled Why Marriages Succeed or Fail. Chaldean couples would be wise to read Gottman’s principles for a happy marriage and the basis for his revolutionary 1994 book discussing conflict resolution.
"A lasting marriage," Gottman writes, "results from a couple's ability to resolve the conflicts that are inevitable in any relationship. We grow in our relationships by reconciling our differences. That's how we become more loving people and truly experience the fruits of marriage."
Gottman also writes about, "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" that are poisonous to any marriage:
- Negative Criticism
- Sarcastic and Cynical Contempt
- Defensiveness Blaming
- Silent Treatment
Talk to any Chaldean bride-to-be and ask what her most given advice has been and she is sure to respond with, “Never go to sleep angry with your spouse.” In the book the Laws wrote, they joke that couples would end up losing a lot of sleep. It's not bad advice for problems that are solvable, and that's where learning some conflict resolution skills for Chaldean couples are important.
The Laws say it is perfectly fine that some problems won't be solved before midnight. They even suggest it's OK on some issues to say, let's work on this some more tomorrow. The key thing is that the couple affirms their love before they go to sleep.
4. LETS TALK ABOUT SEX: Pay attention to issues of sexuality.
Chaldeans originating from a culture that hold many sexual taboos are reluctant to speak or discuss sex. This could be troublesome and frustrating. Sex is at or near the top of the list of issues that cause conflict in marriages. Chaldean married couples are reluctant to offer their expertise and experience on record about this topic. Experts in the marriage field say this is not uncommon.
There are married couples who don't have physical or emotional intimacy often at all. They don't attend to it, and it undermines the emotional life of the marriage. Couples who do attend to intimacy in their lives are less likely to have an affair interrupt their marriage. The promise of intimacy in marriage satisfies natural human instincts and desires.
Attending to intimacy means being able to talk with your spouse when you are dissatisfied. A great book for Chaldeans dealing with issues of sexuality is Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by Dr. Kevin Leman published by Tyndale. The book is very specific, but it's not a manual. It gives a Christian perspective to sexual intimacy and can be a window to the divine for the couple. The book makes clear that faithful couples acknowledge that being naked and making a gift of yourself to your spouse is a deeply spiritual action, one that puts you in touch with how God loves us—totally and selflessly. When we give the gift of self to another it is sacred and holy.
5. FAITH MATTERS: Pay attention to the spiritual dimension in your marriage.
Study after study by secular groups show that couples who have common cultures, religious practices and faith beliefs, and values have longer, more satisfying marriages. Couples in successful marriages believe their union is special and believe God is present in their marriage.
Couples that reflect on their life together in light of what Catholic tradition teaches about the sanctity and the sacrament of marriage is important. Chaldean couples that learn to see how God is present in ordinary events in their marriage are able to find hope and understanding when, and if crises should strike their marriage.
6. RESPECT AND ADMIRATION: Reinforce your mutual fondness and admiration.
It is natural for any loving couple to be driven to distraction at times by a spouse's flaws. Happily married couples always feel the person they wed is worthy of honor and respect. It is one of the primary reasons that women and men who marry under false pretenses of purity have problems. Research shows that if a spouse values a virgin marriage, only later to discover he or she married under false pretenses, a sense of betrayal, disrespect, and trust is broken. These are the same feelings that arise out of infidelity.
Happily married couples trust and respect one another. Experts recommend reminding yourself frequently of your spouse's positive qualities, what makes you cherish him or her. Research by Gottman reveals that couples who see their marriage's history in a positive light are 94 percent more likely to be happy in the future. Couples that feel they settled for something less or were coerced in some way are often doomed from the start.
Gottman share in his books some interesting ideas that Chaldean couples might find interesting. The ideas include reminding each other of what they love about each other, funny things that happened in their relationship, and why they chose to marry one another monthly. The overriding concept is to make each other feel respected, special, and worthy of trust.
7. BE NICE: Do little niceties for one another.
Chaldeans are busy people. Work, family obligations and traditions, children, school, community connections, and more can drain a married couple. Chaldean couples need to build what, leadership guru Steven Covey calls the "emotional bank account" with their spouse.
Happily married couples make deposits in that account so that when conflicts occur there is a lot to withdraw before the relationship becomes bankrupt.
Doing nice things for one another helps keep the marriage strong and safe. Being romantic, attentive, and supportive of one another is very important the experts say.
8. COMPROMISE: Build a firm foundation for compromising.
Every bit of data on happily married couples says that if either person closes his or her ears to the other's needs, opinions, and values, they cannot resolve their differences. To respect one another enough to listen to the other's point of view and take it into account is important.
Successful marriages learn early on that marriage takes work and it is not easy. The couples tend to both believe that they will be together until death, as God intended. No matter how upset or frustrated one might be with each other it is a part of being married. Divorce is seen as a horrible option and with total disregard.
At the University of Minnesota marriage therapist professor, William J. Doherty, takes a hard line against those who give up on marriage. Doherty is author of the often-recommended resource for couples, Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart published by Guilford Press.
Doherty writes that marriage has to be internalized as a lifelong commitment. This forces the couples to accept who they both are from the beginning and forsaking new, improved models of a husband or wife. He adds that commitment no-matter-what means the spouse is faithful to a flawed human being who is faithful to me as a flawed human being in a moral covenant that does not have a lemon clause and does not permit leasing and trade-ins.
Knowing that divorce is not an option prevents the “Grass is Greener on the other side” Syndrome which distracts the couple from improving their relationship.
9. BE A TEAM: Think and act like a team.
Happy couples have a mutual sense of fairness and justice about married life. They appreciate the culture and rituals of married life as Chaldeans and as a couple. Together they see how they are bonded together, to their extended family, and to the Chaldean community. They are linked by a shared purpose as Chaldeans and have accepted the role and goals of being married. They both share a similar understanding and value of what it means to be responsible and adhere to family and cultural principles.
The most stable marriages are those in which the husband respects his wife by listening to her and considering her needs, opinions, and values, and in which they share power and decision-making. Marriages where the husband resists sharing power are four times more likely to end in divorce or to drone on unhappily.
Marriage is truly a partnership in which each spouse learns to appreciate their strength and weakness. There will be situations of calm and chaos, joy and sorrow; yet, sharing the lead of making decisions at various times will bring the couple closer. As long as the couple hold true to their core values of truth, faith, and love and decisions are made in those contexts the marriage will grow stronger.
10. COMMUNITY: Seek out a supportive family and friends.
Most all marriage experts’ emphasis that couples should find and be a part of a community of couples and individual spouses that support each other. It is important for couples to be able to have a support group of friends or family members that do things together. Being around other married friends and family reinforces that your challenges are not unique and remaining married is important. The friends and family members should share your same values and principals. Nothing is more dangerous to a marriage then a friend or family member that goes against the grain of supporting a marital relationship say the authors.
There are a variety of avenues to find and make friends with other married couples. The Chaldean Churches offer a number of wonderful options and possibilities to form groups. St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral in California has a Mother’s club whereby married mothers participate in outings together. In Michigan, the Chaldean Cathedral has a group for the entire family, just mothers, fathers, and couples. Both Cathedrals sponsor field trips and organized activities to reinforce and support the members.
Both Cathedrals openly invite Chaldeans to form community groups and use their resources to organize. Forming a group of married friends or family members is simple. It could come out of a discussion group at your parish, at a family gathering among cousins, or over time as a small group of couples invite others to join.
There are also a number of local and national programs outside of the Chaldean community that can be extremely helpful keeping the marriage strong. There is Marriage Encounter weekend that is designed to bring husband and wife together to communicate lovingly in an atmosphere where the focus is on their relationship. Marriage Encounter bring together couples and work with experts in a resort like setting to teach communication skills and give couples time away from other distractions to practice and use them. Many couples find it a rare opportunity to delve into their own relationship and their relationship with God when managing a busy home and life.
Currently there are two umbrella Marriage Encounter groups in operation. One that is world wide and the other one is national. For more information about the world wide organization, call 800-795-LOVE (795-5683) or go to http://www.wwme.org/. For National Marriage Encounter, call 800-828-3351 or go to http://www.marriage-encounter.org/.
Another non-Chaldean prominent marriage club is the Christian Family Movement. A highly successful organization prepared to help couples join a marriage club or to help them organize one. An outgrowth of the American Catholic Action movement of the 1940s, CFM has developed into a national network of parish/neighborhood small groups of families. Parents meet regularly in each other's homes. Programs and group activities promote and reinforce Christ-centered marriage and family life. For an outline of a typical CFM meeting, go to http://www.cfm.org/ or call 812-962-5508.
There you have it, 10 very important do’s after you commit to the vow of "I Do" that should keep your marriage strong and healthy.