By Joyce and Barry Vissell –
(This is an excerpt from the Vissell’s new book, To Really Love a Man.)
To really love a man is to choose him over and over again.It’s not enough to say marriage vows one time, though that is certainly important. The relationship is deepened if you let him know often that you would choose him all over again if given the choice.
There are many things that stand in the way of a woman clearly choosing her partner as the most important person in her life. For many women, their children become more important than the man in their life, even if that man happens to be the father of the children. Having raised three children, I certainly understand this pull to make the children more important. I was a hands-on stay-at-home mother. I was and still am so in love with our children. When our first child, Rami, was born, I thought she was the cutest thing in the whole world. If I was in a room and she walked in after being away for a while with Barry, I would make such a big fuss over her and go on and on about how cute she was.
If Barry walked in right after her, I would look at him and think to myself, “What could he do right now to help me.” He was becoming more of my helper than my partner. All of my adoration was going to Rami. One day Barry sat down next to me and said in a vulnerable voice, “I wish you could be as enthusiastic when I enter the room as you are with Rami.”
He was absolutely right. I was giving a clear message that I was choosing Rami over him. I vowed to stop that right away. From then on, I sincerely tried to be enthusiastic about both of them. I vowed to stop seeing Barry simply as someone who could help me with the children and see him as my partner, the man that I love and adore. From that time on, I made a point to let him know I would choose him again if given the choice. I also tell him I feel I made the best choice in a husband.
A woman’s friends can also stand in the way of her choosing her husband or partner. I know women who would much rather spend time with their women friends than their partners. As a woman, I know how vitally important it is to have women friends. I know that most women feel they could not even survive this life without their women friends or, in some cases, their sisters. There are so many gifts that come from having women friends, like receiving their understanding of your feelings, body changes, mothering issues, or just the special bonding that can happen between women. However, some women do this to excess in which they are clearly choosing their women friends over the man in their life. The man is relegated to the background. He becomes a convenient person to watch the children, earn money, or help with the house. If the man feels second to the women friends, he will then go off and develop his own interests, and soon the two are merely passing each other as strangers in their home. This cycle will get worse unless there is a renewed choosing of each other.
Interestingly, body image can also become more important to a woman than the man she loves. Of course, exercise and working out is important in a woman’s life, but not more than choosing love. She can become too preoccupied with how she looks. Hour upon hour can be spent in the gym sculpting a certain look to her body.
Sometimes women choose their family of origin over their partner. Their siblings and parents become more important than the men in their lives. I know several men who have to spend every single holiday and vacation with the women’s family. One man lamented that he thought he was marrying one woman when instead he married her whole family of fifteen members. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and each and every vacation he had from work was spent with her family. It was hard to feel the togetherness in their relationship around so many people. When he once asked if they could just spend one vacation totally alone, not only did she refuse, but he also then had her whole family upset with him for even coming up with the suggestion. This man loved his wife very much and did not want to leave her, but he always felt secondary to her family.
Career is another factor that can prevent a woman from really choosing her man. She and her partner may have come to agreements on childcare and hours of work. Yet, because it can be harder for a woman in the professional workforce to prove herself, she may feel driven to spend many extra hours at night preparing for the next day. Doing well in her career may be her top priority and her partner may find himself further and further down her list.
Even spirituality can get in the way of a woman choosing her man. I consider spirituality very important, really the most important thing in life. And yet, even in this area, women can sometimes make unhealthy choices.
In our counseling practice, we sometimes will ask a couple if they would choose each other again. I will never forget the look on one man’s face when his wife, without any doubt in her voice, said she would choose him again and again. The man burst into tears. He had been convinced that she was merely tolerating the relationship. His heart opened wide just knowing that she would choose him again.
On the morning of our daughter’s afternoon wedding, a friend came to set up the sound system. I was outside preparing flowers around the altar when he handed the microphone to me and said, “Say the most important thing in your heart right now.”
I didn’t even need to think about it when I clearly and with conviction said, “BARRY, WHEREVER YOU ARE, I CHOOSE YOU ALL OVER AGAIN. I WOULD MARRY YOU AGAIN IN A SECOND!”
From down at the bottom of our sixteen acres, Barry was clearing poison oak and yelled up, “JOYCE, I WILL ALWAYS CHOOSE YOU!”
I’m quite sure all of our neighbors heard our booming testimony of love and choosing, which I thought was sweet.
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationships and personal growth. They are the authors of eight books, including two new books, To Really Love a Woman and To Really Love a Man.
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