The total pledge of any marriage is a promise of faithfulness in body and spirit. Faithfulness does not mean a complacent "settling in," a resigned sense that now we are stuck with each other whatever we become. Rather, faithfulness is commitment to grow as a couple in mutual support and affection.
Openness is an essential part of communication. Many marriage differences are so trivial that partners are ashamed to face their own pettiness. She plans a busy weekend when he would prefer to sleep late and relax. He leaves clothes, towels and newspapers lying around while she struggles for neatness and order. When faced with such differences, some people flare up in anger, others withdraw into pouting or silence. Neither action promotes understanding. Mutual growth demands the open expression of feelings precisely at the times when openness seems most difficult and withdrawal seems most attractive.
Mutual growth demands a concentrated effort to develop communication skills. Good communication is neither a matter of luck nor a natural endowment. It is a skill that can be learned. When partners share goodwill, mutual trust and the desire to communicate, they develop these skills by practicing them in their life together.
Mutual growth demands a delicate balance between assertiveness and surrender. Each partner must learn when to assert his or her own needs and wants and when to yield graciously to the wants and needs of the other. In that delicate balance, perhaps more than anywhere else, lies the secret of living together in lasting love.