According to Michael and Amy Smalley, they could not have been more in love than they were when they walked down the aisle. Their relationship was passionate and romantic. They say that chemistry completely blinded them.
"I was her knight in shining armor," says Michael. "We had been friends for a very long time. It was only after a horrible breakup with another guy that we realized there might be something between us. We quickly fell head over heels in love. So you can imagine we were pretty shocked to find ourselves 18 hours into our marriage not speaking to each other. Both of us were thinking we had made a horrible mistake."
Amy and Michael dated each other for five months before tying the knot. Their parents were very excited about the marriage, but nobody mentioned that the couple might not be ready.
"So many couples, including us, mistakenly believe that chemistry and compatibility are what builds a successful marriage," Michael says. "We know based on research that chemistry has zero to do with long-term success in marriage. Chemistry goes up and down. Many couples actually base their commitment level in their marriage on how happy they are in the relationship. That is dangerous."
Many years and three beautiful children later, the Smalleys say that their marriage would not still be around if it were all about compatibility.
"To this day, our compatibility quotient is pretty low," Michael says. "Our cleaning styles, leisure activities and personalities are very different. However, six months into our marriage, we attended a workshop that taught us the skills that have been foundational to making the difference in our marriage."
So many couples justify not being able to make their marriage work by saying, "We just aren't compatible."
"Not being compatible does not mean you have to be miserable," he says. "My ability to love well has little to do with compatibility. It has everything to do with making a choice to love well. You make the decision to be happy."
He clarifies that he is not referring to abusive marriages, but about the vast majority of marriages that end because people say they are disconnected and incompatible.
The Smalleys now spend their time helping couples learn how to get past issues of unhappiness and incompatibility.
"Most divorces occur because one spouse looks at the other and says, 'You are the problem,'" Michael says. "The truth is, all of us are selfish. In many instances, we focus on the other person. Instead, we really need to look in the mirror and determine how we are contributing to the current condition of the marriage."