Marriage is one of the most difficult relationships to get right. At least a healthy, successful one. Just look at the divorce rate in this country. It’s sad!
There is so much advice out there and I’ve read a lot of it. Some of the tips and suggestions offered seem almost ridiculous.
Yet, isn’t it what we all long for? A relationship in which we can be ourselves, where we feel seen, accepted and can experience true intimacy.
It requires a number of moving parts. People disagree on what they are, but the extraordinary and strong relationships I know have the same ingredients in common.
Here is a summary of essential tips for a happy and rewarding marriage. Joshua Becker is a contributor. You can find his blog at www.becomingminimalist.com
1. Love/Commitment. Love is a decision to be committed to another person. It is a daily decision to honor that commitment. It is far more than a fleeting emotion as portrayed on television, the big screen, and romance novels. Feelings come and go, I am sure you have noticed that by now. A true decision to be committed lasts forever – and that is what defines true love. It is a decision to be committed through the ups and the downs, the good and the bad. When things are going well, commitment is easy. But true love is displayed by remaining committed even through the trials of life.
2. Self-awareness. Be willing to look at yourself with some honesty. Watch your behavior. Are you always doing the talking, never listening? Are you really as laid back as you like to think? Do you tell little white lies, but insist that you are a sincere and truthful person? Do you try to please others too much, but feel resentful? You get the idea. If others repeatedly tell you a certain something, maybe it’s time to look if it’s true. It is important to assess yourself on a consistent basis in order to live with integrity in your life and your marriage. What you do, say, feel and think are in congruence. This eliminates conflict.
3. Sexual and Emotional Faithfulness. Faithfulness in marriage includes more than just our bodies. It also includes our eyes, mind, heart, and soul. When we devote our minds to sexual fantasies about another person, we sacrifice sexual faithfulness to our spouse. When we offer moments of emotional intimacies to another, we sacrifice faithfulness to our spouse. It is not ok to complain about your spouse to the opposite sex. Devote yourself to your spouse. Sexual faithfulness requires self-discipline and an awareness of the consequences. Refuse to put anything in front of your eyes, body, or heart that would compromise your faithfulness, emotional or physical.
4. Humility. We all have weaknesses and relationships always reveal these faults quicker than anything else on earth. An essential building block of a healthy marriage is the ability to admit that you are not perfect, that you will make mistakes, and that you will need forgiveness. Holding an attitude of superiority or constantly criticizing will bring about resentment and will prevent your relationship from moving forward. If you struggle in this area, grab a pencil and quickly write down three things that your partner does better than you – that simple exercise should help you stay humble. Repeat as often as necessary.
5. Patience/Forgiveness. Because no one is perfect (see #3), patience and forgiveness will always be required in a marriage relationship. Successful marriage partners learn to show unending patience and forgiveness to their partner. They humbly admit their own faults and do not expect perfection from their partner. They do not bring up past errors in an effort to hold their partner hostage. And they do not seek to make amends or get revenge when mistakes occur. If you are holding onto a past hurt from your partner, forgive him or her. It will set your heart and relationship free. Sometimes forgiveness takes time, but be willing, because ultimately it keeps you from becoming bitter.
6. Time. Relationships don’t work without time investment. Never have, never will. Every successful relationship requires intentional, quality time together. And quality time rarely happens when quantity time is absent. The relationship with your spouse should be the most intimate and deep relationship you have. Therefore, it is going to require more time than any other relationship. If possible, set aside time each day for each other. Spend time thinking of new and different ways to have fun together. Getting stuck in a rut is deadly.
7. Honesty and Trust. Honesty and trust become the foundation for everything healthy in a marriage. But unlike most of the other essentials on this list, trust takes time. You can become selfless, committed, or patient in a moment, but trust always takes time. Trust is only built after weeks, months, and years of being who you say you are and doing what you say you’ll do. It is about having integrity. It takes time, so start now… and if you need to rebuild trust in your relationship, you’ll need to work even harder.
8. Communication. Successful marriage partners communicate as much as possible. They discuss kids’ schedules, grocery lists, and utility bills. But they don’t stop there. They also communicate hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties. They don’t just discuss the changes that are taking place in the kid’s life, they also discuss the changes that are taking place in their own hearts and souls. This essential key cannot be overlooked because honest, forthright communication becomes the foundation for so many other things on this list: commitment, patience, and trust… just to name a few.
9. Transparency. This is a part of communication; honest, authentic, soul-baring communication. You have to be willing to share your deepest, sometimes darkest self. There is no holding back or being secretive about certain things. Without this willingness to be open, to be transparent, there can be no true intimacy.
10. Selflessness. Although it will never show up on any survey, more marriages are broken up by selfishness than any other reason. Surveys blame it on finances, lack of commitment, infidelity, or incompatibility, but the root cause for most of these reasons is selfishness. A selfish person is committed only to himself or herself, shows little patience, and never learns how to be a successful spouse. Give your hopes, dreams, and life to your partner. And begin to live life together.
Marriage can be an amazing, nurturing and deeply intimate journey with another human being. Marriage can feed your soul, your heart and your mind. Marriage can be hot and exciting. Marriage can be anything the two of you want to create…….
Marriage requires that you stay present! It is demanding, but the rewards are worth it. Spending your life with another person can bring experiences and emotions that are beyond words.