My wife and I have been married for twelve years. We married young by today’s standards (early 20’s) but have managed to develop a marriage that is a well of strength and support that we both draw from daily.
There aren’t any secrets or shortcuts to a successful marriage (sorry), which is why you don’t see those words in the title. It takes openness, willingness, kindness, stick-to-itiveness and many other -ness’s I haven’t mentioned. But the rewards of a fulfilling marriage so exceed the effort required that the following items seem less and less difficult every day.
Push each other
My wife and I both want to grow. We want to learn something everyday and become better spouses, better parents, better people. This is an important aspect in a marriage because it demands a few things of you:
- To become better, you first have to realize that you aren’t perfect
- Once you realize you aren’t perfect, you become open to learning
- Once you’re open to learning, you begin to acknowledge that your partner has a great deal they can teach you
And this is a perfect attitude with which to approach your marriage. Push each other to become the best versions of yourselves. Hint: it’s not a reachable goal, so you’ll be doing this your entire marriage.
Respect each other
I grew up in a family that fought a lot. There was yelling and name-calling and it wasn’t pretty. I brought this style of fighting into my marriage since it was all I’d ever known.
My wife grew up differently. To her, the way an idea is conveyed is just as important as the content of the message. This is a common theme in arguments between the sexes; men tend to care about content while women tend to care about process. But excuses aside, when we get into a dispute, if I start raising my voice or name-calling, the fight is over. She becomes silent.
This used to drive me crazy. Being a very logical person, I used to think that it was ridiculous to get hung up on process in the middle of an argument. It was about what I was saying, not the fact that I was yelling it! Or so I thought. I’ve come to realize that yelling, and especially name-calling, is not ok, not in any scenario. It’s hurtful, scary and ugly and certainly not something I’d ever want my kids to learn. So the gist of this one is: don’t fight dirty.
Value each other
You take your spouse for granted. No, I don’t know you or anything about you, but I know that you take your spouse for granted because we all do, every day.
What are some of the things your partner has done for you? Nursed you through sickness? Comforted you when you lost your job? Gave birth to your child? Yeah, there is no way you appreciate them the way they deserve to be appreciated.
Realizing this is a wonderful thing. And realizing that it takes a conscious, daily effort to appreciate your partner is even better. It’s something you may have to remind yourself of moment by moment, but the more you do it, the more natural it becomes. As you appreciate your spouse more, you become more kind, you perform more little, important gestures, and you begin to feel happier.
Release each other
Though our families are the centers of our lives, they shouldn’t be the entirety of them. We are still individuals with interests, hobbies, hopes, goals and dreams. These shouldn’t be squelched in the name of marriage. In fact, we should be the ones encouraging our partners’ dreams with the most enthusiasm; they need that encouragement and support from us.
Outside of work, most of our time should be spent with our families, but it’s ok to take time with friends or just for yourself. Those outside experiences help make you who you are; without them you can begin to lose yourself. And your partner loses the person they fell in love with. So maybe Monday nights are for one of you to catch up on reading, work on a project or just veg with a movie. And maybe Wednesday nights are for the other to go out with friends, work on the side business or just take a bath. Give each other a little freedom; it will make your time together more meaningful.
The short version
I could probably have saved you a few minutes of reading and summed up this entire post in three words: don’t be selfish. Because that’s what all of the above really boils down to. Do you want to have a great marriage? Give more than you get. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. Does that sound unfair? Maybe it is, but do it anyway – your relationship is worth it.