Divorce rates continue to escalate at an alarming rate. Consequently, even more people are beginning to question if marriage is worth the trouble. More than that, they wonder if marriage can possibly succeed. As a woman who is happily married, I can say that marriage is definitely worth the trouble. However, anyone entering into marriage needs to realize that, like anything else worth having, it will take hard work. As individuals, we have many differences and we think, feel, react, and respond differently in many ways. Therefore, getting along with all those differences in place will take time, patience and love.
These are the recommended steps of a lifelong journey of love & commitment – of a Happy Marriage:
Renew your commitment to your marriage partner. Whether you have been married for five minutes or fifty years, marriage takes commitment. If you don’t have that, your marriage is doomed from the outset. You also can’t put constraints on your commitment. It has to be there every single day. A good marriage takes a lifetime of commitment to yourself as well as to the person you have chosen for a marriage partner. For many, that commitment will extend to an family of children, grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren.
Activate your courage. Anything worth having is worth fighting for and marriage is no different. There will be days, weeks, months and even years when it will seem far easier to cut and run than to stick it out and make your marriage work. As you change and grow, so does your marriage partner. However, you may grow at different rates. You may decide you are ready to have children while he still wants to have fun with his friends. You may want to go back to work while he wants you to stay home and take care of the children. You aren’t always going to be in the same place at the same time. When conflict arises, you have two options: Stay and work through it or walk out the door. The latter is the coward’s way. The former will take every ounce of courage you can muster.
Don’t give up your personal convictions. Just because you get married, that doesn’t mean that you have to agree with one another. Opposites attract for a reason, because they have something to offer the other side. Although they often talk about a married couple being “as one,” that isn’t realistic. It also isn’t desirable. You fell in love with one another because of your differences. Change that drastically and you might just change what actually brought you together in the first place. Instead, try to learn what the other has to offer and accept only those pieces that are a natural fit with you. Remember that your partner is seeking to do the same thing. He or she doesn’t have to agree with you 100 percent of the time, either. If you really wanted that, you wouldn’t have fallen for them in the first place.
Cultivate patience. I always tell my children that “patience is a virtue.” I really should have told them that “patience is THE virtue.” Everything in life takes patience. You had to have patience when growing up. You had to have patience with your parents and their rules. You had to have patience with your teachers and professors. You had to have patience at work. So why would you think that marriage takes anything less? A life without patience is a life lost in hopelessness and despair. Nothing will ever be good enough, fast enough, strong enough or long enough if you don’t cultivate patience. As you and your marriage partner change and grow at different rates, you will need patience to deal with his or her little idiosyncrasies, selfishness, childish behavior or whatever else may come. If you don’t have patience, you will be quick to throw in the towel.
Be truthful with your partner. The reality is that you aren’t always going to feel perfect, romantic love for your marriage partner. He or she is going to make you angry, frustrate you or hurt you from time to time. At that moment in time, romantic love flies out the window as you struggle just to survive. However, that doesn’t mean that the love is dead. It may be temporarily misplaced or pushed far back into the recesses of your heart, but chances are it is still there. When you are angry, frustrated, hurt or whatever else, say so! But don’t yell it from the top of your lungs. Don’t word in a way that is meant to inflict the most pain that you can upon the other person. An attack will simply force your partner into a defensive mode. Instead, sit down and lay everything out in a calm, respectful manner. Encourage him or her to do the same so that you get the problem out, deal with it, and get rid of it. Lying will never solve anything. Lies have a nasty way of coming back to bite you, even those that are said in hopes of sparing the other person in some way. Truth is also a better decision. The trick is in how you deliver it.
Respect your partner at all times. You won’t always like your marriage partner. You won’t even always love him or her. However, respect is something that you should be willing to offer at all times. Respect forces you to treat the other person as you would wish to be treated yourself. There is power in that single action. While you may never learn to love your in-laws, you need to work hard at respecting them. After all, they were responsible for making and growing the person with whom you fell in love. That ultimately means that they have something valuable to offer. It is perfectly all right if you never learn to call your spouse’s parents “mom” and “dad.” For a lot of people, those terms belong only to those people that earned them. It’s even all right if you can’t ever honestly say that you love your in-laws wholeheartedly. But respect is something they have rightfully earned by who they are. If you can offer them that, you have found a base upon which to build.
Learn how to be flexible. Chances are there will be times in your marriage, when both of your schedules will be out of control. For much of my marriage, my husband worked the midnight shift while I worked during the days. Consequently, we rarely had time to spend together. Worse yet, our schedules sometimes overlapped in such a way that neither of us was readily available to handle the housework, cook, clean or take care of the children. It was stressful and frustrating in the extreme. However, by sitting down and working out an agreement about “who” could handle “what” and “when” it was feasible to get everything done. Our kids never lost out on any valuable activities and we even found time to spend together as a family. However, that would have never happened had both my husband and I not learned the true value of flexibility.
Develop a good sense of humor and take every opportunity to laugh at yourself and at life. I firmly believe that laughter has the power to cure just about anything. It is excellent medicine for anything that ails you. It is also a great way to break a tense situation, to wash away sadness, and to bring you closer to the ones that you love. Be willing to be a bit silly. Developing a real sense of humor about yourself can be difficult if it hasn’t always been a natural part of who you are. However, you’ll be amazed how quickly you can find the humor in life if you just give yourself the opportunity. Recognizing the absurd will put you good stead to realize when an argument with your spouse has progressed too far out of control. Pulling a fight back before the wrong types of “slings and arrows” are shot is an extremely valuable tool. But that skill really only comes from having a good sense of humor.
Never stop loving. Love has unbelievable power. It can wash away pain. It can offer hope. It can sustain faith. It can accomplish anything of that you c
an conceive, and that includes a successful marriage. However, recognize that romantic love is more “lust” than true love. It accounts for the failure of so many marriages. Once the lust is gone, so is the romantic love. It moves on to someone or something else. True love is much deeper, fuller and all encompassing. It grows every day. As you add members to your family and experiences to your life together, it gets stronger and stronger. It may fluctuate. It may diminish at times. It may even hide for reasons unknown. What it does not do, however, is die. That’s not to say that people who love one other can always live together. Sometimes things happen that make that impossible. But true love never really dies. It just changes and adapts to fit a new situation.
Don’t go to bed mad. Everyone says that and they are right, although not necessarily in the literal sense. What the saying means is that you should not sustain anger. Although it is possible for any human to milk every ounce of anger out of a situation, the reality of it is that won’t change a thing. It is far more satisfying to work through the situation and get on with life. Anger causes stress and stress causes pain and illness. By keeping yourself in a state of anger, the only person you are hurting in the long run is yourself.