A post from January 27, 2014.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about what it takes to have a happy marriage, and while I agree with a lot of what I read, I think it boils down to just six simple things. My husband and I have only been married for a little over three and a half years so we in no way have all of this figured out. There are some big life moments waiting for us in the years to come, I’m sure, and as we’ve done so far, we’ll face them together. Marriage isn’t about “unconditional” love or about “falling” in love. Marriage is a very deliberate love. It is a love that you enter into with your eyes wide open and one that you choose to continue with every day. Because of this choice, the love in a marriage should grow stronger with each year and should be constantly evolving.
As with all advice, these might not all apply to every marriage or relationship. After you’re in a marriage/relationship for a while, you begin to realize what works best for you. These six things are what work best for us. They are the roots for our happy marriage. We have learned from past mistakes and are working toward a happier us.
1. Communicate. This one should be common sense and shouldn’t even need to be stated, but it’s so important that it deserves #1. Also, it’s sometimes the hardest one to do. As two different people from different backgrounds, it can be difficult to communicate with one another and understand what the other one needs. This takes time, effort, and, most importantly, patience. You have to both be willing to talk things through from the really big issues (like religion, politics, education, children) to even the small things (like who cooks and who does the dishes). You both also need to communicate about affection and intimacy with one another. Is PDA (public display of affection) a yea or a nay? What’s the expectation of sex after marriage? And then after children? (A difficult yet important question especially once you’ve been married for a while.) Communicate openly, frequently, and authentically, and put away those electronic devices while you’re at it.
2. Don’t Expect to Change the One You Love. This goes back to a previous post I made about the importance of loving ALTHOUGH versus loving BECAUSE. If you’re entering a relationship thinking you really like this person and can see it working out if just this one thing would change about him/her, run. Get out while you can. People don’t change. And to be brutally honest, the feelings you’re experiencing for that person aren’t authentic if you’re still thinking you need certain things to change in that person. Real love accepts the person as he/she is. Period. No exceptions.
3. Trust. This isn’t something that has to be earned, but in a lot of cases, it is something that has to be learned. Learned by us. Your significant other should have your trust from the starting line. They don’t have to work for it; they don’t have to earn it. Trust should already be there because there should be no reason why it isn’t there. If one of your exes cheated on you in the past and you have a difficult time trusting now, that’s not on your significant other to heal that wound. It’s certainly something that should be discussed and should be out in the open, but making your new love pay for your old wounds isn’t fair and will cause problems down the line. Until the trust is broken by a REAL situation in your relationship with this new person, there is no reason to mistrust him/her.
4. Don’t Always Agree; Just Always Respect. You’re not always going to agree with your partner even on the big issues. It’s human nature. However, we must always remember to respect our partners. This respect will help tone down arguments and will translate into respect for the beliefs and opinions of our partners. I’ve found in some cases with my husband that we’ll get into a heated discussion, and the only thing left for me to say is that I respect that he has a different viewpoint than me and exit the room. We’ll revisit the topic later when we have time to collect our thoughts and get a hold of our emotions. When we forget the respect for one another, fights can get out of control, name-calling can start, nags can be born, and hearts can be trampled. There’s nothing wrong with not seeing eye to eye, but there’s a big problem when you can’t respect one another.
5. Spend Time Together…And Apart. My husband and I try to carve out time together each weeknight and every weekend. (Keep in mind that we don’t have children yet, and I realize that this will be more difficult if we ever decide to go down that road. However, it’s still a necessity.) We try to at least eat dinner together during the weeknights before we go our separate ways. Each Friday night, we try to have a date night. If Friday is booked with friends, we move our date night around. We know it’s important for us to have time together, and during this time, we focus on each other. We ask each other genuine questions so we know what’s happening with each other. This is our time to have our authentic communication. However, it’s important to note that healthy relationships don’t spend all their time together. My husband likes to have game nights with his friends, and I enjoy going out with my friends. We have at least one, two, and sometimes three nights a week where we are apart from one another. And when we are in the house together, we are not spending every waking minute together. It’s also important to have individual time. Balance is the key.
6. Don’t Bring Others In. Humans are social creatures (for the most part). We like to get other people’s opinions. We like to let other people know what’s going on. However, bringing other people into your relationship issues is a big no-no. Do not broadcast your problems to all your family and friends. It is never a good thing for everyone in your life to know what’s happening behind your closed doors. For one, you can bet a lot of those people are continuing to talk about you and your partner after you’re gone. Secondly, this can create sides amongst your family and friends. They either pick your side or your partner’s side. This may sound like a good thing (especially when they’re all picking your side), but when whatever issue is resolved, those feelings that your family and friends harbored won’t just suddenly dissipate. They’ll still feel animosity toward you or your partner, causing prolonged issues. Lastly, people may start avoiding you because they don’t wish to talk about your relationship AGAIN. When you bring others in, it can get uncomfortable for the others, and these people may start avoiding you.
If you need someone’s opinion, have one—yes, ONE—person you talk to. Sometimes we all need a trusted friend to talk to, but just make sure this trusted friend is someone who won’t put your relationship issues on blast either (or else you’ll have the same issues as listed above). It also may be beneficial to seek couple’s counseling rather than relying on friends. The help of an unbiased specialized outsider can be very beneficial if the relationship is something that both you and your partner have agreed to fight for through counseling.