Let’s be honest. Marriage is an institution in decline in our society and that is a tragedy. The selfishness, addictions, and lack of personal responsibility individuals develop in their youth are taking their toll, and the statistics on marriage don’t paint a pretty picture. So, what makes a successful marriage? Is it even possible to have one?
I assure you- they do exist. I have been happily married for over 12 years and I am blessed to be surrounded by many other couples who have been happily married for much longer than that. Their marriages are not successful because they haven’t had their share of challenges. They have successful marriages because they are truly committed to each other and have made deliberate choices to strengthen their relationships from the start.
Marriage can and should be an amazing, fulfilling, life-long journey and if you take it seriously, despite the challenges you may face as a couple, it will bring you the greatest joy you have ever experienced. I am going to assume you didn’t choose a dirt bag to spend the rest of your life with. If you did… I’m sorry. There is not much I can do to help you. But assuming you chose wisely, there are deliberate choices you can make together right now to solidify the commitment you are making to each other and create a successful marriage. Here are 5 habits to start the day you get married that will give you a strong foundation to build a life of happiness on.
1- Gratitude. I cannot overemphasize how important it is to express gratitude to each other on a daily basis. Not in an over-the-top cheesy or annoying way. Just in simple ways throughout the day. “Honey- thanks for making the bed. Thanks for filling my drawer with clean socks. Thanks for taking out the garbage. Thanks for working so hard for us. Thanks for making me feel beautiful. Thanks for helping my parents with their project.” Just express it in simple ways as often as you can. It is amazing the lengths we can happily go to as long as we feel appreciated. And it feels so good inside both to express gratitude it and have it expressed to you. Do not get in the habit of expecting things from each other. There is a sweet and tender element that will always exist in your relationship if you make the habit of gratitude central to your interactions, and it will pay off hugely if you choose to have children. Your example of gratitude towards each other will have a powerful effect on their interactions with their siblings and others.
2- Protect your marriage. My husband and I were married before social media was very prevalent. We still made rules to keep ourselves out of vulnerable situations. The number one rule was to avoid being alone anywhere with a member of the opposite sex. But the internet has made this more complicated. In a world where social media has become the main form of social interaction, it is a tricky thing to navigate the relationships you’ve created online with the commitment you’ve made to your husband or wife. It is important to set boundaries that will protect your marriage.
It is so easy to start a relationship with a member of the opposite sex online that seems innocent enough, until suddenly you find yourself being unfaithful to your spouse emotionally, mentally, or physically. Give each other full access to your email and social media accounts. Choose carefully who you will interact with online. Be particularly careful with people you have had a romantic relationship in the past. If you feel that someone could be the slightest threat to your relationship, limit or cutoff your contact with them. It is just not worth it.
3- No secrets. Secrets kill marriages. Period. If you have messed up in some way, go to your spouse immediately and talk to them about it. We all make mistakes. And it can be painful and embarrassing to admit them. But, if they are admitted and dealt with quickly, it is so much easier to nip them in the bud. It is also much easier for a spouse to forgive and forget if they know you haven’t been trying to hide something from them for a long time. It is very difficult to be authentic in your relationship if you are always worried in the back of your mind that your spouse will find out what you have done. You end up lying more and more to keep your cover and that introduces trust issues into your marriage that just don’t need to be there when the truth finally emerges- which it always does. Be willing to tell the truth when you need to and be willing to forgive your spouse when they come to you. We are all going to make mistakes along the way. But being honest with each other about them will keep them from growing into a monster that could end your marriage.
(I feel this is particularly important when it comes to pornography. If you feel pornography is not a big deal or a threat to your marriage, please visit this site and educate yourself. http://pornharms.com/)
4- Make your marriage your first priority. Don’t let work, pets, hobbies, or even children become a higher priority than maintaining a healthy and happy relationship with your spouse. You may think- “Of course my marriage will be my first priority!” I promise you, you will have to fight hard to do this. But everything else in your life will benefit from your decision to put your spouse first in the end. If there is something in your life that is keeping you from doing this, make changes or let it go (except for your kids, of course. Don’t let them go. (-: ) It is hard to keep everything else in your life together if your marriage is falling apart. And the greatest gift you can give your children, if and when you have them, is the security of knowing their parents love each other and are committed to each other.
5- Don’t let little things become big things. You chose this person to be your companion for life or for eternity- whatever you believe in. There must be several admirable qualities that they possess that made you want to spend your life with them. After you are married, you will discover little things about each other that may be annoying or quirky or even aggravating. We ALL have imperfections.
For example: My husband cannot estimate correctly what time he will be home from work to save his life. He is an entrepreneur so he makes his own schedule. I will call him every night to find out what time to expect him home for dinner. He rarely comes home when he says he will. Early in our marriage I would get so annoyed with him for coming home late. Then I realized he was fairly consistently coming home about an hour and a half later than he would tell me. I decided I wanted to be happily married and that this wasn’t a character flaw- he’s just bad at estimating time. So, I started adding and hour and a half to whatever time he told me he would be home, and if he got home any earlier, I would just be pleasantly surprised! I no longer got annoyed and could focus on all the things I love about him again.
If you choose to see your spouse through the lens of the things that annoy you, you will be miserable in your marriage. If you instead choose to see your spouse for the entirety of who they are and keep at the forefront of your mind all the wonderful qualities they possess that drew you to them in the first place, it becomes easier to let the little annoyances go. Make adjustments where you can and keep the little things little.
Be wise from the beginning and actively work to make your marriage strong and healthy. Life is so much better when you can experience the joys and overcome the challenges with someone who you love, appreciate, and are committed to. Take seriously the vows you are making. Don’t become another depressing statistic because you expect marriage to just be magical without any effort on your part. Together you can choose to make marriage an incredible experience that changes you forever and helps you both become your best selves, and that is what life is really all about.
Check out this article to find out what 2 traits the top researchers have found make a marriage lasting and successful.
Another post from Trish you might enjoy: Unexpected Blessings of Financial Struggles
And check out this post from Karine: 10 Ways to Surprise Your Spouse