By Michael Hehn
Do you believe in falling in love? In finding that “special someone” who is your other half, your soulmate? Do you dream of finding the one person in all the world who will understand you, love you and be there for you, no matter what? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, statistics show that about 90% of adults will get married at least once in their lives.
As a society, we’ve become so conditioned to the fairy tale of “Happily Ever After” that many people actually feel as if their life is lacking something if they’re not a part of a couple.
But sadly, just like in the movies, most peoples’ thoughts seem to stop at the part when the music swells and the happy couple says “I do” and loses themselves in that first magic kiss as husband and wife. They don’t think about what happens after the honeymoon.
Considering that about 43% of all marriages in the U.S. ends in divorce, perhaps a class on the realities of building and maintaining a strong healthy marriage should become required before signing on the dotted line of a marriage license.
Having a happy marriage doesn’t just happen by accident. It doesn’t happen because you’re “in love” or “perfect” for each other. Marriage is a partnership, and like any partnership, it takes commitment, dedication and hard work to help it to grow strong.
Here are some tips given by couples whose marriages are strong and healthy. Follow them, adapt them to work in your own marriage, and you’ll be on your way to having what we all want — a happy marriage!
1. Communicate. It’s important that you keep the lines of communication open. Especially when things go wrong. There are so many outside influences that can affect a marriage — jobs, family, friends, hobbies, education, church. If you’re suddenly not being able to spend time together, or you’re fighting about money, it’s especially important to talk about what’s going on.
2. Listen. It’s a sad fact that we are often more polite to strangers than we are to the people we love the most. If your spouse is trying to talk to you, whether it’s to find out what you want for dinner, to tell you about their day, or to discuss a problem in your marriage, give them the same courtesy you’d give a complete stranger, and LISTEN! Don’t try to finish their sentences, don’t try to solve their problems, and don’t ever say, “I told you so!” Here’s an especially apt poem, written by Ogden Nash:
It’s really a good idea to probe a little deeper into the subject of marriage,love. What you learn may give you the confidence you need to venture into new areas.
To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the wedding cup,
Whenever you’re wrong, admit it;
Whenever you’re right, shut up.
3. Create rituals and family traditions. Every successful couple has their own private rituals – things they do that has a special meaning just to them. So whether it’s getting your spouse coffee every morning, a special touch that means “I love you”, or creating couple signals for “Let’s get out of here, or “No, I don’t want to buy a timeshare for $95,000!” find your own. Remember some of your favorite childhood family traditions, and incorporate them or start new ones in your own couple. Someday, you’ll look back on each time as a treasured memory.
4. Go on a date. Couples who have been together for thirty, forty and even fifty years or more say that one of the things that has kept their marriage strong is going out on a “date” with their spouse on a regular basis. If money is tight, try taking a walk together, going to a dollar movie, or even to a drive-in. Spending quality “couple-time” helps to reinforce the special feelings that made you fall in love with each other in the first place.
5. Agree on money matters early. Amazingly, many couples never discuss money except in the most superficial ways until after they’re married. One of the leading causes of arguments in marriages is because of a difference in how money is handled in the couple. Before you walk down the isle, discuss your feelings about things like credit, paying bills and saving money. Talk about how you will pay expenses, and who will handle the money. Finding out after the fact that you have major differences is only going to lead to long term problems.
6. Love and Respect. No matter what happens outside of your marriage, it’s vital that you and your spouse always treat each other with love and respect. There are some simple rules that have worked for couples for the last 80 years that still apply today. They include: Never go to bed angry. Kiss each other every time you come home, or before going out. Say “I love you” every single day. Mind your manners, and say “Please” and “Thank-you”. Do something for the one you love every day. Just because. Occasionally write love letters to each other. Laugh at his/her jokes, no matter how bad they are, or how often you’ve heard them. Don’t sweat the little things. Try something new once in a while.
7. Maintain a commitment to your marriage. This can be especially difficult today, but it’s important that you put your marriage first. If you’re committed to making your marriage a success, and you know that your partner shares your commitment, there’s nothing that the two of you can’t accomplish.
And you’ll be one of the lucky few that have a truly happy marriage!
Don’t limit yourself by refusing to learn the details about marriage,love. The more you know, the easier it will be to focus on what’s important.