As newlyweds, what can my spouse and I do to ensure that our relationship will go the distance and weather the storms that life is likely to throw at us?
To begin with, believe that it's possible. A growing number of people today have such bad attitudes about marriage that they go into it – if they get married at all – expecting the worst. This is tragic, since fears and negative expectations have a way of becoming self-fulfilling; as Job said, "The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me" (Job 3:25). So set your hearts and minds in a positive direction. If you do, we're confident that your marriage will beat the odds of today's sorry statistics. After all, many psychologists believe that the greatest predictor of a lasting marriage is a commitment to marriage itself.
You can maintain that attitude by remembering that marriage is a relationship, not a possession. Yes, we do say "my wife" and "my husband," but that's simply a way of setting boundaries for others outside your marriage to recognize and respect. It's all yours – to protect and nourish. Look at your marriage as the longest relationship you'll ever experience on purpose, and you'll be well on your way to reaching the goal.
It's also important to keep your faith strong and vibrant. The deeper your relationship with God, the more motivation you'll have to love and cherish one another. Faith produces gracious attitudes and kindly behavior. And a good sense of humor doesn't hurt either.
How do you apply and put these principles into practice? What do they look like in terms of practical, everyday married life? Some experienced couples have offered the following suggestions.
- First, committed marriage partners go beyond words in expressing their love for one another. Smiles and hugs will help your spouse know that the "I love yous" are genuine. Something about the warmth of a caring embrace generates a sense of acceptance and worth.
- Second, communicate with one another honestly and straightforwardly. Keep your disagreements healthy and constructive. Drop the barbs – cleverness is too tempting to be profitable, especially in the thick of a disagreement. Avoid negative, self-centered and destructive styles of interaction, such as blaming and accusing, withdrawing, locking one another out and avoiding the subject. Remember that emotional traffic flows more smoothly when you honor the "Yield" signs. Nobody is right all the time. Stop viewing your relationship as a "competition" that one or the other of you is required to "win." If you don't, you may find that the "victor" ends up crushing the "loser," and that the ultimate casualty is your marriage itself.
- Third, don't get smug. Make humility your highest aim. Deny yourself the sour satisfaction of gloating. Without fail it creates festering resentment. If you find yourself starting to move in that direction, apply the brakes at once and make a U-turn. It takes courage to make amends – but remember, problems can be an opportunity wearing work clothes.
Obviously, these suggestions aren't especially complicated. At their heart, they're simply expressions of your dedication to go the distance. Husbands and wives who have made a journey of many years together know that theirs is a marriage of more than mere pleasure or convenience; it's a commitment in which divorce has never been considered an option.
If you need some help applying these ideas to your marriage, or would simply like to discuss your concerns at greater length with a member of our staff, we'd like to invite you to call Focus on the Family's Counseling department. They can also provide you with a list of qualified, licensed Christian marriage and family therapists practicing in your local area. It would be their pleasure to assist you in any way they can.
Clues to Discovering Your Spouse's Love Language: Dr. Gary Chapman explains keys to understanding your spouse's love language.
The First Five Years of Marriage
Keeping Romance Alive