This year marks the ten year wedding anniversary for my husband and me. Together for sixteen and married for ten. So as this milestone anniversary approaches, it got me thinking… what are the special ingredients that makes a marriage successfully last the distance?
When we first fall in love, it’s easy to believe that love is all you need to get you through but the truth is marriage is something that needs to be worked at to keep it happy and strong. Although opinions may vary on what makes a great marriage last, below are 10 ways to ensure you’re off to a good start!
Although this list is not placed in any specific order, if I had to put one thing at the top it would be this. There is no denying that marriage is not for wimps. It can be tough at times. There’s the ever present daily pressures and responsibilities of life to deal with for a start – work, children and finances, not to mention the mundane chores and exhaustion that comes with it all. It may seem like a far cry from the old days of courtship where you’d dress up, dine in fabulous restaurants or spend every opportunity in bed!
That’s why commitment is so important – it doesn’t just protect the relationship against hard times, it makes it stronger. Most marriages have their rocky patches but if you’re committed to making it work and are able to withstand the tougher times, the stronger the bond will become.
2. Grow Mutual Respect
Respect for your partner and for yourself helps lay a stronger foundation in your relationship. It also allows you to consider and accept another person’s point of view. Whether it be in the way you talk to each other or showing consideration for your partner and talking things through before making a decision that might affect them, showing respect means you value each other as individuals. You may not always agree on things but showing respect that supersedes the specific issue you may be dealing with helps maintain relationship health.
Working together as a team and where possible helping share the responsibilities of life between you is an essential element in creating marital success.
According to an article by Kristin Moutria for news site Global Post:
“Feeling like your spouse is “on your side” is important for every healthy marriage. You want to be confident that you are facing life’s unique challenges together, and that if something especially difficult were to happen, your spouse would not abandon you. Offer support and encouragement to your significant other and receive the same from him by effectively building teamwork in your relationship.”
Without teamwork the relationship becomes about ‘you’ and ‘me’ rather than ‘we’. This approach can’t help but lead to disharmony in a relationship and resentment can creep in if one or both partners feels they are being taken advantage of by the other. Working together however, creates balance and in turn helps strengthen your respect for one another.
Whether you’re busy with your respective careers or battling the chaos that comes with having a family or even juggling both, life can often leave little time for actually spending with one another.
Even if you’re too tired for sex, affection in a relationship is still highly important. Non-sexual affection should come naturally as part of a loving relationship but if you find things are lacking in that department then make an extra effort with cuddles, kisses and holding hands to keep the bond of intimacy present, keep connected and to show you care.
5. Learn Forgiveness
Learning to forgive your partner is about making a choice. If they have done or said something to really hurt you, forgiveness may take time but being able to forgive and to let go of past hurts is critical to marriage survival.
Marriage experts Sheri and Bob Stritof had this to say about forgiveness:
“Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has grumpy days. Many people say things they do not mean now and then. Everyone needs to forgive and to be forgiven.
No relationship, especially a marriage relationship, can be sustained over a long period of time without forgiveness. Even though you may find it difficult to forgive, being able to forgive is crucial in marriage.
If your spouse abuses you however, continues to betray you, continues to lie to you, etc, then it may be time to say enough is enough and to end your marriage. In these situations, forgiveness for the past hurts may take longer and that is okay.”
Keeping an open dialogue of positive communication is everything in a relationship. When you feel angry at your spouse you are likely to raise your voice and allow your emotion to take control. Shouting may feel like a quick and easy way to release your anger or frustration but more often than not it does more harm than good.
Anger leads to tension and your spouse will naturally become defensive. As this happens there will inevitably be a heated exchange and the message you were trying to convey may even be lost. The negative energy such an exchange creates, cancels any chance you had of your partner being responsive or understanding of your point of view.
Although there may be times when it feels impossible not to put emotion into your communication, when the time is right, you need to regroup calmly with your emotions in check and take a different approach. Try to avoid ‘blaming’ statements that will automatically get your spouses hackles up such as “YOU made ME feel”…Instead communicate with “I feel / felt ….hurt / upset / angry because…”.
By calmly communicating your feelings, you are more likely to receive empathy and understanding from your partner in return.
Trust in any relationship is important but a marriage without trust can have devastating repercussions. Trust provides the comfort in a relationship where each partner knows they can count on the other. A lack of trust can lead to jealousy, suspicion,
insecurity and even contempt.
Trust is present on so many levels in a relationship, whether it be trusting your partner will make the right decision on something, trusting in their opinion when you may question your own or trusting they will not intentionally hurt or deceive you.
If your partner breaks your trust it can be devastating and can have a hugely negative impact on your relationship. However that doesn’t mean the marital relationship can’t be saved – commitment, forgiveness and communication will be your essential tools if you truly believe your spouse made a regrettable mistake. To read more about regaining trust in relationships click here: How to Rebuild Trust in Your Marriage
8. Have a Great Friendship
Friendship is a key cornerstone of a healthy marriage. Different from romantic love, friendship helps deepen that connection between you and your spouse and brings shared laughter, deep conversations that are meaningful and emotional intimacy. It’s about enjoying each other’s company and feeling at ease with one another. Being friends helps create happiness and contentment and strengthens marriage bonds.
Couples who are good friends are also more likely to communicate better and have a deeper respect for one another. Friendship has more staying power than lust or desire and can get you through rough times by supporting and protecting each other or indeed by celebrating each others victories in happier times.
9. Have Independence
In the early days of courtship, it’s fairly normal to want to spend every waking moment with your new love as you naturally build your relationship bond. However, having some independence in an interdependent marriage is essential to marital health.
Having interests, hobbies and friendships outside of your marriage ensures neither partner feels smothered or trapped in their relationship and also gives you both something to talk about at the end of the day. Making sure you get the balance right though is also very important as leading separate lives can be a recipe for divorce!
Once the heady days of early love are behind you, finding time for fun may feel like a luxury when the daily demands of work, caring for a household and children takes over. However, taking time out of your everyday routine to spend time doing something fun can really help you connect just when you may need it most.
We all know life can be tough some days and laughter is often known to be the best medicine as it increases endorphins in the body, creating a natural high.
Feeling happy together is a great bonding experience that can reignite your romance so get the babysitters in and try and have at least one date night a month where you do something fun and leave your problems at home!