By Mike Edwards
This is a previous Post. I thought I would repost with some minor changes, to follow up my Post last week — How The Heck Do You Parent Well?
I’m no expert but one who is anxious for others to avoid my failures. I can assure you my marriage hasn’t lasted 41 years so far because I am some saint. Divorce can happen and doesn’t doom one as a failure for life. Relationships aren’t that complicated, just hard. Many marriages can succeed when both partners adhere to a few essential attitudes and actions to better relate. I am going to keep this less than a five-minute read to hopefully provoke more readings about marriage here or elsewhere if struggling. Success isn’t an exact path. We all have a chance if strive to treat our partner like a best friend!
The Right Attitude — Accepting Differences
Good luck finding a partner that always agree. Marriage is about living happily incompatible. There are no perfect matches. Relationships often start off well because reality hasn’t set in — sharing closets, bathrooms, in-laws, children, etc. You still have in common why you began the relationship, but now you have to work out your differences. Other friendships don’t have the 24/7 challenges. Naively, I assumed in the beginning I would be happily married 100% of the time. Now, I realize being pleased 75% of the time is a pretty good marriage. Strive to treat your partner like you want to be treated when not agreeing. Marriage isn’t agreeing but learning to disagree.
The Right Actions — Fighting Fair
After accepting we don’t have a right to expect everything we desire, we still must solve differences to live peacefully together. When handling differences in other relationships it usually is out in public with others around eyeballing your actions. In a 24/7 relationship differences can happen more in private. There is less accountability to behave. Kids, we know the rules in solving differences — keep your hands to yourself, don’t raise your voice, stop interrupting, etc. When such rules are violated, give each other permission to stop and restart when acting more civilly. Couples who say they are no longer in love have stopped treating each other in loving ways. Happy couples expect problems and solve differences in a positive manner so solutions can be discovered.
Identify A Specific Plan And Persist
As you strive for the right attitude and actions — develop specific steps each can take, evaluate success in a time limited fashion, and do it all over again. Keep trying until finding what works. Judge the relationship not on feelings that depend on circumstance but judge the relationship on specific actions that can bring about desired feelings. Couples often give up too soon because they attempt a “hit and miss” approach to their problems. Couples often argue, “they have tried everything.” Develop your own list of habits such as below:
- During conflict both ideally ask “what can I do differently” not “why can’t you”
- Assume good will of you partner unless you married the devil
- Focus on solutions than problems
- Persist unless one partner is being abusive
- Run from temptations such as drugs or affairs that can set you up for failure
- Get third party help after remaining stuck
- Try doing what you would tell your friend if they asked for advise
- Identify 2 or 1 thing you wish each would do differently once a day that is observable and you can acknowledge genuine appreciation when it happens
- Focus on you being the right person rather than your partner
- Happy couples’ ratio of encouraging than criticizing is at least 6:1
Spiritual help can be invaluable in marriage
Maybe you are just a good person without any help. Personally, I need help being the best version of myself for the sake of my partner. I need to be willing to say sorry. I need to recognize I am being selfish. I need to be willing to forgive when my partner takes responsibility for their actions. Great marriages aren’t about being good enough or not as bad as other partners. The best goal of marriage or any relationship is aiming for perfection. My view of God inspires me to pursue perfection in my relationships without being paralyzed by guilt when failing. I have the “want to” to be perfect. I believe that motivation comes from God!
John and Julie Gottman, who have researched marriage relationships for years to identify important factors that lead to success, state something so true: “Every marriage has perpetual issues — conflicts based on personality differences or lifestyle differences that never go away. Common examples include how much intimacy there should be in a marriage, as well as disagreements over money and household chores. But as longtime marriage therapists, we’ve found that partners can live peacefully with perpetual issues as long as they talk about them in a open, productive way.”
Mike Edwards has been writing for Done with Religion for some time and has been a great addition to the site. Mike also has his own site where he writes that can be found at What God May Really Be Like He can be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org