So, just what does make a marriage work? That is probably the million dollar question that, of course, does not have just one simple answer. What is the one indispensable ingredient for making marriages work? Family life educators usually answer: communication.
This is good news, because effective communication can be learned. Skills such as active listening, using “I” statements, paying attention to my feelings and those of my spouse, and learning tips for “fighting fair” make marriage easier. Some couples use these skills intuitively because they saw them modeled in their own upbringing.
Others can learn them through classes, workshops and reading. But is that it? Will just a little education and counseling be the fix all, end all? I wish that where it, just simply learning what to do is not enough, there is still the concept of applying it. Of course, the hardest part of communicating usually comes when there is disagreement between the two of you.
That is usually when the gloves come off and neither spouse even makes an attempt to recall any skills learned. Some ingredients, if missing, can doom a relationship from the start. Two primary ones are commitment and common values. Commitment bonds a couple together when you are tired, annoyed, or angry with each other.
Sometimes, remembering your vows can prompt you to push past these problems and try to forgive and start again. Common values are important. If you aren’t together on basic values such as children, honesty, fidelity, and putting family before work, no amount of learning or effort of the will can resolve the conflict.
You might not consider yourself a spiritual person; however, anyone who seeks the deeper meaning of life, and not a life focused on personal pleasure, operates out of a spiritual sense. For many this desire is expressed in commitment to a specific faith tradition. Here one joins with others to worship God and work for the common good.
Although being a person of faith is not essential to making your marriage work, it’s a bonus. Certainly good people throughout the ages have had happy marriages and not all of them have been religious. But it helps to have faith principles to guide you and a faith community to encourage your commitment.
So what is the golden answer? Some say communication, some faith, heck; some would say that if you just had a lot of money everything else would great. I am not sure I buy that theory either. There are several things that healthier marriages have in common, sure they all many differences as well.
But if you took a hand full of healthy marriages, look them over, you will find some similarities. Like, showing interest in one another. In a good marriage, when their partner is speaking, whether arguing or not, they are obviously interested in what the other is saying. Their minds are not wandering, thinking up the next arguing point, or watching TV. They are paying attention. Wow, seems simple.
These couples are affectionate with each other. They show this in little ways, such as touching, holding hands, and expressing their affection for their partner. Sometimes they even show they care by committing small acts of thoughtfulness, such as bringing flowers or a gift without a particular occasion, or making phone calls just to say “Thinking of you.”
It is also not too hard to show appreciation by thinking, remembering and saying positive things about each other. Can you even make the time to show concern by paying attention to things that are bothering your partner, and being supportive without trying to fix things? Here is one that I know couples do not do enough of and that is sharing their joy.
When they are delighted or excited about something, or having fun, they should let each other know. Couples are so quick to share frustration, why do we not ever think to express the joy they are feeling. If you’re still thinking I have a one answer “fix all”, sorry, there isn’t one. But there could be a one word answer for wrecking your marriage and that is RESPECT…actually, the lack thereof.