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Marriage is a partnership. I know we’ve all heard this before. Though the divorce rate is down from the 1980’s and 1990’s, the 50% it is now is still too high. One of the basic fundamentals of a good marriage is communication. Laying the groundwork for good communication is necessary.
I married young the first time and had no idea what a good marriage even looked like. We had a real spark and shared interests, but disagreements spiraled quickly out of control. We were missing most of the elements of good communication. We did have a lot of fun and we learned a lot from each other. He’s a good man.
I’ve been married to my second husband for four and a half years. We dated for 10 years before tying the knot. Before we met he went to a Loving Choices communication class and embraced the things he learned there. Though the teacher, Dr. Bruce Fisher, has passed away the book that he wrote based on his classes still remains in print. My husband gave me a copy after we’d been dating awhile and I have since reread it once a year. I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone who’s interested in learning how to grow and nurture their relationships. You can find it here: Loving Choices
That book was our foundation and we’ve built a strong house on top of it. The following are the walls and the roof of our contented house of marriage. Marriage is always a work in progress and even the ones that look easy from the outside have required years of hard work!
It doesn’t hurt that he also has an awesome sense of humor, can turn any anger I show into a smile and he has a great ass. I’m truly lucky I found him.
1 – Love Yourself
How can you love someone else if you don’t love yourself first? The concept of two halves making a whole isn’t all that valid within a functional marriage. Going into marriage trying to find the missing half of yourself will not work.
I admit, I was still looking for validation outside myself even when I started seeing my current husband. Learning to love and appreciate yourself takes time. There’s a lot to learn but your marriage will be better for it.
2 – Take Care of Yourself First and the Rest Will Follow
This extremely valuable advice that was given to me by someone I dated between husbands. It simply means that if everything that touches your world feels right and good and comfortable those around you will benefit. The good flows downhill just as quickly as the bad.
Take the time you need to care for yourself mentally, physically and spiritually and bring that calm and peace back to your family. Find things that make you happy every day and appreciate all good in your life. The more you appreciate life the more you attract what is good and special to yourself. The universe works by the law of attraction and is happy to give you more of what you appreciate and show gratitude for.
3 – Learn to Communicate
This is an obvious statement. But a surprising number of people have a tough time initiating some subjects with their partner. I know I still do. There are certain things that will give me a giant knot in my stomach when I want to bring them up and usually I worry for nothing! Communication takes bravery and forethought.
Good listening skills are as important as speaking up. Listen with an open heart and open ears. Don’t think about a come back and certainly don’t think about what you want to talk about while someone else is talking to you. Every one of us knows someone who gets that distant look on their face while we’re talking to them. They’re not listening to you. It’s frustrating and disrespectful so don’t do it to your partner.
4 – Learn to Argue Effectively
Take the words “you should” and “you always” out of your vocabulary especially when talking to your spouse or partner. Right now! The minute you use the words “you should” at someone they will tighten up in resistance and nothing else you say will get through to them. My husband and I jokingly call it “shoulding”. If you don’t want someone “shoulding” on you then don’t “should” all over them. “You always” is another can of worms you don’t want to turn loose on someone. For one thing, arguments should stay in the present. “You always” implies past tense which means every argument about the “you always” issue is being dragged into the present argument from the past. “You always” will cause much resistance in your partner.
Instead of “you should” and “you always” bring the words “I feel” into the conversation. Two simple words that not only soften the situation, it opens it up for further examination. “I feel” originates with you.
Both parties need to take ownership of the conversation and not let it spiral out of control.
5 – Choose Being Kind Over Being Right
When given the choice between being kind or being right, choose kind. ~ Dr. Wayne Dyer
Think back to a time when you were convinced that you were totally in the right about something. Was there an opportunity to be kind or did you just go in with guns blazing and make the other person feel awkward or stupid just because you wanted to be right? There are many ways to take the kind route without giving up being right. Unless it’s a life or death reason for being right, silence is always a good way to be kind. If you still feel you need to be right and offer advice temper it with a “Maybe you could try this …” Being kind over being right complements taking “you should” out of your speech.
Intolerance of your partners views, likes or dislikes can cause a lot of disharmony and ill will. Agree to disagree and don’t leave arguments unresolved.
6 – Build a Foundation on Mutual Respect
Choosing kind instead of right builds mutual respect in a relationship. My husband and I don’t always see eye to eye. We don’t have a lot of hobbies in common and some of our viewpoints diverge fairly far apart. But we always respect each other’s opinions and points of view. We respect each other’s professions. and keep good boundaries despite the fact we work together. Mutual respect and enjoyment of each other is key to a good relationship.
7 – Have Common Goals in Life
Even though we don’t have a lot of mutual hobbies (except for gardening … we both LOVE to garden), we do have mutual goals in life. It’s wonderful to have personal goals, but two people who are together without common goals are two boats bouncing over the ocean with no direction. Try to do major goal setting every year. What is your year going to look like? Plan your vacation. Go over financial goals. Are children your common goal? Is retirement your goal? Even a goal of having fun and enjoying each other is still a goal.
Goals are the framework that goes on your foundation.
Happiness and Contentment
Hey, it’s something no one ever really tells you. Maintaining a happy marriage requires on-going hard work. So many people go into it with rose-colored glasses. There’s a fire and a spark that you think will never die. Then reality sets in and suddenly, there are things that bother you now that didn’t bother you in the beginning. There are kids, money issues, personality issues. It is so worth it though to spend a few minutes every day giving gratitude for all the lovely things in your partnership or marriage. Build up your foundation so that the rest of the structure has something firm to grow and thrive on. That which you focus your attentions on thrives.
My marriage has been an almost constant source of joy in my life and I love passing on the things that I’ve learned along the way. We are still constantly learning new things about each other and taking happiness in every day because our partnership is strong.
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