Creating A Forever Marriage
Whether you have been together 3 months or 30 years, there will be ups and downs in a marriage. But there are things that successful couples do to keep their love alive. Why do we need to work so hard on our relationships, and what can we do to keep that spark alive?
According to a Time Psychology article:
“The divorce rate often reported by the media is 50 percent, which is based on Census Bureau data. However, census data does not capture the 10 to 15 percent of couples who permanently separate but do not file formal paperwork for a legal divorce. This means that a conservative estimate of the divorce and permanent separation rate is 60 percent. Add the additional 7 percent of chronically unhappy couples who do not divorce or permanently separate but are consistently unhappy in their marriage, and this means that two-thirds of all married couples do not live happily ever after.”
The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love
So why is marriage so difficult in the long term? Science calls it “habituation,” aka getting bored. The author of “The Art of Seduction” explained that surprise is key to romance. Greene explains, “Seduction involves a degree of surprise, which is generally the first thing that disappears after you’ve been in a relationship, and why there’s no more seducing that goes on. Everything is familiar and you’re no longer surprised by the other person.”
So HOW DO WE FIX IT? Here’s four of my favorite ways to keep the love alive.
Work on developing a sense of true commitment to your spouse. While some couples feel pressure to stay together because of family or social influence, a sense of commitment to each other because of mutual love and respect will be much more effective. Viewing your relationship as a permanent bond creates a feeling of security in your marriage. The Awake! magazine mentions that viewing “problems as obstacles, not as deal breakers” will foster good feelings in a marriage. Instead of concluding you aren’t made for each other as soon as things get hard, look for the reasons to stay together instead of looking for ways out of the marriage. So, realistically, what can a couple do to strengthen their commitment?
-Show you are committed to your mate by letting others know you are married and displaying photos of your spouse.
-Keep in contact with each other throughout the day regularly.
-Show your appreciation for the things your spouse does with your words and actions.
Are there things your partner does for you that, when they first started doing them, you absolutely loved? How about now? Do you still take the time to say “thank you” for all the little things your mate does? Bringing the appreciation you first had back into your relationship can do all kinds of good. Don’t take each other for granted. Being grateful for the little things will also make it easier for you to forgive their mistakes. Gratefulness puts everything into perspective.
“Respectful speech is the mortar that can hold your marriage together” (Awake!). Respecting each other means caring about each other even when a disagreement arises. Respectful spouses are able to calmly navigate difficulties by listening to what their spouse has to say and finding a compromise that works for both sides. One husband put it this way, “To respect my wife means that I appreciate her value and I don’t want to do anything that would damage our marriage.” What a good way to view things! So how can we become more respectful in our relationship?
-Notice if you frequently are critical or sarcastic in your speech. If so, work on wording things in a more genuine way.
-Write down ways you want to be respected in your relationship and have your mate do the same. Exchange lists and discuss ways you can work on showing respect in those areas.
-Make a list of things you admire about your mate. Share these with them and tell them you appreciate them.
What makes communication successful? According to the article “12 Secrets of Successful Families,” “Genuine communication takes place when you and your [mate] share a two-way exchange of thoughts and feelings.” So what practical steps do we need to take to make our conversations count?
-Adapt your timetable. Yes, life is busy, but it’s so important to take the time to have meaningful communication. Even when you are tired, take the time to really listen to each other.
-Fight distractions and focus when you are communicating.
-Take advantage of the time you spend together. Instead of sitting and watching tv or driving and listening to the radio, take the time to ask each other about your day. Eat meals together and really listen with interest in the other person.
“Be quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Don’t passively rely on the “magic” you have experienced in the beginning of your relationship. Spend time together, work at it together. Relying on that “magic” makes a relationship feel like it is based on things that are out of your control, but that’s simply not true! Actively talk about what you love about your love and work together on increasing those good things. Communicating frequently and honestly will help you to focus on improvement strategies instead of trying to change your partner. Research shows that the most successful couples are more about increasing what is good than reducing what is bad.
So yes, a successful marriage will take work. “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.” -Pele. So it’s worth the work! Keep the love alive in your marriage and you can be happy no matter what comes your way.
Barker, Eric. “The Science Of 'Happily Ever After': 3 Things That Keep Love Alive.” Time, Time, 16 Apr. 2014, time.com/62029/the-science-of-happily-ever-after-3-things-that-keep-love-alive/.
Greene, Robert. The Art of Seduction. Profile Books, 2003.
12 Secrets of Successful Families. (2018). Awake!, (No. 2 2018), pp.4, 6, 8.