During our honeymoon flight, the woman next to us asked how we knew we loved each other enough to marry. The answer I gave her is still as applicable today as it was almost 30 years ago.
To us, our marriage was sacred and studies, such as the 2001 study by Annette Mahoney et al, have shown religion strengthens the marriage commitment. We told her belief in God and Jesus Christ was important to the both of us.
We then explained some of the other qualities important to our love. These have also strengthened our marriage, family and other relationships.
The love that keeps a marriage strong is not the electricity, hormones or infatuation that brought you together. It's not the pretty or handsome face or features. These change as we grow older. It's each other's character that keeps the love strong in a marriage.
Couples should date long enough to get past the honeymoon or infatuation phase because it's usually not strong enough to maintain a marriage. Marriage should not occur until you understand and know for a surety you can live with your partner's character. You'll also need to answer the question, "How important are the character traits that bother you?" Remember, marriage is not instantaneous or here today, gone tomorrow, it's a 50-year or more commitment. If you can't get past a particular trait, you'll be miserable, and the marriage may suffer.
I fell in love with my husband's smile, his humor and his willingness to accept me as I was. Neither of us has tried to change the other. Sure there are things he does that bother me and vice versa, but they aren't enough to negate, or disturb the love that binds us. If we're troubled enough, we know we can talk about it without condemnation. He was, and still is, the love of my life.
Differences and similarities
Different feelings and points of view should be welcome in any relationship and are important to a healthy relationship; however they should not be destructive. Dealing with conflict should draw upon both partner's differences and similarities. This quality provides balance. Often differences are ignored early in a relationship while couples focus on their similarities. Be honest with this quality. Always show your companion your true self. If your attempts to woo require false premises, your relationship will not last.
How does your companion handle disagreements with you? With friends? With strangers? Are responses verbally abusive? Physically abusive? Can you handle the yelling? The responses to conflict need acknowledgement and should not be overlooked. Overlooking is easy to do during the honeymoon phase, but not during any other phase of the relationship. Marriage should not be considered if there's violence or abuse. Do not overlook these signs.
Marriage brings two people together and needs to be based on the same goals. Spouses may have separate goals for their individual selves, but both need to have the same goals for the marriage. Fifty or more years is a long time, even though they seem to go by quickly, so make short, mid- and long-term goals as advised in 6 points to increase your chances of keeping your New Year's resolutions.
Many times our parents told us the story of my dad's proposal. He asked my mom, "How many children are we going to have?" She responded, "You haven't asked me to marry you." He said, "I already know you're going to marry me."
She wanted 12 children. They had 5 of which I'm the oldest.
This quality intertwines with and binds all the other qualities of a relationship. Talking during the dating and honeymoon period is very important for couples to learn more about their compatibility and helps with the decision to the question, "Is this the one?"
Keeping God in your marriage is an important quality, and communication through prayer is the way to invite his help to keep your marriage strong. Each individual should include prayers for their partner as well as themselves.
Communication is also important to understanding individuality and character traits. Talk to your companion during the dating and honeymoon phase. This will help you know whether or not you can live with each other's differences and similarities.
Couples need to understand each other's parental objectives and if they're workable for the relationship. How many? How are you going to handle differences of culture and religion? What about discipline? Who stays home? Is it possible for one to work part time while the other works full time, or do both need to work full time? Daycare choices? School choices? Even if your decision is to not have children, discussions should include answers to "what if?" As life often reminds us, we don't always get what we want.
We told the woman to be herself and talk to her companion about her likes, dislikes and their differences and that communication is one of the most important qualities of any relationship. Make sure these qualities are present in your relationship, and you'll be celebrating your 50th anniversary and beyond.