The surprising key to a lasting marriage

Its simplicity will surprise you, but its depth will surely enlighten you.

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  • Surprising in its simplicity, there is a concept that brings joy and peace into every marriage.

  • Speaking of husbands and wives, religious leader Linda Burton said, "We need each other ... we need to lift each other and help each other become the people the Lord would have us become." Burton quoted the Quaker proverb, "Thee lift me and I lift thee, and we'll ascend together."

  • With this in mind, Burton suggests that the crucial element in any marriage is to "complete each other, not compete with each other."

  • The Bible teaches that a wife is to be a "help meet" for her husband, a helper suited to, worthy of, or corresponding to — which applies in the reverse as well. Like two hands that are complete opposites, husbands and wives are also completely complimentary.

  • It is a known fact that we all enjoy more happiness when we rejoice in each other's successes instead of focusing only on our own, and this especially applies in our relationships with our spouses. When we stop trying to be better than our spouses and focus on sincerely enjoying their successes, we experience the greatest joy.

  • This general concept was evident in a recent NBC interview with Roma Downey and Mark Burnett, co-producers of the highly successful television miniseries, "The Bible." During the interview, each praised the other's abilities. Mark spoke of how Roma's faith had undoubtedly influenced and strengthened him. Roma likewise praised her husband for his success with shows like "Survivor," "Shark Tank" and "The Voice." As a couple, their success lies not in competing with each other but in completing each other, unified in the common goal of strengthening the world's faith in God.

  • Much can be learned from couples around us, including ordinary people you know who seem to have found the formula for "completing each other." Here are a few ideas to help you on your way to having this blessed relationship with your spouse.

  • 1. Pay attention to what your spouse enjoys

  • First, notice. Then, show interest! Do not be the oblivious mate who walks through the room — through life — unaware of what your spouse is doing. Notice, and care.

  • 2. Compliment your spouse on things he or she does well

  • If your wife is learning to paint, look at what she has accomplished. Find joy in her excitement about what she is learning. If your husband is acknowledged at work for a successful project, rejoice in his success. Recognize the sacrifice and hard work it took your spouse to succeed. Then, truly rejoice over your spouse's accomplishments and give honest praise.

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  • 3. Beware of jealousy

  • Do not for one minute think you are less if your spouse accomplishes something noteworthy. True friends rejoice in each others accomplishments. Marriage is the greatest of all friendships, so let it be one where you find genuine joy in each other's successes.

  • 4. Be ready to listen — without feeling threatened

  • Your spouse may have an idea worth considering — one that may not have crossed your mind. Neither you nor your spouse will always have the right solution in every situation (this is especially true in child rearing). Be open. When couples compete, children learn to play one parent against the other. Give and take. Counsel together — especially in the duties of parenting.

  • 5. Earnestly pray for your spouse to achieve his or her goals

  • This doesn't mean you stop praying for your own success. It just means you want your spouse to succeed just as much as you want success for yourself. It's a win-win relationship.

  • As a couple pulls together, united in the common goal of enriching their spouse's life, both husband and wife will enjoy the sweetness of a "complete" relationship.

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Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer. Together they author books on relationships.

Website: http://garyjoylundberg.com

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