We know what divorce looks like. Divorce looks like arguing. Divorce looks like bad choices. Divorce looks like pain.
But here's the kicker.
The marriages that last forever? They're made from the exact same things. Search the world over, and you'll find these three beautiful flaws in every lasting relationship.
Fights that go "boom"
So you've had a serious beef or two with your spouse (and if you haven't yet, you will). But after decades of observation, experts tell us that even people in the most successful marriages have had terrible fights that led them to question, "Why did I marry this person?"
Sound familiar? You know it does — and hopefully you and your sweetheart now have a good laugh remembering the night you almost called "time of death" on your relationship because you were both starving but couldn't agree on where to eat out.
Interestingly, the key to a lasting relationship is not an absence of disagreement. Instead, relationship experts observe that lasting couples tend to disagree using two very particular strategies: a delicate, non-blaming approach when bringing up issues, and expressions of gratitude afterward (even when conflicts are left unresolved).
In other words, a successful couple takes a recipe for disaster and cooks up something much tastier by mixing in two insanely simple ingredients. Sounds too easy? Try finding something to sincerely thank your sweetheart for the next time she questions your parallel parking.
Not as easy as it sounds, right?
But, as Grandma always said, "Good cooks follow the recipe." And so do good marriages.
Sure, your wife is bound to catch you using her special decorative towels at least once when you think she's not looking. And ladies? Hubby knows that you losing his mother's meatloaf recipe was no accident. But these things are simple hiccups that some might call embarrassing, not shameful.
True shame is a different beast entirely. It's looking into the eyes of the person who holds your bleeding heart and confessing, "I've done something terrible. I can't justify it. Please love me and help me anyway." Though such intense vulnerability terrifies even the strongest men, those in lasting relationships can submit themselves to shame when shame is due. They know it's worth suffering through for what follows.
Fortunately for couples, there really is a miracle pill that strengthens and completely redefines even the flabbiest relationships — it's called forgiveness. But it doesn't come cheap. It can cost your pride, your anger, your revenge. It might cost you everything you think you know about justice. And when you read the fine print, you'll notice the disclaimer that forgiveness cannot change the past. But it will transform the future. It will breathe new life into dead love. Forgiveness purifies the heart.
The couples who find themselves forgiving each other over and over again? These are the truly lucky ones.
Suffering is an inevitable part of life for all of us — but we're not all good at it. In the face of hardship, some fall to pieces. Some grow bitter. Some simply lie down and wait for the day happiness returns...
And then there are those who suffer well, the people who pick themselves up by their bootstraps and insist that goodness exists even when they can't see it through the darkness surrounding them — the survivors.
Tragedy eventually touches every relationship. The couples who survive, however, suffer well. They hide in plain sight, doing the simple things each day that are anything but simple — trying again for a baby after a second miscarriage, dragging themselves to work with tired smiles after waiting for a missing teenager to wander home at 3AM. Together, they stand bravely over the caskets of lifelong friends, of parents taken too soon. They lock hands through layoffs, through chemotherapy, through countless desperate prayers. They do not allow each other to surrender.
Their faith in something greater, in something bigger than themselves fans the flame of their love until that love burns brighter than any darkness.
These are the couples who last
As they hold faithfully to each other through arguments and frustration, through mistakes and bitter shame, through suffering that forces them to their knees, they discover a precious truth.
Hearts that stand strong in adversity not only become more capable of bearing up great burdens. They become more capable of withstanding the intense, overwhelming energy of pure joy — an emotion so powerful, it simply cannot be contained in a weaker vessel.
Lindsey is an English/art teacher turned stay-at-home-mom. She now enjoys teaching a wide variety of interesting subjects like "How to take a bath without getting soap in your eyes" and "Not eating your boogers (for beginners)."