Recently while at our favorite restaurant, the waitress asked how long we had been married. We told her 25 years. Her response was, “Wow, you still have that look in your eye.” We laughed and have since had several discussions with her about marriage and what makes one successful.
Although each marriage is unique and comes with its own set of difficulties and trials, there are some basic rules that can help make your marriage not only succeed, but thrive.
Rule 1: Unity
In Genesis, it says this of marriage, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.” (Genesis 2:24) The verb “to cleave” has two meanings. The one used in this scripture is “to adhere closely, cling, to remain faithful.” This unity should apply to a couple’s faith, their family and their goals. As Abraham Lincoln once famously quoted from Matthew, “a house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matthew 12:25)
This is not to say there will be no disagreements and disputes. As a couple, you need to address those and come to a consensus on how to proceed. Contention can breed discontent and pull a couple further apart. Work out your differences and find that common ground.
Rule 2: Be positive
At one wedding, the officiator compared marriage to a highway, and then counseled the couple that there was no need to stop and examine every pothole along the way.
It is easy to get caught up in the things that go wrong. We have a favorite saying we tell our children when we think they are getting too negative, “Your negative vibes are bringing me down, man.” Although we do it in jest as a means to lighten the situation, the truth is, constant harping on the negative aspects of anything is going to make any other situation look better.
Kay Moore, a marriage counselor in Raleigh, NC shared the following, “When a couple comes in for counseling and all they can focus on is the negative in the relationship and the other spouse, I know they will have a hard time making that marriage succeed. They need to get out of that train of thought.”
Rule 3: Remember the past, enjoy the present and look to the future
Take the time to reminisce together on your courtship, how you fell in love and all your happy memories as well as those that strengthened you as a couple. When my husband and I look back on all the roads we have traveled, we have been amazed at how we have grown closer to one another — even through the tough times.
Enjoy where you are in life now. Sometimes it is easy to dream of how it was before children and those responsibilities as well as dwelling on how it will be better in the future. The movie, "The Dead Poet’s Society," introduced many people to the Latin term, “carpe diem,” which means, seize the day. The point was to enjoy the here and now because soon it will be gone.
My husband and I love to talk about what we want to do when we retire. We dream of living near the beach or a cabin in the mountains; traveling the world and looking for what we call “the colorful places” which make this world such an interesting place. As a couple, take the time to dream. Looking to the future helps you invest the time and effort to make those futures come to pass.
Rule 4: Have charity
The scripture on charity in 1 Corinthians 13 is a wonderful basis for a happy marriage. “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) By being patient with your spouse and treating her kindly, avoiding pride and seeking to put your spouse before yourself, you can find peace and happiness within your marriage.
Charity is the pure love of Christ. By viewing your spouse as Christ views him, you can see the potential within and realize that you are imperfect, as well.
Rule 5: Make the Commitment
In 2012, a study was done by the Relationship Institute at UCLA. Researchers noticed there were two types of commitment found in marriages. One is that you like the relationship and want it to continue and the other is being committed to doing what it takes to make the relationship work. One of the authors, Thomas Bradbury said, “the couples that were willing to make sacrifices within their relationships were more effective in solving their problems.” (http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/here-is-what-real-commitment-to-228064.aspx)
If you recognize that in making the marriage work you need to work hard and put it before all else, then you have committed yourself to its success. Sit down together and make that commitment to work hard at making your marriage work. If you need professional help, seek a qualified counselor who can guide you through the process of recommitting.
Happy marriages do not just magically happen. You may think that reaching the altar is all it takes to find your “happily ever after,” but in reality the work and the true joy are just beginning. Apply these rules to your marriage and you can still have that look in your eye which conveys to all that you love each other more than you did the day you wed.