A happy marriage doesn’t just arrive because you say “I do.” It takes effort from husband and wife to make it work. Here are six tips to help make it the most rewarding relationship you will ever have.
In business, companies are only as successful as their leaders are. If a company has an ineffective leader, it’s ineffective. Take the example of Continental Airlines. They were considered the worst major airline in the United States at the end of the 1980s. However, in 1994 they hired Gordon Bethune as President, and by the year 2000 they were the best airline in the US (see From Worst to First by Gordon Bethune).
That turnaround happened because of leadership. Likewise families are only as successful as their leaders are. As parents, we lead our families. Now we can’t fire children, but we can make sure that we are functioning well at the top.
A happy marriage doesn’t just arrive because you say, “I do.” Instead, it takes effort from both husband and wife to make it work. Nevertheless, with some work and a lot of understanding, it can be the most rewarding relationship you will ever have. Where do you start? In the vast sea of relationship advice, it can be hard to know what the most important things are. We will share just five things that have mattered the most in our marriage.
Put the other first
Not second behind you. Not behind your children. Especially not behind your parents. First. That starts with putting aside or scaling back on some things that may have taken a lot of time before you were married, such as movies, sports, spending time with friends instead of your spouse, and video games. We know that can seem hard. At the same time, it quickly becomes second nature and more and more enjoyable. Sure, we still do enjoy some individual pursuits, and it’s healthy to do so. However, we never put the other second. One small thing we do in this area is whenever we are sharing something tasty, we always give the other person the first bite, the best bites, and the last bite. It is an easy way to show the other person that you care about their happiness/enjoyment more than your own.
Give each other the benefit of the doubt
This can be very hard. Your spouse is someone who loves, honors and cherishes you more than anyone else. As such, they can also be the person who wounds you the deepest. This is natural and expected. At the same time, because of that bond, we tend to paint each other in the worst light. You got angry with me for being home late? You must be trying to hurt me! You didn’t acknowledge me when I got home? Wounded to the core! Instead of immediately assuming the worst, try turning it around and asking if you would deliberately hurt your spouse by doing the same thing. Then let it go.
Men, this is especially directed at you. Your wives really want you to listen to them. We aren’t saying “acknowledge that your wife is speaking while you’re busy watching football and actually not hearing anything at all.” Listen to her. Stop what you are doing, look at her, and hear what she is saying. Listen so intently that you can actually give feedback and tell her what she is talking about. She doesn’t want you to solve her problems (in fact, she’d probably prefer that you don’t), she just wants to know you care and will help if needed.
Spend time alone together
Too often it’s easy to get into a routine where kids, friends, and media are your constant companions. Unplug, slip away, and reconnect with each other. We like to take one trip away every year, even if it’s just for a night or two.
Don’t ever, ever, ever engage in “spouse bashing.” Ever. To anyone
Women are most often the culprits on this one but men do it as well. This can cause SO much damage in a marriage. Many times you may think of it as “venting” or may do it because others are and you want to connect in some way. This is especially important when talking to your parents or other family members. Whether or not your spouse ever hears of what you say, it is hurtful and disloyal. If you are having problems in your marriage, discuss them with your spouse, a counselor, or you may possibly clear one other person with your spouse if need be (a best friend perhaps) but even then be careful what you say and how you say it. Loyalty is so important and trust once broken can be hard to earn back.
There is an absolutely AMAZING book on forgiveness called Unconditional: The Call of Jesus to Radical Forgiveness by Brian Zahnd. In it he talks about how as Christians we are called to forgive and end the cycles of revenge. He states, “Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice.” As mentioned above, those we love have the most power to hurt us, intentionally or unintentionally, and because in marriage we are with each other day in and day out, those hurts can add up. Quickly. If we start taking score, constantly reminding each other of things we have done/not done, calling up things done years ago, we are not following the command to forgive and we can destroy our marriages. Forgiveness is not easy. It is not cheap. It is costly and it is difficult but if we are to truly be successful, not only in our marriages but in life, we can call on our Savior and He can help us forgive our spouses and remove the cancer of bitterness, anger, and revenge.