Marriage is supposed to last “forever,” isn’t it? When we decide to get married, we truly believe that forever will happen. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, because most of us don’t have realistic guidelines or tools to know how to make a marriage last. When we fall in love, we usually think that’s all we’ll need to be happy. However, when “reality” sets in and a couple has their first real argument, they both realize that their partner isn’t perfect.
In the beginning of a relationship, we do our best to give our partner the benefit of the doubt, expressing our love and goodwill, even when we’re upset. However, as time goes on, it can get harder and harder to resolve arguments and, therefore, harder and harder to feel loving and forgiving towards our partner. It’s at these times that we start to ask ourselves, is there a secret to making a marriage last? Is it really possible to live happily ever after? Can I make my marriage divorce-proof? The answer to all of these questions is YES! However, the hardest question to answer is: How do we do it? How do I have a lasting, happy marriage that doesn’t end in divorce court?
The first thing to remember is that keeping a marriage healthy and happy is hard work and will not happen on its own; just like a flower won’t grow if it isn’t watered and fed. Marriages need nurturing, tending to, time, and energy! We often forget that a marriage contains two human beings who both need to be appreciated, heard, valued, and respected. With this in mind, here are seven ways to make your marriage last:
1. Keep the lines of communication open. If you don’t know how to express your feelings and/or have poor listening skills, learn to get better at both. You can read a book, take a class, get into counseling. Good communication requires both the ability to express and listen.
2. Don’t sweep your fights under the rug and think they’ll magically resolve themselves. Do your best to resolve your first argument as soon as it arises so you won’t have the same argument for the next fifty years, in different forms.
3. Remember that you love your partner; therefore, you want the best for her/him. Give her/him the benefit of the doubt when you feel angry, hurt, or disappointed. Talk to your partner; don’t make assumptions.
4. Tell your partner EVERY DAY something you appreciate about her/him and how grateful you are to have her/him in your life.
5. Your partner should NEVER feel like your enemy. If he/she does, something is wrong, so again, remember that you fell in love with this person. If there’s so much anger that you feel like you are enemies, get help somewhere as quickly as possible. Again, this could be through a book, a class, or counseling.
6. Notice and don’t ignore the warning signs if you’re not talking, sex has diminished, you’re fighting all the time, and you’re not happy. The sooner you acknowledge you’re having problems, the sooner you can begin to solve them.
7. Always remember that you have the power to change behaviors in your marriage through different tools of self-discovery. You do not have to stay stuck in unhealthy ruts.
Good, lasting marriages are made up of two conscious individuals that have the desire to work on themselves, with the determination to stay focused on the importance of their marriage. They do not take their partner for granted. They have their partner’s best interest at heart and, therefore, build trust with their partner. When arguments come up, they don’t ignore them. They address the issues and try to resolve them. When they see warning signs that their marriage could be in trouble, they act immediately and look for new ways to relate to each other. This can be accomplished by anyone who is willing to take the time and energy to make their marriage a priority in their life. Nurture your marriage as it as it so richly deserves! You CAN live happily ever after; not with magic, but with hard work, awareness, and knowledge of yourself and your partner.
Also known as the "last ditch effort therapist," Sharon M. Rivkin, therapist and conflict resolution/affairs expert, is the author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy and developer of the First Argument Technique, a 3-step system that helps couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. Her work has been featured in O Magazine, Reader's Digest, and Time.com. Sharon has appeared on local TV, appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, and makes regular radio appearances nationwide. For more information, please visit her website at www.sharonrivkin.com.