A successful marriage can only happen if first and foremost, the husband and wife are friends. Romance is great, but it fades in and out; so don’t depend on that to keep you together.
This perspective contradicts the popular notion that says couples need to be “soul mates,” “in love,” or even “compatible” before marrying. Such sentimental talk ignores the reality that feelings are fickle, and that love is an action word. Marriage can be glorious, but it requires hard work. It’s a joy and strength, but it can also tear and defeat. However, doing the hard work leads to victories.
Marriage has to be an “other-centered” relationship for it to succeed. If each person works on his or her own selfishness as the main problem, the marriage has great potential to succeed. It is crucial to fight one’s selfishness and focus on the good of one’s spouse.
Focusing on the good of one spouse:
– Involves listening and seeking to understand. In relationships, listening from the heart to understand what the partner is saying is an essential skill to develop. Most people just listen in the half-baked way, then react and make assumptions on what the other one is saying instead of clarifying to make sure they understand what their partner is saying. The question to ask yourself is: “Am I truly listening to understand or just waiting to speak?”
When you improve your listening skills and better understand your partner, you will immediately begin to reap the rewards in terms of the quality of your relationship. The other person will feel heard, validated, acknowledged and even understood. They will likely be more interested in your perspective, you will feel more understood and the relationship will deepen.
– Involves the ability to connect and ‘tune in’ to your partner. Another word for this is attunement. The more you ‘tune in’ to your partner and s/he to you, the more connected and fulfilled both of you will feel and be.
– Involves effective communication and realizing that you are a team and/or that you are on the same team. The more you can communicate about your needs and desires, the greater the chance you have of having them met. So many couples I see expect that their partner should know what’s important to them and demand instead of communicating respectfully. Spend time together and communicate about what’s important to you, your needs, and desires so that your partner doesn’t have to guess.
– Involves looking in the same direction. It is important that your core values, dreams, hopes and aspirations for the future are bigger than just you and are going in same direction not opposite ones.
– Involves hard work! Successful relationships take time, hard work and commitment. Spend time with your partner, commit to making it safe and easy to communicate about any issues between you and regularly check-in with how you are both doing.
Common mistaken beliefs and myths about marriage:
– “Love shouldn’t be this hard; it should come naturally. “It should be easy.”
– “But shouldn’t love come naturally if two people are compatible?”
– “He is not the man I married.”
Couples counseling may well be what can help save your marriage! You can start getting the help you need now from a qualified relationship therapist.
Adapted from an article by T. Keller
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D, LMFT