What Everybody Ought to Know About Marriage
Remember what it was like for you and your spouse in the first few moments of marriage. That sense that everything was brand new, the excitement of an unknown but glorious future and realizing that someone has committed their complete self to you. For life. Forever. Life would indeed be wonderful if we could stay in that idyllic place, however, life creeps in and challenges arise. Suddenly that precious place is under siege from all around. So what can you do about it?
Can Marriage be a Perfect Utopia?
Those first few moments, hours, days or months of a marriage seem like a utopia in the truest sense of the word. You see, the Greeks had two meanings for "utopia" - "eu-toops" meaning the good place and "u-topos" meaning the place that can never be. Utopia is the perfect place that is unattainable. I think marriage tends to fall into this category of a good place that can never be attained for a good number of married couples. Now stay with me...
I am NOT saying marriage is a bad thing. Marriage can be wonderful, like heaven on earth. I have personally known a few couples who have attained this status. What I am saying is that the ideal of unconditional love and forever happiness is not easily attained in marriage, or in any human relationship. Like any relationship, both individuals must continually work together for the good of both, for the good of the marriage relationship.
Marriage can be wonderful. Ideally, I think every married person would like to be in a marriage relationship that is truly wonderful. But marriages like that don't just happen - they are made through the hard work, determination and commitment of both people.
I think what everybody ought know about marriage can be summed up in just a few words: love, respect, kindness, selflessness and fun. So this is, in my humble opinion, what everybody ought to know about marriage…
Love One Another
There are so many negative and ugly things in this world. In all the years I have lived on this earth, I have seen one thing that wins out over them all - L O V E.
I have witnessed strong, tough men completely melt away at the word of a child in need of their love. I have seen both husbands and wives sacrifice their own personal aspirations, career goals even their health for the benefit of their beloved spouse. I have seen people forgive others for the most heinous of crimes. Love just cannot be beaten - it will ALWAYS win. If you have experienced this rare type of love, you know exactly what I'm saying is true.
This cannot be made any plainer - do whatever it takes to love one another.
Respect is Earned: You Don't Lick it Off a Stump
I know this seems like such an old-fashioned word to some, however, if you don't get this right on your marriage, it's going to mess up everything else in your relationship. Get respect right in your marriage relationship from the start and you're likely to have few problems in the relationship, especially with your kids. Respect begets respect, as they say.
As my Granny used to always say, "people don't pick up stuff by licking it off a stump." I know, it's a strange saying and I have never seen anyone personally lick something off a stump. Granny, in her own way, simply meant that people pick up or learn things from others.
Simply put, your spouse will respect you if you respect your spouse. Your kids will also respect you as a married couple, respect one another and learn to respect others they meet IF you show respect in your marriage.
Kindness and Kind Words Are Important
One of the earliest challenges in my marriage was learning to control my tongue. I grew up in a family with a German father and an Irish/Scottish mother. Let me tell you there was some passion in that relationship. Sometimes that passion would spill over and at times, the fighting between my parents could get quite loud, ugly and seem very threatening, especially to us small children. Over the following years, their relationship soured and became very ugly.
When our childhood home began to fall apart, things got very bad for all of us. There was always lots of yelling and ugly, derisive comments among myself and my siblings. I still shudder when I think of some of the horrible things I said to my family back then. The saddest thing was that yelling, mocking and tearing each other down became "normal" in our family.
When I married and we moved into our first apartment, one night I woke up and noticed my spouse was not in bed. I got up and looked around. I quickly found my spouse in tears, crouching in a dark corner of our tiny apartment kitchen. The mocking and yelling that was normal in my childhood home was not normal for my spouse. She was wondering what she had gotten into marrying a person like me. I was suddenly struck with the realization of what I had done. I reached out, we embraced and I vowed that our marriage - our family - would be different.
From that day on, we made kindness the gold standard in our marriage. We worked to make every word that came out of our mouths to be encouraging, positive and loving. If words did not meet that standard, we simply did not say it. Was it a perfect system - no. We made mistakes but we always worked back to the standard of being kind to each other. That standard became especially valuable when our own kids came along.
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Selflessness is Imperative in a Successful Marriage
Forgiveness is a big part of being selfless. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that those who are devoid of the power to forgive, are devoid of the power to love. Loving another person is not what Hollywood says it is. It's not what the romance novels say it is. Love takes work. Love requires change and sacrifice. Sometimes, the choice to love is one of the hardest things you will ever do.
Love requires selflessness. If this seems like something needed in your marriage, let me challenge you to make a change - go for one day being totally selfless. Have no regard for self, but put everyone else before your needs - for one day. Make selflessness a practice. Then post a message at the end of this article and tell me that one day did not change you.
This single factor is perhaps the most important thing in your relationship. Marriage will require that both individuals be selflessly committed to one another for a lifetime. Can you imagine what a relationship like that would feel like? How about your marriage? How would your marriage change if you both were looking out for the other more than yourself? Something to think about.
How to Have Fun and Why It's Important to Your Relationship
This is so important. What is the point of being with someone if it's not fun - at least some of the time? I have been married for almost 30 years and one of the most important things I have learned from my spouse is that having fun is vital to the enjoyment of married life.
When we first met, I was a serious, stuffed-shirt control freak with no time for fun. My future spouse was quite the opposite. I soon learned that if I wanted to be in this relationship with this sometimes insane and quirky person, I had to learn to have fun. My days as a wallflower were left in the dust and I never looked back. Like I said, love requires sacrifice - and I had to sacrifice that stuffed shirt.
A quick word about humor in marriage. Laughter has been compared to a salute or tribute to those who are attempting to be funny. Even when you don't think something your spouse says is that funny, go ahead and give them a little laugh. It lets them know you accept them for who they are - and who of us doesn't want that?
Some ways we worked humor and fun into our marriage were purposefully finding the humor in the simplest things. For example, when we first met, my spouse mentioned in conversation a friend from her past who was named Jimmy Cloud. Being the serious person I was then, I asked if Mr. Cloud was a native-American. To me, a perfectly appropriate question, right?
My spouse nearly fell over laughing - and laughed for a long time after. I was completely serious, I didn't see the humor in my query at all. Today, 30 years later, that one liner has become a running, inside gag between the two of us - still makes us laugh. You have to look for ways to make life fun.
If You Want a Better Marriage, Here's What You Need to Do
When you read the words in this article, did you think about how much your husband or wife needs to hear these things? Or did you wonder if you might possibly make some changes in your own life and marriage? There is one truth I have found in this life about changing other people - it is simply not possible. You can change you. You cannot change me. That's it.
Now if you want the other person to change, be the person you know you need to be. You become a loving, forgiving, selfless husband or wife - even if they decide not to be that way. Doing this, you may actually convince your partner that change might be possible for them. They have to make the decision to change. No amount of logic, argument or loving appeal can open that gate to change This gate can only be opened from the inside by the one guarding it.
Start Today - Begin by Changing You.
What can you do to show your spouse that you are more loving? Take some positive steps and begin to make some changes today. What things do you need to say more - or not say anymore - that show you are kinder to your spouse? How can you show more respect or selflessness to your husband or wife? Can you do more to bring humor into your marriage? Do you need to laugh at or positively acknowledge your partner when they're trying to be cute or funny?
Make a list of these changes that you can make. Then start doing one every day. When you have that one down solid, start doing the next thing on your list. Pretty soon, as you begin to change yourself, your partner will begin to change as well and you will be on your way to a better marriage relationship.
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