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A Great Marriage Is Not as Tough as You Think

Updated on November 8, 2017
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M. D. Jackson has studied psychology since 1989. While her specialty is family relations, she also loves neuroscience and behaviorism.

Ideas of Marriage

I was nine years old and I had my life planned. I was never going to get married, I was going to live on the beach with my Dog (I obviously did not know the life expectancy of golden retriever). I even knew what car I would have, a Jeep (CJ5 or 7). It never occurred to me that I would ever want to get married. After all boys have cooties My mind was never affected by Disney non-sense. I was not a reader and the Brady bunch and Muppet show were the only things I watched on television. Thankfully the ideas of a nine year old do not go the distance (I still want the jeep though).

Everyone has an attitude about marriage. Too many girls today think that marriage is way out of something. A way out of their fathers house (Ariel in the little mermaid, or Cinderella), or a away to be saved (Snow-white or Sleeping Beauty). Since I never saw any of these movies as a child, I had no idea about marriage accept that I thought it should be fun. Interestingly enough my marriage is pretty fun most of the time.

However, I see lots of people around me who are not having fun. They are by all accounts miserable in their marriage. Usually this miserable feeling stems from them being let down by their own expectations. This can be verified by most women/men who had preconceived notions about either marriage or the person they married. People think that their spouse will be instantly transformed into the person they want by the “I Do” kiss. This is never the case.

One would think with the amount of people living together before marriage that the notions of a "dream" relationship would have diminished. If you lived together, you have seen the good, the bad, and the dirty underwear. Is it realistic to think your life can be a fairy tale? Yes, if you consider the whole fairy tale including the scary stepmothers, witches, and even a few ill behaved dwarfs (don't tell your kids I called them that). Are you ready for the truth about having a good marriage?

Yep that is us.
Yep that is us. | Source

Changing The Person You Love

Long time married couples will confirm that their spouse for the most part never changed. Personalities are ingrained in us. Often we marry someone with traits we do not possess but, admire. The idea of changing someone is not good. People grow and hopefully become better through their learning experiences. If you were to change a person, chances are you would not want that person anymore. The idea of molding someone into what you want them to be is wrong. Think about your faults for a moment. You are not perfect and neither is your spouse. If that persons faults are not something you find endearing, then you probably should save yourself a lot of time and not marry them. If you have married them and love them, maybe it's time to accept that person.

Compromise in a Marriage

People grow up in different households with different ideas. When you take two people from different backgrounds and throw them together they either learn to work together or they clash. Those are the only two options. My grandparents had an amazing marriage. She was raised Baptist, he was raised Catholic. This was back when people felt like they knew you based on your religion. My grandfather gave up being catholic for my grandmother. It was a concession that I believe was difficult for him. He loved my Grandmother and since both religions were Christian he let go of the traditions in which he was raised. In fact I didn't know he was ever Catholic until she passed away.

My grandmother had funky taste in things. Over the years they got to the point that my grandmother would actually buy her own gifts at Christmas, wrap them, and it was my grandfather who was always surprised at what he got her. It became a family joke. When I asked her why she wrapped these gifts she said it was for us kids. Their way around him buying her something she would not like was to just buy it herself. It’s these situations that a couple learns to maneuver that make their marriage work.

Compromise is a very powerful word. Some people feel that compromise means you lost some ground in the relationship. That is a sad thought when most people have no problem compromising with total strangers, yet when it comes to their spouse they resent compromise. Part of this is the attitude each person carries. I will say if something is really important to you, you might want to try harder to let your spouse know that. The other thing is we all have to analyze what is important to us and why. Are we fighting for something that has value to us?

One last compromise story. For years I have been what is commonly known as a "football widow". Which means that during football season my husband is preoccupied with football. There were times when I was sincerely irritated that he spent our entire family day checking scores of games or tying to catch the game at a restaurant while we were out. The kids are grown and while I have plenty to do already, this year I decided that I was going to join his Fantasy Football league. This league is mostly our kids and family. My daughter and I are the only women in the league. You know what, I like it. It's fun. I'm currently fifth in the league. Not bad. If you ask me about Lynch I will tell you he is underutilized and his stats are inconsistent. Is my husband happy about me getting into his happy place? I think he was until this week when I beat him by over 30 points. Don't be afraid to try something new to be with your spouse. It won't always work, but if it does you get a whole new thing to connect with spouse.

When is it concession? There is a difference between compromise and concession. Concession is when one person constantly gives up what they want in order to let the other person have what they want. This is where resentment builds. One person should not be always getting what they want at the expense of their spouse. you will know this is happening when you tell your spouse what you want and they blow it off. This is not a cause for a fight. You simply need to stand your ground and let your spouse know that this is important to you.

It's the Little Things

It sounds crazy but it’s the little things that tear down a marriage. My husband had the habit of taking off his shoes and leaving them beside his side of the bed. This drove me crazy because I would walk into our room and see his shoes piled next to the bed. I asked him to start putting them away but, he is a creature of habit. Finally I switched sides of the bed with him so that his shoes are on the other side of the bed where I don’t see them. Now it doesn’t bother me at all.

Little things start to add up in a marriage even though most of it means nothing on the grand scale of life. The next time you feel something small getting to you, ask yourself this “will this thing still be important in five years?” chances are it won’t be remembered or important. The little things don’t mean anything. Do not let the little things become your reasons for living in an unhappy marriage.

Nagging America's Favorite Past Time

My husband is a superhero, we call him procrastinator man! It is a family joke because my husband puts things off until it is an emergency. This has always been true. You would think that I would go crazy nagging him, but I don’t. When he puts his mind to something, I know it will get done the right way, and I know he will get to it in his own time. No one likes to be nagged.

Years ago I had a friend who was an at home mom. She spent all day with her three kids. Her house was almost never clean because she was playing with her kids. Her husband would come home and get irritated that the house was not completely clean. Why? The house was not disgusting, it was not detailed clean either. He did not see the value in her spending the time with her children verses reorganizing cabinets. Where did he get this idea? He got this idea from his June Cleaver mother who kept the house miserably clean all the time. Miserably clean is when you make a person miserable with the level of clean that is expected.

Don’t get me wrong I like a clean house, and I have been known to detail some things, but extremes can be damaging. Nagging makes another person feel like they are not good enough. If something is tremendously important to you, I say do it yourself. Then you don’t have to nag. If it is your goal in life to have towels folded just so, do it yourself, if the lawn is long and bugging you, go mow it. Basically anything that you feel is a priority you can do it yourself. Keep in mind if you nag too much you will have to do all these activities alone anyway, because that person is going to leave you.

Jobs and Providing

I have had more than one friend whose spouse was reluctant to even look for a job. Many of these friends were frustrated and on the edge. All of them were working themselves already. I am all for people pursuing their dreams. By that I mean if a man/woman always wanted to be a firefighter, help him/her reach that goal, if he/she wants to be a lawyer be supportive. Together you can accomplish career changes and help each other reach your potential. Marriage is a give and take situation.

Being a doctoral student and working full time was not easy. In reality I have almost completely stopped cooking. It’s a good thing my husband likes to cook. That simple adjustment has saved me so much time that my schedule no longer feels compressed. By the same token my husband took a job he hated for a year and now we will be making a huge move so he can have a job that supports his career goals. When a person feels like they are working toward something meaningful to them, they will work harder at that job.

For years my husband and I sacrificed sleep to have one or the other of us home with our kids. This meant that one of us always worked graveyard. It was rough and we were pretty irritable. Now we look back on that and laugh. Oh the things marriages endure over time. Jobs are only a means of supporting ones self. Do not let your career/job take away the reason you got the job to begin with, which was family.

Money Problems

For most of us who did not have overly ambitious parents, money is always an issue. The best thing I can tell you is that money problems come and go. Stick together, work it out together. Sometimes big adjustments have to be made. The important thing is that you have a roof over your head and food on the table. The rest is extra.

We have are known to have more fun during a power outage than during our regular days. Life can be simple and fun too. Your phone might get shut off, you might have a day when you have to back up a car payment. So what? You are not taking your "stuff" to the grave. Keep that in mind when you get upset over money. All the things in your life are transient. That includes homes, furniture, cars, and even people. During the crash people were trying desperately to catch up their mortgages to refinance. People borrowed money and hocked vehicles to try to save a house that they were never going to save. Make sure you give your time to the right things.

Family Involvement

Those oh so beloved in-laws! When you get married you are to cleave to one another, the end. Unfortunately too many people continue to cling to their parents or other family. Let us remember that this is your marriage, not your mothers marriage or your fathers marriage.Do not allow your family to belittle your spouse. If you are happy with your spouse that is what matters.

I found out my father was prejudice when I started dating my husband (My husband is Native American). We were not raised prejudice so to me this was new development. It was also something I believe is a horrific character flaw. My grandparents were celebrating their wedding anniversary with a party at my parents house. My father had the nerve to have my mom call me and let me know that my boyfriend wasn't welcome. Ah, ha, ha... that's a good one. Guess what? I let my mom know that if my boyfriend wasn't allowed, then I wouldn't be there. My boyfriend and I visited my grandparents, they liked him just fine. I should mention that my then boyfriend (now husband) encouraged me to go without him, saying I shouldn't miss this event because of my Dad. My dad changed his mind and we both went to the party. Stand your ground, let relatives be upset if they want. This is your life.

I am shocked at the amount of people who find it necessary to down someone’s marriage. Opinions of a negative sort should be kept to ones self. Here is a scenario for you; Daughter marries a man the family doesn’t like, they have several children. The family gets in the middle of the marriage and rips these two people apart. Where is the wife going to go with these kids? Back to mom and dads house, that’s where. In other words, let you kids handle their own stuff unless you want your grand-kids living with you! Parents always want what’s best for you however, it is your life. Be responsible and let your family know that their concern is appreciated but, you don’t want to hear it.

Marriage Goals

I encourage couples to envision the life and relationship they want. The vision should be their GOAL. Good marriages take work, they do not just happen. All the behaviors in your marriage should revolve around achieving your marriage goal. See what you want and then make it happen. Recently a woman came into my office and said her husband was sleeping in the spare room because he wanted her to clean up some items in their room. She adamantly refused to clean the room stating that he was being difficult. When I asked her what her marriage ideal was she of course stated that "I want a loving relationship". I asked her, "how can you have a loving relationship if you intentionally do things to push your husband away from you?" She stood there for a moment and then said "you are right, I will clean up my stuff". Be honest, are you contributing to your relationship goal? Live the goal, be loving, and have a happy marriage.

Romantic night walk in the snow.
Romantic night walk in the snow. | Source

Loving Relationships

Whatever you do in your relationship, do it with love. The simple attitude that you are doing something out of love makes a huge difference in a marriage. When you do something for your spouse do not expect anything in return, do it out of love. As you get older and practice this concept becomes easier. Interestingly enough you become more thankful for each other and are nicer to each other.

Love is the closest emotion to God. We all want to be loved and love someone. With the right idea and some practical notions any marriage can survive. Wanting to make your marriage a good marriage is the first step in achieving the marriage you want. Making changes in your own attitude will greatly shift the position of your spouse. After the entire goal is not simply to survive this life together but, to enjoy the time you have together.

Kissing on a bridge
Kissing on a bridge | Source

Having a Fun Marriage

At the start of this article I explained that I have a fun marriage. What did I mean? What is it like to have a fun marriage?

  • We joke around
  • We laugh all the time about things (sometimes things one of us did)
  • We look for new experiences we can have together
  • We support each other completely
  • We are loving to each other
  • We do romantic things
  • We play together (mostly games)
  • We rarely argue and never fight (fighting is something you do with an enemy)
  • We try to see the bright side of everything we go through together

It's not a complete list of why we have fun, it's a good start. You can make your own list of what you want your marriage to be and then make your marriage those things. Have fun with each other. It makes all the difference.


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