How To Enjoy Marriage
Thrive, Don't Just Survive
Marriage is meant to be enjoyed, not just survived! Marriage takes a lot of work, yet can still be enjoyed even when the work is hard and the times are tough.
Do you ever feel like your marriage is just barely hanging on? Do you ever get jealous of the marriages around you that seem to be so great? Do you ever think to yourself that if only your spouse were this way or like this person then you would be happy with your marriage? Don't feel bad if this is you, because the truth is that marriage is very difficult and these types of feelings run rampant among marriages the world over.
Before your marriage can truly flourish, you and your spouse must understand the following truths about marriage.
Disclaimer: I am speaking to the average person here and addressing my own beliefs. I cannot be held responsible for any failed marriages. Though, I would love to hear about how my ideas helped your marriage. Please understand, I am not addressing situations of extreme domestic abuse or any other situation involving illegal activity or potentially life threatening behavior. If your marriage involves these types of behaviors, please seek professional help immediately.
Commitment is what holds a marriage together, not compatibility. The truth, is that people change. You will change and so will your spouse. Thanks to life, change happens slowly over the years and is often imperceptible. Now, don't get caught up in thinking that you will be able to consciously change your spouse into what you want. This is no easy task. Keep in mind there is a difference in changing someone at their core and just simply changing outward behaviors. The types of changes we are usually capable of making in other people are really just outward behaviors, but we cannot typically change someones core being, at least not on purpose. Also, sometimes the spouse you think you want isn't really what's best for you and won't necessarily make you truly happy. This may sound crazy, but think about it. I want a really fast car, but the truth is I would get into a lot of trouble with a really fast car. Anyway, the point is that compatibility will come and go throughout a marriage, so this cannot be relied upon as a reason to marry or as something that will hold your marriage together.
Love, is both a feeling and a choice. Just because you don't feel "in love" at the moment, doesn't mean that you don't still love the person you are with. Often times, people get caught up in thinking that the proverbial flame going out is a sign that the marriage is failing and one or both individuals have fallen out of love with the other. However, this is not necessarily true. One can choose to love their spouse even when they don't feel "in love" and this ties into the kind of commitment that it takes to keep a marriage together, as well as thrive and be truly happy inside of that marriage. Everyone, no matter how compatible your personality is with that person, will wrong you at some time or another; some more than others. So, in order to remain married to someone you have to be able to forgive and love them no matter how badly you feel you've been wronged by them.
Marriage is about giving all you have to the relationship, not what you think is fair. True happiness in a relationship comes when you learn to be happy with just giving all you can to the other person. True, deep down happiness does not necessarily come when things are fair. Plus, it's almost impossible for us in our limited personal perspectives to truly know what is fair in the grand scheme of life. There is a certain, wonderful depth to love that cannot be found through selfishness. So, once you've made it to the point of putting your spouse first, you naturally want to give them everything you possibly can and you are no longer worried about what is fair and if they are giving back the same amount to you. Of course, it's nice when this happens and it's OK to enjoy your spouse giving back to you when it does, but it's a beautiful place to be when you can let go and no longer feel like things have to be fair.
Communication is the key to unlocking all of the truths above. You and your spouse might love each other, but if you don't communicate that to one another it doesn't do any good. It's easy to fall into the idea that you've told your spouse you love them and that should be sufficient. That may be OK for our brains, but our hearts (feelings) need constant reminders.
Back to the idea of commitment vs compatibility talked about above, constant communication is what allows for growth to happen together. A lack of communication is often the culprit in situations where couples find that they've "grown apart". This doesn't mean that you and your spouse have to do everything together or lose your individuality. It means that you constantly communicate with each other about incremental changes, so that neither of you wakes up one day and realizes the other is a completely different person. By nature, we typically don't deal well with major surprises like that. We assume that the person we marry is the same person we'll always be married to and that is almost never true. People will change.
There are many different ways to communicate with your spouse and no one can tell you exactly what is right for you. Therefor, I've chosen not to get very detailed here. You and your spouse will be learning how to communicate effectively with the other your entire life together. It's something that will never be perfect, but can and should get closer to perfection as time goes on. The more you learn your spouse the easier communication will get. But, it's worth the hard work, because no decent relationship will last without it, at least not a thriving, happy one.
Remember, while you are trying to learn your spouse, your spouse is or should be trying to learn you. So, try not to get your feelings hurt when they don't respond to your communications with them in the way you expected. It just might mean you have to try some other way to communicate effectively with them. Also, be open to your spouse and how they are trying to communicate with you. Remember, as the famous quote goes (though no one seems to know the author), "Just because someone doesn't love you the way you want them to, doesn't mean they don't love you with everything they have."