How to build a strong marriage.
Married for six years, and still going strong!
Marriage is a struggling institution. Marriage laws and traditions are frequently the subjects of news reports, talk shows and books. With the increasing social trend of co-habitation, many people maybe asking themselves "why" get married? Perhaps your wondering what some of the attributes of a strong marriage are, or how to make yours stronger.
There are many benefits to being married. This is an account of what we believe (my wife and I) are the reasons we have not only remained married, but have developed an even closer and more loving relationship.
The advice contained in this article is not exclusive to our marriage, and may translate into the foundations of a strong marriage for other couples.
Passing the "acid test."
In order to gauge the strength of a marriage, and the commitment of both spouses is to look at the trials and tribulations that have taken place since having said "I do." When life is filled with picnics, volleyball, and long walks on the beach, everything goes quite well. Almost too well for that matter. When life is "good," your patience, selflessness, and never ending love is not truly tested. Below are some of the difficulties my wife and I faced in the first two years of our marriage. I know we have been blessed, and even though it was difficult, it wasn't "that" bad. It was still a stressful and trying two years.
- We had been married for four months when my family's business of thirty-five years closed and I was unemployed for the next five months. (Thank God I was eligible for unemployment.) My in-laws became resentful of me due to my unemployment. We are still trying to recover from the damage my unemployment caused the relationship with my in-laws.
- Spent the night of our first wedding anniversary at the hospital with my wife's grandfather.
- My wife was taking classes, including clinical training to become a licensed practical nurse. Very stressful for her, and she was only able to work a few hours a week.
- 2008's midwest flooding (disaster). Our apartment was flooded, and we also lost both vehicles. We were able to save very little from the flood, and ended up living with my parents, without vehicles, for about three months. We received no reimbursement from our renters insurance, and very little assistance from FEMA. Due to the flood and some other circumstances I was unemployed again for approximately 6 weeks before finding another job.
- I was diagnosed with a blood clot, and experienced some pretty bad side effects from the medication that was being used to treat the condition.
- My wife's Grandfather passed away.
- My grandmother was diagnosed with alzheimer's disease, and has continued to experience problems associated with this. We try to help however we can.
- What ever else day to day life has happened to throw our way.
Was that the worst that could have happened? No, not by a long shot! It was however less then ideal circumstances to have to deal with. Trouble seemed to just keep coming. Kind of like playing "whack-a-mole" you knock one disaster down, and another pops up in its place. Keep in mind, that was just the first two years, not to mention all the other curve balls that have been thrown our way in the last two years. The one thing that our trials and struggles have given us is confidence in our relationship.
Enjoy life with your spouse.
Through thick and thin.
Marriage is like anything else in life, if you want it to be a success your going to have to be willing to work at it. Anytime two people become “one flesh”1 , their will certainly be challenges that must be dealt with tenderly and honestly. Below is a number of obvious points that have been of great help to us in our marriage. Keep in mind, this is not an exhaustive account of what has kept us “happily” married for the past four years.
Always, and I do mean always communicate openly and honestly. Do not keep secrets! Secrets and “half-truths” can be the kiss of death to developing trust in any relationship, not just marriage.
Address issues immediately. Don't let them “fester” like a sore that is ready to explode into a disgusting mess. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger,”2 when possible, talk the issue out before you go to bed. Going to bed angry can lead you to having two bad days instead of just one. You want to address the issue, then put it to bed, so you can move on with your lives.
Support one another in all that you do. Be supportive, the good, the bad and the ugly. When it comes to a spouse, no one needs a fair weather friend or someone who is going to kick them while they're down. Sometimes encouragement can be the greatest factor between just being “good” and being “great.”
Make time for one another. Real time, time when your awake, you can talk, and you can enjoy something, anything together. Don't allow the joy of being married to pass you by, your spouse is a gift from God, enjoy their company. Partake in fun activities together. If you don't have common interests, try something that is new to both of you.
Set goals. Long term, short term, individual and family goals. Having something to work towards, instead of just treading water always increases morale in almost any situation.
Don't allow “family” to come between you. Just about every couple has a horror story that involves the in-laws. Remember, the whole “shall leave his father and mother”1 concept.Your family is still your family, but now you have a greater obligation to your spouse.
Avoid people who are negative towards your spouse. Negativity is contagious (keep this in mind when it comes to your friend's spouse also) and can infect your marriage if you're not careful.
Money is a real clincher in most marriages. Unfortunately, finances have been the cause of a few difficulties in our relationship. Since opposites do seem to attract, if there is a “spender” and a “saver” situation in the relationship, I recommend that the saver be responsible for the finances. Although this may seem uncomfortable at first, it will make your marriage and your credit score in much more secure. Don't allow money to come between the two of you, you must be honest, practical, and responsible when it comes to your finances. Period. If you are the spender, try not to “persuade” the saver to be irresponsible, it just makes life difficult.
Be “intimate” on a regular basis (annually isn't regularly enough). I will not go into the details, but you get the idea.
Last but not least, follow Jesus. When we were first married, I was not a Christian, but my wife was. Her faith, and now mine has been a huge contributor to our success. After having turned my back on the Lord for so long, he still got me and my wife through these first six years, and I am sure that he will continue to shepherd us in the years to come.
Marriage is important, please work on yours everyday. Don't forget why you got married in the first place, you LOVE your spouse!
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
1.Genesis 2:24 ESV
2. Ephesians 4:26 ESV
More insights on maintaining a happy marriage: Surviving the Holidasys with the In-Laws
- How to Survive the Holidays with the In-laws
How to navigate a Holiday gathering at the in-laws home. The do's, the don'ts and some helpful insights on the most important components of making the Holidays and life more enjoyable.