Tips for Having a Happy, Healthy Marriage
When couples first get married, they expect to be happy, healthy, and madly in love for the rest of their lives. No one plans to argue, nag, complain, or be miserable. In fact, no one would get married if they knew that were the case going in.
However, many people also go into marriage thinking that everything is going to come naturally. Just like with roommates, nothing comes naturally. Discussions must be had, agreements must be made, and there must be compromise. It doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, this happens in every relationship, whether you know about it or not.
When individuals don’t put any effort into making the relationship work, compromising and getting along, strife happens and relationships crumble. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can be happy.
You can have a healthy marriage, and you can have the kind of relationship you wanted when you got married, the kind that you look forward to coming home to every day. It does take some time and effort though, and won't just happen on its own. If you want to be happy, and want your spouse to be happy, nothing is impossible.
This article was written to help those of you just now considering marriage, those of you who have just gotten married, and even those of you who have lost your way and want it back. I can't guarantee that you or your spouse will be "happy" all the time. Life happens, bills come in the mail, and your car will unexpectedly need work at some point. However, I can give you some great tips for being happy in your marriage.
Take it from me. I’ve been with my husband since 2008, and though we’ve had a few bumps and bruises along the way, neither of us would trade our relationship together for the world.
What do you think is the most important part of having a healthy marriage?
I know you've heard this one time and time again, but it really is the absolute foundation for any healthy marriage. Like any relationship, you cannot function as friends, family members, or even as a couple without talking to each other. You may be able to live in the same household, but it will be a very lonely, depressing, unproductive situation.
However, the kind of communication I am talking about goes beyond just saying hello and goodbye at the start and end of every day, or discussing the meal for the evening. What I am talking about goes so much further, usually into difficult topics that take finesse to navigate. Several of these topics include money, intimacy, and feelings. Let's look a little deeper into some of these topics.
You’ll want to read through my article Ways That You Are Killing the Passion in Your Marriage to really get into this topic more in regards to marriage. Money is a huge topic in any situation. People take their money very seriously. Money decides who works and what kind of job each of you has, it dictates where you can live and at what level, and it even selects the timing for vacations, big purchases, and babies. This is not a discussion you will skirt for long without major consequences.
However, when you talk about it, you can very easily come to a decision together that will make each of you happy with a little effort. My husband and I went through a serious financial hardship a few years ago that took everything, our cars, our homes, our retirement funds, and even our credit and credit cards with it. Since then, we have paid off all of our debt, we have both finished our degrees, we are living in the most beautiful place in the world, in a nice house with two gorgeous labs and two precious children, and we are working in careers we’ve always wanted.
Without good communication, we never would have gotten to this place in our lives.
No matter what anybody else says, intimacy is critical in a healthy relationship. I know you’ve heard about relationships where one partner is simply no longer interested, may hold intimacy over the other’s head, and one or both of those in the relationship eventually straying.
There’s no better way to keep your relationship alive and healthy than through talking about your intimate life. If one person is no longer interested, both can work together to find out why. If it is being used as punishment, there needs to be a discussion about what that is doing to the relationship. In the end, with a healthy intimate life, chances are cheating will no longer be an issue.
Intimacy, comes in a variety of forms. It doesn't have to be the all the way kind to be healthy. Consider holding hands, rubbing each other's shoulders, running your fingers through their hair, touching their arm in the middle of the night, putting your arms around each other, etc. Either way, it is critical to the two of you having a happy, healthy relationship.
As is bound to happen, feelings get hurt, needs are neglected, and one or both individuals in the relationship feel unloved and/or disrespected at one point or another. If these feelings are left unattended, distance, resentment, irritability, and divorce are imminent. Negative feelings left unattended will only get worse and worse. These things need to be discussed if two people are going to share their lives and their hearts with each other.
This happened in our marriage. With the birth of our first child, my husband went into a depression that neither of us could explain, and after three years of trying to handle it on his own, losing our baby boy at 5 months pregnant is what pushed him over the edge and forced him to finally get some help. We almost lost our marriage and he almost lost his life, all due to feelings he tried to stuff and wouldn't share. We are both doing better than ever now by the way. Don't let this happen in your marriage.
By talking, feelings can be healed, hearts can be mended, and you can reassure one another with what’s really happening and maybe get help for your relationship, if needed. If you cannot learn to communicate effectively with one another, you will never truly reap the rewards healthy marriage can bring.
Next to communication, trust is the next biggest necessity in your relationship in order to have a successful, happy, healthy marriage. If you cannot trust each other, that will affect any and every other area of your lives. How can you trust this person with your money, your well-being, your children, or your future? How do you know that they are being faithful, or are telling you the truth about anything if you don't have trust?
I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s reality. It may not start this bad, but it can get out of control easily. If you don't, or can't, trust your spouse, you will question everything and will always be looking over your shoulder for trouble. Not only is this extremely stressful, but it can breed illness and disease quickly. You need to be able to relax and have someone to lean on during the mountains of life. You must be able to start your marriage from a trusting position, and be able to build on that trust throughout your marriage. Especially if you haven’t experienced unconditional trust before, it’s a freedom you won’t expect, but you’ll really appreciate through the years.
In a place of trust, I know that my husband always has my best interest in mind. Even when he is making BIG decisions, like moving us across the country or switching careers, I know it’s what is best for our future and our relationship. He’s not a person to make a decision lightly, and what’s even better, he asks for my advice!
Arguments are bound to happen. Life is stressful and nobody can be strong all the time. One thing that is great about marriage is that you have somebody else to lean on when life gets tough. However, when you are frustrated, it’s easy to take your emotions out on the other person unintentionally.
There's a common saying that both people in a marriage have to give 100% for the relationship to work. What's more accurate is that the marriage should always equal 100%. I have this theory that there are two people in a relationship so someone can be strong when the other is weak. When I am at 40%, my husband can be 60%. When he is only giving 30%, I am able to give 70%. The same seems to happen in our patience levels with parenting.
Sometimes the best solution when one person in the couple lashes out in frustration is just to hold your tongue and be patient with your partner. There will come a time when the roles will be switched and you’ll be grateful that your spouse was gentle, caring, and understanding with you when you needed it. By being patient when its needed, you can build a stronger connection with your partner, draw the two of you closer together, and avoid potential arguments that may have happened otherwise.
This will come in handy more often than not. The ability to put yourself in the other person's shoes and try to understand where they are coming from is very valuable. Most martial arguments aren't about the subjects the two of you seem to be spouting about. Yes, it does seem to keep coming back to the dishes or the laundry, but you know good and well the anger is coming from a much bigger place.
Each of you had separate lives before meeting the other, and separate experiences. For many there may have been abuse, abandonment, neglect, or other bad experiences. Maybe one of you was an only child and the other came from a home with many family members. Each of us are individuals with a history of our own. We act and react differently to stimuli and need to take that into consideration with our partners. What may he be experiencing that's making him so angry? How could she be interpreting this situation for her to feel like she has to defend herself?
Your experiences are different, and you may each interpret or handle a situation much differently. By trying to take the time to understand your partner, you are giving the other person the benefit of the doubt and developing the trust and respect in your relationship. Not only will you be able to avoid similar misunderstandings, but it’s likely that they will do the same for you when you need some empathy.
If you haven't already learned this, marriage, like parenting, is about putting another person's needs and desires before your own. What! So who’s going to take care of you then? Your partner will, of course. This lesson is one that is the hardest to learn but the gives the best rewards. However, not learning this lesson can end up being one of the most destructive for your marriage. This will definitely take some time for both people to get used to, but the sooner you start focusing on making your partner happy and taking care of them, the sooner he or she will return the favor.
And boy, does it feel good when someone else is taking care of you. When you give in and let marriage work the way it's supposed to, you'll want to do the same for them. See how it works! Man do I love it when my husband leaves notes for me in the morning saying that he already fed the dogs and did the dishes for me. Or when he calls me in the middle of the day to tell me he loves me and asks to take me out on a date that night. You bet I want to do anything I can to make him feel just as special when he comes home. A relationship that has this special characteristic about it, means you'll see two people working hard to outdo making the other one happy.
This is what marriage is all about! And my husband knows I care because I work hard to take care of him as well.
When it comes down to it, life can get you down, and that frustration, anger, and depression can easily leak over into your relationship. Struggling with money? Money is the biggest argument topic in marriages, and is one of the biggest reasons for divorce. Experience a loss? Here’s another of the biggest reasons for divorce. Experiencing illness, debt, a lawsuit, a frustrating boss, or anything else? There’s nothing better than coming home to someone you love and getting a different perspective.
A spouse can smile, listen to you vent, hug you, and tell you that everything is okay. Ever heard the saying "All You Need Is Love?" It’s amazing what a positive outlook, and some positive words coming from someone you love can do for a person. Love, Trust, Patience, Empathy, Selflessness, and Staying Positive have gotten many a person through a bad time.
Remember that your partner is an individual just like you, with their own thoughts, feelings, morals, values, desires and needs. They likely want a relationship with all of the same characteristics you do. In order to have the best marriage you can, you have to be willing to be the best spouse you can.
I can tell you from experience that it isn't always easy to stay positive, be selfless and patient, and to communicate effectively with your spouse all the time. That’s why they say that relationships take work. What's great about being married though, is that the other person can usually be strong when you are weak, and carry the burden for you both. And sometimes it will be your turn.
But when you are receiving all of these things from your spouse, it’s more than easy to want, to need, to give it all back to them in higher doses. Challenge yourself to give selflessly in all of these areas to your spouse, and you’ll be heavily, richly rewarded for it!
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness