The cliche about marriage is that it is “hard work.” The work of marriage is – Compromise and Connection. Couples have to work hard to compromise, because most people usually just want our own way. The area this surprising is connection. Couples have to work to create regular shared experiences that create connection.
Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee interviewed successful couples to find out how people define a happy marriage. This list is the work of marriage. These areas create the soil that grows compromise and connection. They report their results in a helpful book called The Good Marriage. Here is a list of things they found that go into the making of a happy marriage:
In many relationships, women become surprised when suddenly their partner becomes stone deaf during an argument. When men stop listening, women naturally turn up the volume, hoping to blast the wax from their husbands ears. What’s aggravating is that this makes it worse. Instead of understanding what’s bugging their wives, men dig in their heels and defend their actions. This is when most women get really mad, so they crank their emotional thermostat to the max and blast their husband with more heat. This makes it worse and for most men they become more deaf, more defensive, or they just completely withdraw emotionally for physically for the discussion and sometimes the relationship.
Everyone longs to be accepted for who they are. They want to be loved exactly as they are, not “I will love you if…. or I will love you when.” If you are constantly asking your partner to change (or if they are always asking you to change) they will feel unloved and criticized. Resentment begins to build and creates distance.
Your partner can change, but it has to come from their desire, not from you asking or pushing for it. The only changes people make are driven by what they want. People change because they want to enjoy something more or because they want to stop the pain of something. Your goal is to see that you can control yourself and your boundaries not them.
The only thing that you can change is yourself – You cannot change your partner
Learn to do 3 things well.
- Love the other just the way they are, not “I will love you if…. or I will love you when.”
- Develop the personal value that you want to grow change and be the best version of yourself. Change because it is your personal value. Change can’t be forced by your partner – it has to be your priority. You will either intentionally change and grow, or the pain of staying the same will create consequences.
- You have to understand that happiness is your own responsibility. You must own happiness yourself. Your partner can’t be the source of your happiness. Your happiness and joy comes from yourself and God….not your spouse.
Put your effort into changing you. Don’t ignore your spouse or leave them to become happy. Find happiness and joy where you are at. You will be amazed as you began to love yourself, your relationships with everyone will change.
Grace is what all of us long to experience in our relationships, the problem is we usually have a hard time giving grace to each other. A definition of Grace is giving or receiving unmerited favor. Giving someone something that they do not deserve. We see grace in our relationship with Christ when He loves us, forgives us and is always with us when we don’t deserve it. Is it possible for a couple to relate to each other this way? I think the goal of every couple is to give grace to each other.
The ability to extend grace is one of the qualities that strong thriving couples posses. Creating an attitude of grace will help you to accept and love yourself and your partner. Every partner despite their best intentions, are fallible and imperfect. It’s easy to show grace to people who treat you well and do what you want. It is much harder to show grace to those who offend you or with whom you disagree. Grace creates an attitude of acceptance, patience and love that allows us to look beyond struggles and conflict and respond with kind words or a hug instead of silence or scorn. So rather than reacting with statements to your partner like, ‘How could you be so stupid?’ or ‘We wouldn’t be having this problem if only you wouldn’t have done that,’ you can learn that the best option is to extend grace instead.
True grace is empowered buy the love of Christ. If you struggle to give grace to yourself or others spend time pondering the love of Christ. He fully and completely loves you. God will grow your capacity to give and receive grace as you walk with Him.
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV
Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less. Philip Yancey
Do you need a good reason to convince your partner to kiss more often? Research has given you a good argument. Kissing not only better for your relationship — it’s also better for your heart. An Arizona State University study found that couples who were told to kiss more often reduced both their stress and cholesterol — and increased their happiness. Take the time to pucker up and feel better.
The thing that I think is the most important is taking moments to express your appreciation to your partner. A thank you or a quick kiss can go a long way toward affirming your relationship and commitment to each other. That’s not hard to do even when you’re juggling insane careers and three kids. – Michael Ian Black
Here is the reference for those nerds want to read the study
Floyd, K., Boren, J. P., Hannawa, A. F., Hesse, C., McEwan, B., & Veksler, A. E. (2009). Kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships: Effects on blood lipids, stress, and relationship satisfaction. Western Journal of Communication, 73(2), 113-133. doi:10.1080/10570310902856071
Marriage happiness is simple. You have to stay connected. Here are a couple of tips to help you Stay Connected.
1) Make every effort to know each other:
…emotionally intelligent couples are intimately familiar with each other’s world… these couples have what Gottman calls a “love map” that gives them connection to each other. They remember and celebrate the important facts from the present and the past of their shared history.
“they are no longer two but one flesh” – Matthew 19:6
2) “When couples communicate they make every effort to avoid using the word you and try to use the word I.” This will make it easier to express feelings and much harder to accuse or attack the other person.
3) How you begin and end the day is important. “Reunite at the end of the day and talk about how it went.” The goal is to connect each day helping each other to reduce the stress of the day that can affect the relationship.
“Greet one another with the kiss of love” 1 Peter 5:14
Here is some helpful information:
- “…an unhappy marriage can increase your chances of getting sick by roughly 35% and even shorten your life by an average of four years.”
- “I’ve found 94 percent of the time that couples who put a positive spin on their marriage’s history are likely to have a happy future as well. When happy memories are distorted, it’s a sign that the marriage needs help.”
The information and quotes in this post is from The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Other posts about this book are What Destroys a Marriage, Our Biggest Responsibility in Marriage
It is not the differences that hurt marriages it is how a couple deal with them. Most couples argue about the same 6 arugments that every couple has Dr Gottmans research says that 69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These 6 problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year.
What Destroys a Marriage?
We get married hoping and dreaming of the future. Everyone wants and believes that their marriage will last a lifetime. So how do these dreams get dashed on the rocks of despair for far to many couples? Some marriages fail because of addiction, adultery, or abuse but, most marriage fail because over time they become disconnected through a pattern of communication and neglect.
Is it possible to predict whether marriage will last? Researcher Dr. John Gottman can listen to a couple for 5 minutes and determine, with 91% accuracy, whether they’ll divorce. Gottmans research has been the benchmark that others have used to understand how to improve marriage and his research has identified four types of communication that destroys a marriage.
Somehow we get lost. The busyness and stress of life distract us from what is important. We become critical consumers looking or demanding for someone to meet our needs. The interesting way that God made us is that true happiness is found giving to others. Our biggest challenge and responsibility is to serve and love our spouse.
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Romans 13:8-10
Your spouse is your first neighbor. Everything about your faith and relationship with Christ is summed up in how well you love your spouse. Your biggest responsibility in marriage is to love your spouse, not to change them. You are to love your mate. Then allow God to change them, and in the process change you. The interesting and amazing thing is when you allow God to change you, somehow He changes your spouse also.
Holding hands is so simple but profound. The attention and affection that you show by holding each others hand brings feelings of security and attachment. Research has shown that holding hands can reduce stress hormones in the brain. Holding your partner’s hand when they are experiencing stress can help them feel calm. Holding hands with the one you love is relaxing and can even lower the intensity of a fight.
There is connection and importance in the simple act of physical touch and holding hands. When you intentionally reach for the one you love, it gives them attention, affection and approval. Take the time to relax and hold hands often.