Most people are aware that marriage takes work– a lot of work. We know this. We’ve heard it over and over. We’ve seen the statistics on divorce and read countless articles telling us how hard marriage is.
And yet…somewhere along the way, we still become seduced by the fairy tale. I don’t know, maybe romantic comedies are to blame, or social media platforms that are littered with posts of drop dead gorgeous couples, frolicking, having fun and appearing to be engulfed in each other’s love. I admit–I am guilty of both. I love celebrating the love my husband and I share and I love seeing other couples who are madly in love. I love–love. But the truth is we only display five percent of our lives on social media. We hide the struggle, the grind and the fight that actually produces those glamorous photos and sustained our 20 year marriage.
Marriage is a daily choice and not a one time event
One of the most popular misconceptions surrounding marriage is that once you make it through the wedding day–with all of it’s pomp and circumstance–say your “I do’s,” you ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, most people spend more time, energy and resources planning their wedding day than they do planning the rest of their lives together. Marriage is a daily commitment. Every day you wake up you must consciously decide to commit to your spouse–for better or worse. Good, firm and solid marriages are not created through the images on Facebook and Instagram. They are forged in the mundane day-to-day dealings and through the difficult times. For every picture I have posted of us laughing, smiling and engaging in romantic nonsense there is a hidden moment of agony accompanied by tear stained cheeks, tousled hair and two people at their absolute worst trying to figure it all out. That is the plain, ugly reality of marriage.
5 Ways to achieve the true fairy tale marriage and strengthen your relationship with your spouse
So you’ve accepted the fact that your marriage is going to be work. Now what? Here are a few very simple and practical principles–that if applied consistently–will greatly increase the likelihood of a long and viable marriage.
- Develop and cultivate a team mentality— You are a team. The team is bigger than it’s individual members. Understand that you will be called on to sacrifice for the good of the team. Sometimes you get to be the star and other times you don’t. Learn how to “take one for the team,” because when the team wins–all the players do too. Selfishness is the ultimate enemy of marriage and the underlying cause of the demise of so many.
- Accept your spouse for who they are and work with what you got— Marriage is an “as is” transaction. Good, bad and everything in between your spouse is who they are and you married all of it. Trying to change your spouse is an exercise in futility and dishonoring to him or her. They are who they are. Cultivate the good and work through the bad. The true essence of marriage is learning to love your spouse–as is–unconditionally.
- Treat your spouse better than you treat others— This principal rests on the border of doable and insanely impossible. It is one of the hardest principles to practice but one that yields the most rewards. When you have a conflict with a co-worker, you don’t jump in their face screaming obscenities and call them unsavory names (if you do, you have bigger issues–seek professional help). What most people do is plan what they are going to say and figure out how to best approach the situation. Your spouse deserves so much more respect, leniency, kindness and understanding than any other person (except– of course–your children) in your life.
- Make a plan for attacking heavy issues and learn to pick your battles— Your spouse is going to get on your nerves. Their habits, moods and idiosyncrasies are going to rub you the wrong way at times. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should argue over these mild infractions. Learn to let things go. Everything need not be a fight. When dealing with larger issues that vastly impact the marriage, develop a strategy and attack the issue not your spouse. Remember you are a team and the problem is the opponent. Find the right time, place, tone of voice and choice of words to ensure that your message and intentions are clear. If tempers flare– take a break. Keep your focus on the issue at hand and never turn on your spouse. Mastering the art of communication is key when trying to conduct negotiations.
- Forgive and let go–Marriage is one big exercise in forgiveness. If you can’t forgive and can carry a grudge forever– DO NOT get married. Admittedly, some infractions are harder to forgive than others and forgiveness does take time. However, you must actively work on moving toward forgiving your spouse. You have to surrender the right to punish your spouse and absolve them of their wrong doing. It is the only way to ensure your marriage keeps moving forward and It’s for the good of the team.
At the end of the day, marriage is for grown folks. It takes maturity, determination, tenacity and unconditional love to create and sustain longevity. Making an intentional commitment every day is the secret to happily ever after.