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5 Fundamentals of a Successful Marriage

5 Fundamentals of a Successful Marriage

My wife and I began dating at 15. Who could have imagined, almost 30 years later, our relationship would have evolved into best friends still infatuated with each other? Here are five fundamentals of a successful marriage which my wife and I have developed over the years.

As we approach our big 2-0 wedding anniversary, I have been reflecting on how our marriage and lives have developed. We are fortunate to have lived the very essence of a twin flame love story. Our marriage is better than I ever dreamed. Since the first day of our marriage, she has always looked forward to our 20th anniversary. Why? I don’t know, but that doesn’t matter because it is important to her.

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As the date approaches, allow me to share with you five of the fundamentals which developed over the years, the keys that evolved our relationship into the dream it is today. What we must remember is that the situations we experience may be out of our control, but our reactions and the resulting effect on our relationship is controlled by you alone. The relationship you allow to develop will define your marriage. Your marriage will define your family and the upbringing of your children…your legacy.

Marriage is Not a 2 Way Street

    It’s not a two-way street

    As newlyweds, people often told us “marriage is a two-way street.” This never made sense to me–a two-way street is a reciprocal situation. A marriage is filled with twists, turns and detours, but never a straight road. Where you think life will take you when first married at 22 is never where you find yourself at 42. In the military, our marriage endures remote assignments, which is military code for 365 days without your family, or an assignment to a location not on your dream sheet/master plan.

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    If you treat your marriage like a two-way street, then you are going a different direction than your spouse. To be successful, you and your spouse must be on a one-way adventure! We found, instead of reciprocating with each other, we must be walking hand-in-hand in the same direction. After some trial and error, we realized the answer to any choice driving a significant change in our family’s future was to discuss our wishes and determine the direction we wanted our family to grow. We continually ask each other if we are happy with the way we are grooming our children, with how we treat each other, and any other aspect of where our family has been or where we are heading. Marriage is not a two-way street; it is a one-way path we chose to stroll down together. We are equally responsible for where it takes our family.

    Deposits must exceed withdrawals

    We all know the times we are needy. You need your spouse to listen to problems, get you something for a headache after a rough day, or just hug you when you are upset. In our family, we explain successful relationships like a savings account. In order to be productive and successful, deposits must always exceed withdrawals. Noted psychologist John Gottman’s exploration of positive-to-negative ratios in marriages revealed that, for a marriage to be successful, the couple must maintain the “magic ratio.” This is a consistent 5:1 ratio of positive to negative statements. Think about that before you say something negative to your spouse next time. For every critique or criticism that makes a withdrawal from the relationship, you must make five deposits of positive statements or experiences to just get back to where you started!

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    Fight elegantly

    In the beginning of a marriage, not only are you unaware of how to live together, you do not know how to fight together either. The smallest spark of anger bears the possibility of WWIII with rehashing of past problems, delving into pet peeves and unrecoverable insults. We had our share early on, as everyone does. As our relationship and my career developed, we decided we must resolve “fights” before we went to sleep. This way, we could wake every day in love and never run the risk of having our last words be heated when we parted for the next day’s activities. Yes, this led to some long nights. Over the years, our relationship has evolved into fewer fights and more simple disagreements. When we argue, we stick to the issue that provoked one of us to anger and do not resort to insults or bringing up past issues. This has allowed us to set a solid example for our children, who will tell anyone that “mom and dad never fight.” After 20 years of spending so much time apart, I think when we do have a disagreement we both just want to hurry up and get to the best part…the make-up kiss!

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      Love’s tide stronger flows

      Although better known in the modern evolution as”‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Roman poet Propertius proclaimed: “Always toward absent lovers love’s tide stronger flows.” Think about it. When you sit down in your living room after work, someone is doing homework and texting, someone else is getting a snack in the kitchen, and most families are watching television. As someone who travels extensively for my job, this is not our norm. We FaceTime and text, email and send letters. Our time has to be planned to align our schedules. Although she is busy being a single mom in my absence, she still allots time to for me. When we are staring at a computer or phone screen video call, our attention is not sidetracked with TV or other events. The time we talk is dedicated to actual deep conversation. The conversation has our undivided attention, so we also listen. I cherish these interactions. Being apart actually brings us closer together.

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        Flirt

        Say “I love you”, “I need you”, “I want you” often. These phrases are not reserved for the dating or newly married. Try to win your spouse over every day and don’t assume she knows how much you love her after you say “I do.” I appreciate my wife now more she will ever know. She gave up her career as a nurse to be a full-time mother. Did she do this as overcompensation for my frequent absence from the home due to my job? Maybe. Does it matter why? No. Is it a sacrifice by her? Yes. To this day, I am in awe of this dedication to our family. I try to earn her love every day. We are still infatuated with each other after 20 years of marriage and proud of it. Stolen phone calls during a 5-minute break at work or a racy text you hope the kids don’t notice on her phone is habit-forming. Years of flirting have made us incredibly good at it. Our teenagers poke fun at us, fake gag, and routinely remind us, “you guys are not teenagers in love!” What bigger compliment could they pay?

        Never forget the spark that brought you together and realize marriage is not a two-way street. It is a one-way path you both choose to stroll down together–both equally responsible for where it takes your family. Choose to make the journey side-by-side, hand-in-hand.

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        Chris Stricklin

        Leadership Consultant

        5 Fundamentals of a Successful Marriage 8 Principles of Dynamic Leadership

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        Last Updated on May 28, 2020

        10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

        10 Success Principles for Living Your Dream Life

        Are you stressed out and overwhelmed, wishing you had more time to do the things that really matter? Are you ready to do something better, something special in your life or your career?

        You were born with a gift that no one else in the world can express like you. When you dance to your own music, you naturally develop your innate abilities and excel in work and life. You are a total rock star. But when you live someone else’s idea of who you should be, it throws off your groove.

        Many people—maybe you—stopped following their dreams way too early in life because their talents were ignored, minimized, or shamed. They didn’t have the chops to win an American Idol competition or nab an Olympic gold medal, so they stopped expressing their inborn gifts altogether.

        You don’t need to be an award winner to rock your life. Living your dream life is about discovering your superpowers and feeling vibrant and joyful when you use them. It’s about owning what makes you unique and finding like-minded people to support you.

        Here are 10 success principles to help you live a rich and rewarding life on your terms that have worked with thousands of people in my workshops and will work for you, too.

        1. Get a Hobby to Move Closer to Your Dreams

        If you never became a professional dancer or a world-renowned author, it does NOT mean you should stop dancing or writing! These activities make you come alive, even if you “only” do them as favorite pastimes.

        Engaging in a hobby is one of the most important success principles you can follow to move closer to your dreams.

        When you try something creative for the first time or in a long while, you begin to see opportunities at work and in life that you were unaware of before. You also feel happier and more energized, according to a recent study from New Zealand.[1]

        Some of my most burned-out executive clients reinvigorated their careers by discovering a creative outlet that refueled them after the workday ended. Research at San Francisco State University shows that having a hobby lowers stress and helps you succeed at work.[2]

        So, give yourself permission to try new things and revisit old passions you gave up long ago. Setting aside just one hour a week for personal exploration can significantly change your life.

        Who knows? Your creative outlet could transform into a thriving business or lead to a new profession down the road.

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        2. Focus on Your Strengths, Not Your Weaknesses

        Did you know that you are more likely to succeed when you develop your natural strengths rather than work on your weaknesses? The problem is that you probably don’t know where your true talents lie.

        Here are a few options to help you discover your unique strengths. You can:

        • Take the VIA Character Strengths Survey[3]
        • Try Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment[4]
        • Answer a few Superpower Questions

        Once you understand what makes you tick, you can use these skills at work and your personal life to get more done in less time. If you boost your unique abilities through practice and study, you can accelerate your career and become a leader in a field that matters to you. It’s worth investing in yourself this way.

        3. Jumping off a Cliff is NOT Required

        Here’s the deal: most people are too afraid to change. When participants first come to my workshops, they tell me they have mouths to feed, bills to pay, and fear that if they follow their dreams, someone will get hurt.

        The old saying “leap and the net shall appear” does not comfort them. Because they are hesitant to plunge into the unknown, they believe their only option is to stay put where they are in life. Can you relate?

        You do not have to sacrifice the life you have now to start a new one. I was a psychology professor by day and singer by night for years before I transitioned into a full-time music career.

        Just take a little time out each week to do what enlivens you through a hobby, volunteer work, etc. Get a feel for it.

        Is it what you really want? If so, increase the time you spend doing it and make the transition when the time feels right.

        4. Give Your Inner Critic Some Love

        The main culprit that keeps you from stepping outside your comfort zone and getting the life of your dreams is KCRP or K-CRAP – the radio station that plays 24/7 in your head. The moment you try to do something interesting with your life it slaps you down with such chart-topping killer hooks as “Who do you think you are?” and “You’ll never be good enough!”.

        Have you ever noticed that KCRP’s mean-spirited DJ sounds like your parents, teachers, bosses, and other authority figures who shut you down creatively? These folks don’t need to stifle you any longer (although they often still do) because your inner critic does it for them. That keeps you stuck in a rut.

        To break free, try thinking of this DJ as a gruff old grandfather who gives you crap to keep you safe. Remember, this grumpy grandpa is woefully out of touch with the times. So, his stern opinions don’t really matter much, do they? Give him a pat on the back for his good intentions, and put your focus back on what makes you come alive.

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        This success principle will give you the courage to venture into the unknown where you can dance to the beat of your own drummer.

        5. Embrace Your Inner Weirdo

        Many of us don’t go after our dreams because we’re afraid folks will find out how odd or strange we are. But our little eccentricities often turn out to be our greatest strengths. Yes, it’s good to be quirky.

        Odds are, you lost track of your true passions and talents before you were even old enough to know you were getting off-track. You became slowly “adulterated” by learning to:

        • Take on family roles that don’t match who you really are.
        • Spit back what teachers taught you in school rather than risk getting bad grades for being original.
        • Hide parts of yourself that don’t seem acceptable to certain social groups.

        The price for fitting in is that you may wind up leading a life that doesn’t fit you all that well. Your true calling becomes clear when you embrace what makes you different from others and allow yourself to stand out from the crowd, even if it feels awkward.

        Often, the very qualities you view as your flaws are your greatest gifts.

        6. See the Bigger Picture to Find Your True Calling

        I cannot stress the importance of this success principle enough. Your true calling is right in front of you. But you may miss it because you’re looking for it in the wrong place.

        To “see” it clearly, try widening your point of view.

        Case in point: Maria felt she needed to retire early from being a police detective, so she could travel abroad. I encouraged Maria to think of ways that she could continue to serve as a law enforcer (a career she loved) and travel overseas at the same time.

        A few months later, Maria landed a job with the United Nations in Bosnia training the local police force to understand and embrace human rights procedures.

        Like Maria, you are an everyday rock star capable of accomplishing greater things than you can imagine. Is what you’re looking for right in front of you, too? Do you have an inkling of what it may be?

        Look beyond your day-to-day activities, your current job, and even the town you live in. View your life from an eagle’s perspective and be open to new possibilities.

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        7. Try a Little Wish-List Magic

        Pretend I’m your fairy godmother and I give you permission right now to be your most magnificent self. What kind of life would be music to your ears? It doesn’t matter whether it seems unattainable or even downright crazy. Write it down on a wish list.

        Get quiet. Be honest. Think big.

        What would you like your career, your relationships, your health, your finances, and your spiritual life to be like? Jot down enough details so that your wishes seem tangible to you. Then, look at this list every morning before you start your day and every night before you go to sleep.

        Sounds silly? It’s not. It works! Permitting yourself to daydream about a rich and fulfilling life is the first step to manifesting it.

        8. Take Breaks to Get Clues About Your Ideal Future

        Did you know that working straight through to a deadline leads to diminishing returns? Research shows that taking a break for 15 minutes every 75 to 90 minutes can help you recharge, refresh your focus, and get more done in less time.[5]

        Wait, it gets better! A Stanford study shows that walking increases your creative output increases by 60 percent. Doing repetitive activities such as walking, running, riding your bike, swimming, and sweeping allow solutions to problems to pop into your mind out of nowhere.[6]

        What does this success principle have to do with creating your dream life?

        These mini-breaks allow you to get vital clues for what to do next to attain your ideal future. Plus, you won’t waste precious time and energy getting lost in other people’s agendas.

        9. Take Action on Your Inspired Ideas

        Once an inspired thought pops into your mind, take action.

        This is one of the most powerful success principles for turning your dreams into reality; the sooner the better. Whatever it is—from calling an old friend to taking a new route home—be sure to do it!

        Pay attention to your oddball hunches. You need to go after what you want, not just dream about it. As comedian Jim Carrey warns,

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        “You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

        10. Count Your Rockstar Moments

        Still not sure you have what it takes to get your dream life? This final success principle is guaranteed to help.

        Make a list of everything you’ve ever accomplished. As you read back through it, put a star next to each item, and let it sink in.

        You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how good you’ll feel about yourself afterward. You’ll also see how effective you’ve been in the past at getting what you want. You’ve succeeded before, you can succeed again.

        You already rock. You just need to own it. Trust me, you’ve got this!

        Final Thoughts

        Eleanor Roosevelt said,

        “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

        Following these success principles will help you find the time and energy to do the things that really matter and live with clear intention.

        By spending just one hour a week doing something you love, focusing on your strengths and achievements, embracing what makes you different, and acting on inspired ideas, you can create a life that is a perfect fit for you, step-by-step.

        If you don’t have a clue about what your dream life could look like yet, don’t worry. Your heart knows. It has been “talking” to you for a long time. It’s just being muffled by KCRP, buried under a lot of “shoulds” and fear.

        This article can also help you figure out the life you truly want to live: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up.

        Stand still, get quiet, and listen. It’s constantly telling you what you need to do to realize your own rockstar potential. It may be just a whisper now, but the more you pay attention to it, the louder it will get, and the easier it will be to follow.

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        Featured photo credit: Rahul Dey via unsplash.com

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