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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

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        Last Updated on January 24, 2021

        How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

        How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

        Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

        For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

        But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

        It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

        And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

        The Importance of Saying No

        When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

        In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

        Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

        Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

        Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

        “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

        When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

        How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

        It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

        From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

        We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

        And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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        At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

        The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

        How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

        Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

        But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

        3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

        1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

        Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

        If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

        2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

        When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

        Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

        3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

        When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

        6 Ways to Start Saying No

        Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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        1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

        One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

        Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

        2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

        Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

        Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

        3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

        Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

        Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

        You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

        4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

        Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

        Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

        5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

        When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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        How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

          Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

          Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

          6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

          If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

          Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

          Final Thoughts

          Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

          Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

          Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

          More Tips on How to Say No

          Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
          [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
          [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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