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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 21, 2019

        How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

        How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

        For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

        If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

        Example 1

        You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

        You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

        In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

        Example 2

        You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

        People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

        You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

        Example 3

        You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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        The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

        Example 4

        You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

        Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

        If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

        Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

        • Understand your own communication style
        • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
        • Communicate with precision and care
        • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

        1. Understand Your Communication Style

        To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

        In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

        Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

        2. Learn Others Communication Styles

        Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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        If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

        “How do you prefer to receive information?”

        This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

        To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

        3. Exercise Precision and Care

        A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

        On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

        Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

        I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

        I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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        In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

        The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

        Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

        4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

        Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

        In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

        “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

        Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

        Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

        It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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        It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

        It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

        Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

        Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

        The Bottom Line

        When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

        I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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        Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

        Reference

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