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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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        Published on April 7, 2021

        6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

        6 Signs Of A Controlling Person To Be Aware Of

        Some of the most manipulative people are so good at what they do that their words and actions can convince you into thinking they truly care about what’s best for you when in reality, it’s quite the opposite. The most common signs of a controlling person are rarely obvious to outside observers. And for someone enmeshed in a controlling relationship or friendship, it can be incredibly challenging to stay away from this toxic person, even if you’re aware of their emotionally abusive tendencies.

        While it’s ultimately up to you to decide whether to preserve or leave a lopsided, unfulfilling relationship, it’s nevertheless critical to understand the following six signs of controlling people so you can better advocate for yourself and mitigate the influence of their manipulative tendencies in your own life.

        1. They Push Their Own Personal Agenda

        Do you know someone who always tries to micromanage the words, behaviors, and attitudes of people around them? Does this person act like they have the right to know anything they want about you, including your location, what you’re doing in a given moment, who you’re talking to online, or any other private information about you? And when planning events and special occasions, does this person dominate conversations, steer plans in their own preferred directions, disparage others’ suggestions, and refuse to collaborate with anyone who might disagree with them?

        If you answered “yes” to some of the above questions, then those are clear signs of a controlling person whom you absolutely need to be cautious around. Controlling people are reluctant to even consider alternative ideas, let alone enthusiastically work with people who have differing views. They prefer to be the captain of every ship—regardless of how much or how little an issue personally impacts them—and they have an arsenal of manipulative tactics to deploy if someone stands in the way of them achieving their own personal agendas.

        In long-term relationships with controlling people, you may feel constantly pressured to meet their demands, follow their schedule, and focus on whatever they feel is most important. It’s not an exaggeration to say that these people act like the universe revolves around them, which can be exhausting to deal with for their family members, friends, and colleagues.

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        2. They Make Everything Transactional

        Controlling people aren’t always self-centered, but they’re not too empathetic either. Empathy for them tends to appear in the form of strategic concessions they use as a means to get what they want. They typically view interpersonal relationships as transactional opportunities to extract more value from people surrounding them, which can have a draining effect on those they interact with.

        For example, one sign of a controlling person may be their insistence on “keeping score.” This can involve doing nice things for you with the ulterior motive of demanding something from you at a later date in exchange for what you thought was just an act of kindness or a friendly support.

        Perhaps they shower you in praise (also known as “love-bombing”) or gifts then blow up at you if you don’t intuitively know they’re expecting something back from you. None of us are mind-readers, but controlling people behave as though everyone else should think and act like they want others to and those who fall out of line are punished for failing to meet their impossible expectations.

        A controlling person may also threaten to withhold support if you don’t adhere to their demands, but they do so in such subtle ways that the guilt they impose blinds you from the unreasonable nature of their behaviors.

        Some statements to be wary of include:

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        • “I did ___________ for you. What do you mean you can’t do ___________ for me?”
        • “Remember how I helped you with ___________? That took a lot of time and energy from me, but I guess you didn’t appreciate my help.”
        • “I always give you ___________. Don’t you care about my needs too?”
        • “You’re so selfish!” or “You don’t care about me at all!” (gaslighting if you respond with hesitation or politely decline their request for help for perfectly valid reasons, such as not having enough time or resources to assist them)

        3. They Criticize Everything

        One of the most common telltale signs of a controlling person is their capacity to criticize anything and everything, even small things that seemingly don’t matter. As with many toxic traits in relationships, these problems typically start out so small that you may not even notice. At first, you may even agree with their criticism or at least be able to understand their perspective when they bring up an issue.

        However, the criticism tends to get more intense, more constant, and more perplexing for people who maintain relationships with controlling people. You’ll likely notice how they rarely seem to criticize something they do. It’s almost always other-oriented and these types of people are so manipulative that any rationale they offer can seem plausibly legitimate.

        Some warning signs of a controlling person who’s overly critical to the point of abusiveness include:

        • Criticizing things about you that you have little to no control over (e.g., appearance, disability, family)
        • Criticizing your personal choices and interests, such as educational pursuits, career, clothing, favorite music, time spent on your hobbies, etc.
        • Punishing you for expressing vulnerability by invalidating thoughts and feelings you share with them
        • Attacking you whenever you express an opinion counter to theirs

        4. They Balk When Someone Criticizes Them

        We all know the adage, “what goes around, comes around.” But this statement doesn’t apply as much to toxic, controlling people. They’d much prefer to dish out criticism without ever having to take it in return.

        For instance, if your friend constantly talks about your appearance with little regard for your emotions but flips out if you make just a single comment about their appearance, there’s a possibility that they could have some hidden controlling tendencies left unchecked. Remember, these people aren’t just controlling in their behaviors towards others. They’re also actively trying to stay in complete control over every aspect of their lives, which includes how others view them.

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        This seemingly insatiable desire for control can prompt them to lash out against even the smallest bits of criticism, leaving people around them too weary or scared to speak up again in the future. While it’s possible they may suffer from something called rejection sensitivity dysphoria, this does not excuse them from the consequences of their words and actions. They should seek professional help to better manage their reactions to criticism.

        5. They Socially Isolate You

        Not all controlling people do this, but for manipulative narcissists, socially isolating victims is a go-to strategy for maintaining control because it’s effective at preventing people from truly understanding how toxic their partner, family member, or friend is treating them. Think of it this way—if you don’t talk to many other people in your life, there’s less of a risk that you’ll damage their reputation by revealing their abusive tendencies.

        Socially isolating others also gives the person more control over you and your life as it becomes more difficult to break away from them if you don’t have other healthier channels of communication and interpersonal support to turn to.

        This process doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it something you can readily recognize as abusive. At first, it may seem reasonable, such as asking you to stop engaging so often with family members with whom both of you disagree on major social or political issues. As the social isolation progresses, they may suggest cutting people out of your life—especially if they don’t like that person, regardless of how you personally feel—or even conjure up high-stakes problems like “it’s me or them” under the guise of saving you from people in your life whom they don’t like for whatever reason.

        In a controlling person’s life narrative, they’re always the protagonist who’s incapable of any wrongdoing. The blame is always redirected at someone else, whether that’s you or other people in your life. The more they isolate you from other supportive people in your life, the more susceptible you’ll be to falsely believing that they’re right and you “don’t need” your other friends and family when you have someone as perfect as this person.

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        6. They’re Emotionally Abusive

        It’s hard enough to be in control of your own emotions but when someone else is constantly belittling you and your interests or leveraging guilt and shame to manipulate you into saying or doing what they want, this can make it even more challenging to stay in control of your own life and emotional well-being.

        Emotional abuse is another sign of a controlling person that is often overlooked in relationships. After all, human personalities vary widely in terms of passivity, and it’s not uncommon for one person in a relationship to be significantly more passive than the other. This becomes an issue when the controlling partner or friend exudes signs of emotional abuse, which can start subtly and become much more pronounced over time.

        Concerning signs of emotionally abusive language or behavior to watch out for include:

        • Dismissing your needs and/or belittling your interests in counterproductive ways
        • Privately or publicly shaming or humiliating you
        • Making you feel as though you can never live up to their expectations or do anything right (according to their own vague, subjective standards)
        • Gaslighting you into thinking they said or did something that never actually happened (making you question your own reality)

        Final Thoughts

        It’s sometimes hard to see the negative things about someone with whom we have a relationship. We may sometimes unconsciously overlook the signs of a controlling person, especially if that person is someone we have known for a long time or are close to us. However, cutting them off your life is the best thing you can do for yourself. Just watch out for these six signs of a controlling person and take immediate action when you spot them.

        More Tips on How To Deal With a Controlling Person

        Featured photo credit: Külli Kittus via unsplash.com

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