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5 Fundamentals of a Successful Marriage

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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?

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        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 November 18, 2021

        10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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        10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

        We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

        A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

        So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

        • honest
        • reliable
        • competent
        • kind and compassionate
        • capable of taking the blame
        • able to persevere
        • modest and humble
        • pacific and can control anger.

        The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

        1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

        All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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        But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

        2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

        How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

        I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

        “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

        Abigail Van Buren

        3. How does this person take the blame?

        Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

        4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

        You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

        5. Read their emails.

        Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

        • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
        • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
        • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
        • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
        • Too many question marks can show anger
        • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

        6. Watch out for the show offs.

        Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

        7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

        A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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        Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

        8. Their empathy score is high.

        Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

        People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

        9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

        We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

        “One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

        Stendhal

         10. Avoid toxic people.

        These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

        • Envy or jealousy
        • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
        • Complaining about their own lack of success
        • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
        • Obsession with themselves and their problems

        Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

        Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

        Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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