Keys to a Happy Marriage
I have been with my husband for 19 years. It has NOT always been a happy, successful relationship. The reason it is now, is because over the years, we have LEARNED HOW to have a happy and successful relationship. It was not easy, and there were times that both of us wanted to "throw in the towel" and thought that life might be so much easier apart, rather than together.
We both came from dysfunctional families and carried a lot of emotional baggage into our relationship. This had an adverse impact on the way we communicated and interacted with one another. We had the misguided idea that our relationship was based on whether or not the other one, "made us happy". I think it is so easy to fall into that trap, and we had to learn that we could not depend or rely on the other to do something that they could not do for themselves.
Get rid of un-realistic
Another person cannot "make" you happy, but they sure can make you UN happy! We put a lot of unrealistic expectations on our partners and think that they have to be "perfect" which is NEVER going to be the case. We think that they are supposed to "fix" our problems, or ensure that we won't have them in the future. We all have pre-conceived notions, un-realistic expectations or misconceptions.
We became so disheartened, discontented and disenchanted that it nearly destroyed not only our marriage, but ourselves as individuals. We allowed spirits of anger, bitterness, hostility, and hate to manifest and control our emotions. We then stopped honoring and respecting one another. Although we still loved one another, we were no longer "IN love" with one another.
Realize that God has a
plan for your marriage.
We did not understand or realize that it is not about what we want for our marriages or within our marriage, it is what God wants and what He intends for a marriage. It took losing almost everything that was important to us, to realize that we were doing everything wrong, and we allowed our selfishness to bring us to the lowest point in our lives. Our marriage vows meant nothing to us anymore.
It wasn't until we gave our lives and our hearts to God, that He could do a work in us, and show us what our mistakes were, and then to rebuild and restore our relationship. To "mirror" His image and to glorify Him.
We are all ‘works in progress' and it is never going to be easy, but if there is a willingness on both sides to strive to make your marriage the best that it can be, it will be an endeavor that will definitely reap the harvest of your labors and have a huge pay-off.
We still continue to grow and to learn, but for each victory we have, our marriage becomes stronger and we are better able to fend off the things that could threaten to destroy it.
Here are some of the things that we have learned over the years and have helped our relationship become one that many people dream of having.
Put God first in everything
you do, think or feel.
Give your marriage to Him, and trust that He is the ONLY one that can help you with your problems or issues.
Resolve that divorce is
NOT an option!
When you made your vows to one another, you not only made them to each other, but you made them to God as well. They were not just flowery words, they were a promise that you would love the other, NOT just in richer, but in poorer, NOT just in health, but in sickness as well, for better, OR worse, and forsaking ALL others, keep only unto them for as long as you both shall live. You made a promise to love, honor and obey (submit) to this person, NO MATTER WHAT! The vows didn't say, "I'll only love this person if everything goes well, or they don't get sick, or fat, or old or they don't make me feel good about myself, or I get tired of them." Your vows mean that you will love this person UNCONDITIONALLY, not just when it ‘suits you'.
happiness is a CHOICE.
We can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be miserable. If you act as if you are "stuck" with this person and don't put forth the effort to foster love and growth in your relationship, then you WILL be miserable! If there is not a willingness on BOTH sides to be happy in your marriage, then it will never work. You both have to commit yourselves to MAKING it work. You will only get out of it, what you are willing to put INTO it! It doesn't have to be "work", it can be a pleasure to build something that both of you will benefit from.
Most of the things that annoy us or cause grievances are petty and mundane, but without addressing them or examining them to find out if they are valid issues, they can escalate into a bigger problem. Bigger problems can cause our hearts to harden to one another and eventually kill the love we feel for them. Ask yourself this question. "If I knew that this person would not be here tomorrow, how would I spend this last day I had with them?" Whether they were taken by death, or they left of their own volition, because they no longer had the desire to be with you, what would you want them to know?
Don't hide issues or just assume they will just "go away" on their own. Confront your issues head-on with honesty and sensitivity. Whether you feel that it is a "big" or "small" issue, ANY issue that bothers you is eventually going to BECOME a problem in your relationship. Choose the right time to bring up whatever it is, and NEVER attack or be accusatory. The first thing someone does when they feel attacked is to become defensive. They won't even be willing to hear your complaints! Use "I" sentences, such as "I feel... I think", never "You do this", or "You do that!"
If you are having a serious problem or issue that needs discussing, don't use little annoyances or petty grievances as an avenue to address the larger issues that need to be resolved. Don't wait until they pile up and then lash out in anger, when you need to resolve a conflict or issue. Wait for a time when both of you are receptive to hearing what the other has to say.
Drive-through listening is the same concept as when you place an order at a fast food drive-through and the person on the other end of the intercom repeats your order back to you. What this does, is to make sure that what the person has said, is received and understood correctly. This allows both of you to voice what is on your mind, the other to receive it and thereby validate that they understand you have something that needs to be addressed.
Understand the other
person's frailties and emotions.
Be sensitive to one another and remember that you are not the other's enemy. You are both on the same side. The side of your marriage. Don't let the issues you have become problems that can turn your marriage into a battlefield or war zone.
Always remember what qualities the other person has, that drew you to them in the first place. Why or what made you fall in love with them? Too often we forget these things, especially in the midst of conflict. It is easy to dwell on the negative about them when we are angry or hurt. It is also easy to take for granted all the positive things that we love about our spouses. Be ever mindful that those are the things you will miss most about them if you no longer had them in your life.
Don't forget to
cherish one another.
To have a wonderful, loving relationship that will endure the test of time, it is important to always re-affirm your love for one another. Daily! This is a way we show the other that they ARE important to us. Daily affirmation can be as simple as saying "Thank you for doing that for me" "I sure do appreciate you!" Or a hug, caress of their cheek, looking fondly into their eyes and giving them a sincere smile. Holding their hand, a fervent kiss, a kiss on the hand, whatever you can think of to let the other know that you are ‘honored' to have them as your spouse. Just as a garden, if your marriage is not tended and nurtured, it will grow weed-choked and eventually it will wither and die.
"Woo" each other.
What did you do to "woo" the other person to make them want to fall in love with you? Don't stop putting "your best foot forward" just because you think that now you have them, you don't have to put forth any effort to "impress" them! Don't let yourself go, stop shaving or putting on cologne, showering or making good personal hygiene a priority, fixing your hair or putting on makeup. Your spouse still appreciates these things, and will be more eager to show it, if you do. Did you look longingly into their eyes? Did you flirt? Talk baby-talk? Laugh or giggle? Did you compliment the other and tell them what you like or love about them?
If you have stopped any of these things, WHY? They may be the very things that the other person misses so much, that they eventually may seek it elsewhere. If you can't seem to find anything to compliment your spouse on, such as "your hair looks nice today", "you smell good", "I like that dress, shirt, etc.", then there is a reason ‘why'. Maybe you have built up resentment, hostility, anger, bitterness, that is causing an inability to WANT to show appreciation or adoration to your spouse. Those are detrimental to your marriage and MUST BE ADDRESSED!
Respect each other.
Ladies, remember that your husband is a man, and it is our duty as a wife to make him feel like one. The Lord designed him to be the head of the household, to be our protector and our covering. The Lord also requires us to honor and respect him as such. If we constantly berate or belittle him, disrespect him and dishonor him, he will soon feel emasculated, and will lose his desire or interest in WANTING to please us. The worst case scenario is that there will ALWAYS be another woman out there who is willing to step into your shoes, and give him what you lack. If you don't think so, you are sadly mistaken! The hardening of a man's heart towards you can ultimately drive him into committing adultery. There is NEVER justification for doing so. However, YOU have to do everything you can to not only safeguard your man's heart, but your marriage, as well. Loving someone means putting their needs before your own.
Appreciate each other.
Show your man that you appreciate all the things he does for you, that you might be unable to do for yourself, whether it be lifting heavy things, fixing things around the house, performing maintenance on your car, etc. Even if you CAN do all these things, it is only going to be a benefit to you, if you make him feel that he is needed by you. Make him his favorite food or baked treat. Tell him he is important to you. You'd be surprised at how much a man will reciprocate if you show him that he is desirable to you.
Don't just assume that a man is supposed to KNOW how you feel or should be a "mind-reader". Don't play games with his head. If he asks "what's wrong?" tell him! Don't say things like, "Well, if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you!" or, "You should KNOW what's wrong!" Never put him down just for being a man! Celebrate the differences between you. If you have a problem submitting to your husband, which is what the Lord requires of you, then you need help in this area.
Love as God loves.
Men, remember that God holds you responsible for the way you treat your wife. God commands that you are to love her and treat her as the weaker sex, by treating her gently, nurturing and caring for her and not being harsh with her. God has said, that "for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two will become one flesh". You are no longer two separate individuals, but are to be two halves of a whole! You are to treat the other the same as you would yourselves. Your marriage represents the union of Christ and the church. The "bride" and "bridegroom". If you fail to guard her heart and her feelings, God will hold you personally responsible.
It is a fact that men are logical, women are emotional. Whether your wife wears her heart on her sleeve, or hides her feelings under a rough exterior, women's feelings are more sensitive than a man's. Things that normally would not bother you, may eat her up inside. Realize that a woman processes things differently than you do. Don't ignore her, "tune her out" or act as if her needs are not valid or important. Being a man does not justify being insensitive. Recognize and compliment her for her efforts. Show her your appreciation by buying her flowers once in awhile, leaving a love note, taking her to dinner or treating her to a massage or spa treatment. Remind her that she is an important part of your life, and that you value her.
If your wife is being insensitive to YOUR needs, then tell her so! Don't just "sweep things under the rug" or avoid issues, by ‘skirting around them'. Ignoring problems or issues for fear of "rocking the boat" or receiving the wrath of her ire, is like avoiding a "stinky elephant" in your house. You can ignore the issues all you want, but it will not make them go away. If you want to be treated as the head of your household then ACT as the head of your household! You are to be the "umbrella" for your marriage and family, to help weather any storms that come against it, but if your umbrella has ‘holes' in it, you are going to get wet!
Deal with issues before
they become bigger problems.
NEVER under ANY circumstances, use your spouse's failures or inability to meet your needs, as an excuse or justification to have an affair! Either address the issues you are having and commit to resolving them and/or immediately seek outside godly council from a trained therapist or relationship counselor, before you even entertain the idea, or the temptation presents itself. Consider attending a "Married for Life" group or marriage conferences that will enrich your relationship.
The pain & devastation that will result from the choice to have an affair or commit adultery, will be so monumental that you may never recover from it. You could potentially destroy your spouse's trust & self-worth forever. Depending on who your spouse is as a person, or the issues of their past such as betrayal, abandonment, abuse, their mental stability, etc. this could even drive them to commit suicide or homicide.
Statistics show that when someone has an affair, it has a devastating impact on not only the betrayed spouse, but six other people's lives as well. Statistics also show that victims of spousal betrayal experience the same psychological impact as victims of rape or Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or Disorders. Adultery is one sin that may be forgiven, but will NEVER be excusable and one that you will have to deal with for the rest of your life.
Keep the passion and intimacy
alive in your marriage.
It is NOT "normal" for it to grow stale, become uninteresting, boring or infrequent as we grow older. If there is little spark left in the bedroom, chances are that one or the other of you is not doing what you should to keep the flame lit. The devil will use any and every opportunity to cause division in your relationship. If you have a lack of desire for your spouse it could be due to the issues within your relationship that is causing strife, it could be physical problems, or approaching sex from a selfish standpoint. It is not about YOUR pleasure as much as it about pleasuring your spouse. If you want or desire satisfaction then seek to fulfill your spouse's needs, putting them first before your own and they will be more eager to respond in kind. Kiss them or hug them fervently and often. (NOT just a peck on the lips, but a kiss that lasts at least 6 seconds or longer).
We have the misguided idea that if the other isn't willing to do for US then we will not be willing to do for THEM. God admonishes us to live sacrificially, to love the other MORE than we love ourselves, and to put THEIR needs, wants or desires BEFORE our own! If either of you cannot manifest a "servant heart" in your relationship, it WILL suffer. If you do everything you can to make the other feel that they are wanted, needed, loved and desired, they will want to do the same for you!
If you cannot reach common ground in your conflict resolutions, don't walk, but RUN to seek counseling or ministering from a trained professional. Don't wait until it is ‘too late'! The biggest mistake a couple can make is not seeking outside help. Don't let embarrassment or misguided thinking keep you from fixing a problem that you are unable to fix yourselves! Often times it makes it easier when there is a mediator or objective third party to broach sensitive subjects that you need to address, without the fear of anger or retaliation from your spouse.
If you have an issue that you need to discuss with your spouse and you feel that they may react with anger, take them to dinner and broach the subject in a public venue. This forces the other to remain controlled and talk more calmly. Setting boundaries about HOW you resolve conflict, arguments, or disagreements will give the other person a feeling of security and enable them to feel safe to discuss whatever is bothering them calmly and rationally. Resolve to not discuss important matters if one or the other is angry. Take time to cool off, think over what the issue is, and how you feel about it.
When you are calmed down enough to discuss the matter, allow the other the ability to voice their concerns without interrupting or ‘talking over" them. A good way to do this is for the person who is talking to hold an object in their hand, such as a spoon, a salt shaker, candle, etc. When they are finished, (remember the drive-through listening technique, as well) pass the object to the other person. Whoever holds the object, has the floor. Ask advice from a trusted friend or couple that have the kind of relationship that you desire and ask them "what works for them". Don't just listen and not heed the advice and think your problems or issues will just ‘go away'. We have learned that "hearing" is not the same as "applying" the principles, and putting into practice what we have learned.
Remember to have 'fun'
in your relationship!
Schedule a ‘date night' once a week, or every other week, where you set aside "couple time" to not think about anything but each other. Don't discuss finances, the kids, the in-laws, or any negative subjects. Concentrate on only each other.
Enjoy a movie, a walk, (hand-in-hand) dinner, a night at a hotel, or picnic in a park. Take turns doing what the other likes to do, whether or not it is something that YOU necessarily like doing, get enjoyment out of the simple fact that these things bring joy to your spouse. Tickle one another, take a bubble bath together, do a crossword, play a video game, whatever brings joy or laughter to your relationship. Don't ever say that you "just can't find the time".
EVERYONE is given 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. How you spend it is entirely up to you. Maybe it is just because you aren't willing to "make" the time. If you can't make the time, then maybe you aren't willing to make your marriage a priority either.
We each must strive to continually manifest the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit, without fail. Those are: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Humility and Self-Control. If we are able to do this, our marriages will thrive and flourish and become the type that God intended it to be.
Contributed by Nina M. Eary
Please click here to give us feedback about this article.