Whether you’ve been married for decades or are just approaching marriage, knowing what makes a marriage work can only be a good thing, right?
With research showing that 34% of marriages end in divorce by their 20th anniversary, I’m looking forward to passing that threshold soon. And the time has just flown by! Mel and I have known one another since we were teenagers, and having started as friends, we remain best friends to this day.
For us, approaching our twentieth wedding anniversary is an achievement, especially when we consider we had people tell us we wouldn’t last 6 months — yes, that’s what they said. Yet, though it’s been quite a story, our time together hasn’t always been easy.
We’ve weathered some storms — bereavement, being teenage parents, pressure from family, and financial crisis, to name a few — but all the while we’ve stuck together, remained a team, and thankfully, are continuing to make it through.
During that time, whilst realising that we’re still learning as we go, we’ve also been privileged to spend time with other couples who’ve asked us for advice, support and guidance, which we’ve always been happy to offer where we can. Just recently we’ve had another couple ask us to come alongside them as they prepare for marriage and start their own journey together as husband and wife.
So in this post I thought it’d be helpful to share just three areas in our marriage that I’ve found to be essential for the health and success of our relationship. I hope you’ll benefit from considering them.
#1. Trust each other enough to be yourselves
It may sound obvious, but trust has been vital to the success of our marriage. Now when I say trust I don’t simply mean being confident that when your spouse says they’re out with friends that that’s where they are — that’s a different type of trust altogether.
What I’m talking about is a trust that frees you up to be yourself and that gives you permission to admit your weaknesses, uncertainties and doubts, without fear of being seen or treated differently. It’s the kind of trust that builds authentic relationships — the type that allows you to put down your guard, be vulnerable, and be confident that you’ll be accepted regardless of your imperfections.
#2. Communicate what you really think and feel
Without communication your marriage won’t last, its that simple! And though important, I’m not talking about the type of communication where you simply listen to one another or keep in touch throughout the day with loving text messages (though I do like these 10 text message ideas from Mark Merrill), I’m speaking about another level of communication altogether.
What I’m referring to here is the kind of communication that sees you go beyond the superficial, and where you’re able to have healthy conflict without fear of any lasting fallout. Do you feel able to be open about what you’re unhappy with, about what your real needs are, or where you’re struggling? When was the last time you shared what frustrates you or were willing to openly disagree?
This type of communication can only happen if you’ve got the trust mentioned in point one, and means to really communicate what you think and feel. So if you feel unable to communicate in this way, you need to start by asking yourselves why that is.
#3. Accept personal responsibility for your mistakes
Without the acceptance of personal responsibility all you’ll have in your relationship is blame. Being willing to acknowledge where we’ve messed up, been stupid, or even insensitive, has been crucial to keeping our marriage alive.
Yes, admitting when we make mistakes isn’t always easy — especially for wives (hehe!) — but without accepting your part in causing your spouse to feel hurt, let down, or failed, you’ll allow space for resentment to set in.
In failing to accept responsibility for when you’ve messed up, you communicate that your spouse’s feelings don’t matter — and that’s not the kind of message to send to the person you’ve committed to spending the rest of your life with, is it?
So there you have it, three areas in our marriage that I’ve found to be essential for the health of our relationship:
- Trusting each other enough to be accepted for who you are
- Communicating in a way that goes beyond the superficial
- Taking personal responsibility for your choices
As I said, our marriage hasn’t always been easy, and to be fair, we can look back on occasions where we could’ve seen it come to an end. But over the years, what we’ve realised is that as we’ve given deliberate thought to the three areas shared in this post, our marriage has gone from strength to strength.
I believe that wherever your marriage is now, it can always be better. So make a decision to commit to developing in these three areas, and give your marriage a chance to be brilliant!
How would your marriage change if you learnt to develop in these three areas?