Every Sunday (as long as there is submitted content) I’ll be featuring a post from another cool blogger. Let me know if you’re interested in participating.
Today, our guest blogger offers up some much needed tips on staying married.
By: Meagan Frank
This list is not the golden ticket to a thrilling and unbelievable marriage. That is up to you and your spouse. What this is, rather, is a condensed list of the practical and common sense things that propelled my marriage from the brink of disaster to more solid ground. There is wisdom to be had, and practical principles to adopt, but you have to want to make the changes. You have to be open to self-analysis, and if you are, truly great things can happen for your marriage.
It is not new, or fantastic or mind-blowing, but what I found, after 8 years of interviewing, reading, questioning and working is that there are a few things that seem to be most important to the success of a lifelong marriage.
Starting with number ten and working to the number one thing you need to do to stay in a marriage for life:
Number 10-Take Care of Yourself- it is no one’s responsibility but your own.
As nice as it is to have a partner wholly devoted to your every need, it is not usually realistic and I could argue it is not all that healthy. A partnership is a shared commitment of caring, but it is not a commitment to full responsibility. If you are unhappy, it is not fair to expect anyone else to be in charge of your happiness. After marriage, you are part of a couple, but that doesn’t make you any less responsible for yourself. You need to be a whole person in your marriage…not someone’s other half.
Number 9- Learn to Fight Fair- don’t avoid the fights just avoid the nastiness.
When you are in for the long haul of a marriage, expect that you will have arguments, disagreements, discomfort and miscommunications. That is the unfortunate reality of being in a human relationship. Because you may not be able to control the discord, it is imperative you learn to control the discourse.
Only use “I” statements when talking with your spouse about your feelings.
Validate the other person’s feelings and respect him/her enough to listen.
Walk away when it gets too heated, and come back when your heart rate has calmed.
It is okay to agree to disagree, and you do not always have to be right.
Learning the fighting strategies of your spouse is important, not so you can change his/her approach, but just so you can put effective energy into having your opinion heard.
Number 8- Pay Attention to Life’s Stressors- awareness of what stresses you out is half the battle.
Acknowledge when you, your spouse, or your marriage may be under attack by one of the big stressors of life. Getting married, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a job change, a house move, chronic illness, and financial burdens can all put significant strain on a marriage. It is not easy, but necessary, to recognize when the family unit may be experiencing this kind of stress. Buckling down and fortifying against these stressors does not make the problem go away, but it does make the going a little easier.
Number 7- Lower your Expectations- Give more than you get. Have a heart of gratitude and generosity instead of a heart of greed.
“Ask not what your marriage can do for you…ask what you can do for your marriage.”
In a culture where immediate gratification comes before almost anything else, it is hard to get out of the mindset of expectation. We are taught to believe we deserve the best of everything and we are shocked and disappointed when the people around us are not living up to our expectations.
Marriage is more work than anyone wants to acknowledge, and when we lower our expectations to reflect reality instead of fantasy, we are less disappointed and more able to offer the best of ourselves to one another.
Number 6- Ask for What You Need- There are times when your needs are significant enough, then it is extremely important to communicate those needs, lovingly.
Lowering expectations to reflect reality allows for better connection with our spouses, but there are times when we have to stand up and say that even our realistic expectations are not being met. When you know your spouses communication techniques you can approach at the right time and with the right language to ask for what you need. Practice the techniques of gentle persuasion, lively debate, formal meeting or written request. Find the mode of communication that works best for you and your partner, and use it often.
Number 5- Surround Yourself with Supportive Friends and Couples- No one person can fulfill your emotional needs and the more healthy people you can have in your life, the better off your marriage will be.
Marriage works best with support from family and friends. When there is an entire network of healthy people to bolster your relationship, you have the support you need when the marriage may be strained. Your spouse may be the best spouse in the world, but humans are social creatures and we crave fulfilling relationships in all aspects of our lives. It is silly to assume that one person can fulfill all of our relationship needs.
Number 4- Do Something Gratifying Every Day- What is your passion? Your inspiration? What may be hard to start but makes you feel fantastic when you are done?
Positive psychologist Martin Seligman argues that gratifying experiences (an arduous workout regimen, reading a difficult book, practicing an instrument, volunteering to help others) are the key to lifelong happiness. When you invest in these activities for yourself (or with your spouse) you are more fulfilled and able to offer more to every relationship in your life, and especially your marriage.
Number 3- Change Your Internal Dialogue- Think about the words you use to talk about your spouse, your marriage, your day-to-day life. If they are not full of positive energy, they need to be.
How we talk about ourselves, our spouse, our marriage and our day all become a part of who we are. If we sound more bitter and annoyed than satisfied and excited, that is the feeling we take to the next day. I tell myself, “My husband is awesome…my husband is awesome…my husband is awesome,” and then I spend some time looking for reasons to defend that. You find what you are looking for in someone, and that does not preclude your spouse. Make the effort to change the way you think and talk about your spouse. Your feelings will follow, and when you share your feelings with your spouse, all of a sudden he/she lives up to your description.
Number 2- Choose the Right Person- It is so important to choose a mate for character above ANYTHING else.
This advice is obviously for the soon-to-be-married or the seriously contemplating among us. It matters quite a lot that you choose someone who will be able to weather life with you. Looks are great, muscles are awesome and money doesn’t hurt, but if the person with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life is void of character, your marriage will struggle significantly. Integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty, work ethic, humility and kindness are all great words to describe the kind of character in a partner that makes a lifelong marriage possible.
Number 1- DECIDE YOU WILL BE MARRIED FOR LIFE- The number one thing a couple must do to ensure they will survive the battlefield of a lifelong marriage is to simply decide it will be so.
Survival experts, the kind who deal with life-and-death survival, will tell you that the number one thing that determines whether someone will survive a traumatic event is their state of mind about the situation. Simply deciding that they are survivors is the first and most important step to making it through a disaster.
Lifelong marriage is no different. A couple eventually has to come to a point when they decide that “Yes! We are going to be married for life!” Hemming and hawing, questioning and doubting are not all bad for the growth of a marriage, but in order to make it last, a final decision must be made.
A Few Words About the Author
A 1997 graduate of Colorado College, Meagan was a high school English teacher for three years. She married her husband Paul in August of 1998. Their son, Nate, was born in 2000, their first daughter, Haley, in 2002, and their second daughter, Kiana, in 2005. In those five child-bearing years, she was a stay-at-home mom who wrote random musings and convinced one magazine to publish an article of hers. In fall of 2003, she started research for Choosing to Grow Through Marriage. In the fall of 2005, she was hired as a reporter for The Dunn County News in Menomonie, Wisconsin and for five months she did a variety of writing projects for the paper. Meagan wrote features, opinion pieces and news articles. She generally lives in Woodbury, Minnesota, but you can also find her at the family cabin in Wisconsin or at one of her favorite summer vacation spots near Castle Rock, Colorado.
Her book Choosing to Grow: Through Marriage will be released by TreasureLine Books in March 2011.
You can find her author page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Meagan-Frank/107752912591410
Or you can read her blog: www.meaganfrank.wordpress.com