Five Tips For A Successful Marriage – My husband Brett and I are celebrating our 16th wedding anniversary this month. Not only has it been quite a ride, but it also got me thinking that after all the years of hard work, commitment, and trial and error, we are now seen as “experts” by friends and family who are eager to learn how we did it. I want to share my five tips for a successful marriage and hope it helps you or a loved one.
While I’m not sure we have all the answers, we have certainly experienced a lot and learned along the way.
I can remember the first seven years of marriage being a whirlwind of having babies and trying to figure out how the whole parenting thing works. Years 8-12 were probably the toughest because we ran into financial struggles that almost broke us. I was resentful toward him, and we fought. Thankfully we sought council – from our church and a marriage counselor – and by the grace of God pulled through and got stronger along the way.
I can tell you we had a fighting chance from the start because of our firm belief in the sanctity of marriage. It takes 100 percent commitment and focus, and it is imperative that you and your future spouse sit down together and have several deep and impactful conversations on who you are as individuals, what your belief systems are, and where you see your relationship going over the long haul.
Brett and I had these conversations in our pre-marital counseling through our church, and it has proven to be an invaluable foundation that we have rested on many times over the course of our relationship.
I want the same for you. Here are five topics that need to be addressed not only as you work your way through the years together, but also before your wedding day.
In our view, the central figure in our impending marriage was Jesus Christ. We learned at a very early time that what we were about to enter into was a covenant relationship – larger than just what Brett and I wanted as individuals. We had to be committed to the institution of marriage, not just the idea of marriage.
I believe faith helped us. After all the struggles, something magical happened at 14.5 years of marriage where I felt like I had finished a marathon (although I am far from a runner). Our faith had got us to where we were, and we both had a sense accomplishment for reaching Year 15. Whew! We did it!
I am respectful of the fact that faith, and what that looks like, has many forms and may not be the same for everyone. But that is why it needs to be a conversation early on. If one spouse is involved in church and the other one is not, that could cause problems. If neither party is rooted in faith, that could cause problems. If each of your parents raised you in different religious backgrounds, that needs to be explored because if you decide you want children, what will ultimately be the faith of the family? What religious beliefs will the children be taught in the home?
Oh bot, this is a tough one… we almost let money tear us apart. Over spending, raching up credit card debt, stealing from Paul to pay Peter, creditors calling… the whole thing stinks!
Arguing over money and finances is one of the biggest predictors of divorce and needs to be tackled early in a relationship. What are your expectations as a couple with income and spending? Will you have joint bank accounts? Will one of you be responsible for paying the bills? Which is more important, paying for the kids’ college education or saving for retirement?
Like I said, financial issues almost broke our marriage. Don’t be afraid to have these conversations, because if you don’t take the time to talk about this, I promise it will soon be a source of conflict. Although I was totally against a budget in the early years of our marriage, I see how it keeps the family and spending in check. Plus it’s easy to see what is a need and a want.
We may not be great at a lot, but we are proud of our ability to talk, even during what felt like the worst of times. If you are not communicating effectively before you get married, you must learn to do during the tough years, which may cause more stress on the marriage After all, you can only explore each other’s belief systems and make decisions about what your marriage will look like if you can communicate with each other. Setting time aside each week to connect, to talk, go over any struggles and let each other talk openly. Then, (here’s the tough part- but if you can master this, you’re golden) accept constructive crisis and learn from it. The hardest words I ever heard, hit hard because I knew they were true and something I needed to work on. Rather than getting defensive, I humbly accepted the advice and try my best to be better.
I started out just a stay at home mom. Then a few years ago I started my own at home business, to allow me to use my brain, have fun and yes, make an extra income for our family. This dynamic changed over the years but rather than me be solely responsible for all the household chores, cooking, shopping, etc… my sweet hubby stepped up and we have learned to co-manage the household.
What will the expectations be with your family and work situation? Will you both have a job, or will one of you be the primary bread winner? Are you both OK with that decision? Maybe there aren’t expectations here, but you at least need to discuss it because if one spouse’s financial situation changes, how will you handle that situation together? If you have children or plan to start a family, will your spouse stay home with the baby? How will this affect your family, career and income?
During those trying financial years, I really was mad and didn’t like my husband too much. I wanted to be mad at someone, so might as well take it out on him. I almost let the temptations of life lead me down a dark road. One I am sure would have ruined our marriage and our family. I made a conscious decision to put on my blinders, to focus on my marriage, to look for the good in him each day, rather than focus on the negative all around us. I also prayed for protection to guard my heart, mind & eyes… I did not want any distractions to lead me away, rather I needed God’s help in leading me back to him to help us become a stronger unit than ever before.
You must be prepared to commit yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually to your spouse. Each spouse needs to look at the vows you will be taking, compare those vows to the fruits of the holy spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control) and marry that to “till death do us part.”
You need to put your desires behind the desires of the relationship. It may feel like you are always giving in, but the bigger picture shows you are receiving so much more than you are giving. Trust me. The three hardest words to say, can change any situation in the matter of seconds – “I am sorry.” Please don’t be afraid to apologize to your spouse.
Having these conversations won’t fix absolutely everything, all at once. I still lose my patience, we argue, we have silly disagreements and blow up. We are human after all. But our commitment to one another is what has helped us celebrate 16 years of marriage.