With so many marriages going up in flames many people are turned off by the whole idea of it. How can it last for a lifetime? What makes some marriages last and yet others fall apart at the seams? Many of the marriages that do last are nothing to write home about, so why do it at all? Why not just live together and when it goes south hit the road?
At the same time so many people are yearning for a life partner; someone to grow old with, a companion who has our back. The prospect of growing old alone for some people is tantamount to an early death. Making a marriage last seems to be quite the challenge, especially for those who have experienced divorce in childhood or a marriage that fell apart.
So, the big question here is how to make it work? If we have managed to find someone who can tolerate all our foibles and faults it's nothing short of a miracle, but how to keep it going?
Here's some ideas:
• Remember that we are no piece of cake. It's paramount that we step back and take a long look in the mirror. What was our part in the current dust up? The first act of adulthood is the ability to take a hard look at ourselves. The 50/50 rule always applies. That means that we take a look at both sides.
• Being right is for sissies. Forget about winning or knowing or thinking we are the good one. What has to always come first is our relationship. Being close and in love with our partner has to be the number one priority. Putting anything before that is foolish and will be the downfall of your relationship. Pointing the finger ends up meaning expensive lawyers and a cheap apartment. So get real and listen up and then figure out a solution. All dialogue must be solution focused.
• Empathy is the rule in relationships. Empathy means taking the time to consider what your partner is going through. If they are mad at you, dollars to doughnuts you did something to piss them off. Understanding what is going on with your partner will help you to consider what you might want to do to make it better. Empathy is not sympathy or even agreement, it's about knowing what your partner is about and learning to see it from their point of view.
• Kindness rules. Whatever you mean to say you can say it with a glove not a hammer. Use neutral words. We can't take back bad words. Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling don't work either. (John Gottman said this and he knows what he is talking about when he calls those methods the four horsemen of the apocalypse). Do not swear, name call or yell by the way.
• Calming down first always helps. Use the 20 minute rule. Take a break and come back when you have thought about it and can form coherent sentences. Nothing can be accomplished when you are angry. The goal is to find common ground.
• Acknowledge and validate. The most important part of most discussions is usually left out. Both people are just waiting to make their point and don't take the time to let the other person know that they have comprehended and understood what was said. To acknowledge and to validate the position of the other person must happen first, then make your point. It should go back and forth until both people fully understand what each person is thinking then they can move on to a resolution. Many times once both people feel acknowledged and validated the argument is over.
Marriage is like a garden, it must be tended. Taking the time to pull out the weeds, water the plants and cultivate your garden, the better your relationship will be. Make a date night. Go out to a restaurant or dinner at home. Sit down and tell each other everything. Creating an intimacy through interaction and self-disclosure will last for weeks. Taking a little time every day to give a hug, ask about their day and having a nice moment will add fuel to the fire inside and keep the flame of love alive.
The most important element in lasting relationships is to be the kind of person that someone could love. If we are kind, caring, loving and responsible we create love. Remember you got married for a reason. You started out loving your mate but to continue it requires that you behave in a way that allows your partner to respect and admire who you are. As many people have said most of what life is about is just showing up. Love requires more than that. Being loved by our partner means that we become a loving person.