It has been said we live in a throw-away culture. We throw away vast quantities of garbage, of time, of valuable natural resources. This throw-away culture, unfortunately, has seeped into our modern approach to marriage, and too often we see couples throwing in the towel because they “grew apart.”
However, every marriage that ends leaves a part of the couple behind. Sometimes, this leaves a lasting impact on just the individuals; other times, the impact is felt on other family members.
For those committed to their marriages, and firmly believing “‘til death do they part,” the peaks and valleys of marriage can feel lonely and isolating, as they see their counterparts readily abandoning this institution for single-hood. It is my hope perhaps these five steps can help another spouse recognize the inherent worth of their union of matrimony.
1.) Think about your spouse throughout the day, identifying their strengths. I recently did a project in early February where each day I wrote an attribute I loved about my spouse on a construction paper heart, and placed it on our bedroom door before he came home in the evening. Some days finding an attribute was more difficult than other days; yet, identifying the little parts of his personality which I loved reminded me why I fell in love with him, and helped me fall in love even more. While you don’t have to do a project, instead find a strength you like about your spouse every day, and find a way to let them know what you love about them.
2.) Prioritize time with your spouse – alone. If you have difficulty finding a babysitter, spend some time together after the children are tucked into bed. This time together is for you to intimately connect – either emotionally or physically. This doesn’t have to take place every day, but the majority of experts agree this should be done at least once a week. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, either – even twenty minutes of a conversation, uninterrupted by the pitter-patter of little feet or the tugs on your sleeves, can help re-charge your relationship batteries, and help you share your visions, dreams, and goals of the future, together.
3.) Don’t be shy to read about ways to keep your relationship solid and firm. Self-help books by Dr. John Gottman are easy to read, and extremely insightful. There is also a reason “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray, PhD remains so popular. It gives each sex a clue into the inner workings of how to communicate, and relate, in a manner which is relatable, entertaining and informative! And, if you get stuck in a rut, don’t hesitate to reach out for help from a trusted friend, or even a counselor. Nobody has “all the answers,” and just like every individual is unique, every relationship and marriage is unique. Therefore, when we seek out other ideas – some of which we may use, others of which we know won’t work – we are fostering a climate devoted to keeping a marriage and family intact.
4.) Recognize you only have control over yourself. Knowing we are unable to control someone else’s thoughts, feelings, behavior and actions relieves an emotional burden from our shoulders. We may not always like what our spouse does, nor will we always do things the same way as our spouse; however, focus on what you can control– your reaction to a situation. If your spouse reacts to something in a violent manner, remember, abuse is never justified, and you do not have to continue taking abusive behavior because of your marriage.
5.) Look in the mirror. None of us are perfect, and while we may want to get together with our peers and compare how our husbands are failing us, we need to be honest with ourselves. We may be tired, feeling overworked and stressed. We may feel the weight of our family bearing down on our shoulders. But, have we stopped to account for how our husbands are feeling? Have we spoken to them to see if they are also feeling tired, overworked, and stressed? Take a moment to recognize the contribution your spouse is making to the family team. And have an open discussion about your feelings, rather than pointing a finger at what you perceive is their failings.
Marriage is a beautiful institution. Studies indicate those living in happy, healthy marriages tend to live longer than their single peers.
But, it takes work…
…to make a marriage happy…
…and to keep a marriage.
These five simple steps are worth considering, especially when we are committed to not throwing away such a meaningful relationship as marriage.