10 marriage lessons (from the past 10 years)
Recently I was reflecting on marriage, which, given what I do, is something that happens fairly frequently.
When you sit with couples in their pain, relationships are often on your mind.
I decided that I’d compile a list of the things that I’ve learned. I’m sure this will be by no means complete, but I’ll make a stab at it. Chances are, I’ll be dissatisfied with my efforts later on, and add and subtract as my life – and career – dictate.
But you’re in on the ground floor. So here goes:
Never, and I mean NEVER talk about your partner in a negative way in public. It’s one thing to do it in private with a therapist, but quite another to air their private habits – however disgusting – in public. Sometimes sharing a bit with a friend can be helpful, but take care never to belittle them or be contemptuous. These things can kill a relationship.
It’s ok to express anger, but not to wound. Take the time you need to calm down before continuing a difficult discussion or argument. Don’t make things worse by intentionally inflicting harm with your words or – heaven forbid – your actions.
Your kids belong in second place behind your spouse. Many people put their kids first, and, when they inevitably leave home as adults, find they have little in common with their once-beloved partner. Make sure that you work as a team and keep the kids, kids. NOT little adults.
Marriage is 100/100% NOT 50/50%. That’s ridiculous. It takes all of you. Seriously. There is so much commitment, compromise, grace, compassion, love, wisdom … and many other things … involved. Give your all if you expect to get great returns.
Seriously think if the issue you have with your partner is worth the discord. As someone whose spouse has faced life-threatening health complications, I now find there isn’t much I think is worth fighting about. I came too close to losing him to seriously contemplate warring with him.
Try hard to put your partner’s needs above your own. This is HARD, and doesn’t come naturally to many, myself included. However, to the degree you can surrender your rights, you may find your spouse ready to give your desires back to you, with interest. This is one of the most compelling things you can do to express commitment and love.
Don’t ignore the sexual side of your marriage. Sex is super glue for couples. It’s important, and not just for men (that’s a myth)! Be sexual. Be intimate (not the same thing). Love and be loved. That’s the essence of marriage.
Find things that feed both of you and do them. Enjoy each other. If you can’t immediately think of things you like to do together, reminisce about what you did together when you were dating. Do those things, even if it seems silly. Enjoy. Find joint passions and feed them!
If your spouse makes an emotional statement, stop and pay attention, especially if expressing their emotions is not natural for them. This is a BIG deal, and you should treat it as such, and explore what’s going on with them.
Always kiss goodnight. It sounds cliché, but it’s a good axiom to live by. Turn toward each other (metaphorically) all day and do it physically at night. Don’t let the sun go down without you expressing love and gratitude for who your partner is and what they mean to you each day. Have no regrets that doubt they knew they were loved by you.
A reminder – I’m not trying to hit every marriage tip possible – that would take books and books! Nor am I trying to do marriage therapy by article. I am simply trying to give you a few tips and hints for thought and action, if you want to try new things.
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