We can all agree that a wedding is fun, but a marriage? They’re not exactly a piece of cake.
Marriages can be one of the most important relationships we can experience in our lifetimes, though. When a marriage is secure, it can add to our lives feeling meaningful and fulfilled.
We know that marriage can be one of the most challenging relationships we willingly enter into with another person. Choosing one person for the rest of your life can feel like a major adjustment. It entails picking your spouse day in and day out; for better or worse, as they say.
With so many distractions vying for our attention these days, it’s easy for things to fall through the cracks. Our relationships cannot afford to be one of those things. Not when they help us navigate the world around us.
So it’s easy to wonder - what does make for a successful and fulfilling marriage?
We’ve all had that friend who thought that if their partner would just pop the question already that they would suddenly change. Or maybe we’ve been that friend before. The fact of the matter is, our partner is not going to change because we get married to them.
Agreeing to marry someone means that you are committed to them for all of their qualities. That includes both the good and the bad. It’s in essence choosing to spend your life with them as they are. Some characteristics of your partner may change over time or with age. However, it’s impossibly unfair to bank on your nuptials to change them for good. It’s looking at the other person and saying “I pick you, for the good, the bad and everything in between.”. It’s not a means to an end.
As in all relationships, there are ups and downs in marriages, too. When happy couples do fight, it’s how they respond that matters most. By choosing to listen to the other person’s point of view, acknowledging when the argument has gone off the rails and making the necessary repairs to the relationship, each partner feels understood and secure in the relationship at the end of the conflict.
It’s often said that the happiest of couples have weathered the hardest storms. When couples know that they have a partner who is willing to fight for and work on their relationship, they sow deeper bonds with their counterpart.
If you and your spouse sometimes argue, or feel like you’re going through a rough patch, remember: it doesn’t necessarily mean that your marriage is a failure. If anything, it means you’re a normal couple.
It’s not always easy to see past minor annoyances in your partner. Sometimes you may even feel you hate them. The key to a happy marriage is accepting your partner’s strengths and weaknesses.
While we choose our spouses for both their good and bad qualities, we’re willing to bet that the good outweighs the bad. Yes, it can be easy to get caught up in their irritating qualities when times are frustrating. Don’t forget about all the things that attracted you to them in the first place.
Having realistic expectations of the roles you and your partner will have in the relationship based on each of your strengths can help mitigate any issues before they have the chance to occur. In general, using our strengths on a daily basis increases our overall well-being personally and in our relationships.
Kindness is a choice we make daily when it comes to the people we’re in a relationship with. Practicing overall respect and empathy for your partner, even when it may be hard to do so, increases the overall happiness experienced in a relationship.
If you or your partner tend to be residually critical or judgemental of the other, it usually ends in defensiveness or resentment. Avoid attacking your partner’s character when you’re in an argument or when you’re upset with them.
Avoid being critical and saying “You never help me clean up the house but you live here, too,”. Instead, try saying something along the lines of “If I tackle cleaning up the living room, can you help me with dusting and sweeping?” Giving them clear, kind expectations for areas you’re needing help in keys them into how they can help you.
We know that it’s important to be there for our spouse during the tough times. It’s just as important to show up for them when things are going well.
Since good things usually happen to us more than bad, it can be easy for couples to miss out on opportunities to connect over positive things happening in their lives. The next time something goes well for your partner, ask them questions about how they felt. Ask them how the event is brightening their week, and encourage them to talk about why it’s important to them.
Asking questions helps them savour the moment and is an active way to celebrate small, everyday wins. When we do this, it builds gratitude for the happy moments in our marriages.
In order to feel truly fulfilled in marriage, couples must be willing to grow and adapt as time goes on. As we grow, it’s natural that our needs change and that our relationships will need to adapt and evolve with us.
Acknowledging that what we need from a spouse may not be the same ten years later is normal and healthy. It can help take the pressure off spouses to know that they are allowed and encouraged to grow. This helps bring the relationship up with that growth.
It’s important to bend, flex and pivot with your partner so that your relationship can mature as you do. Working together as a team not only bonds you to your partner, but also elevates the state of your marriage as you become the people you’re meant to be as time carries on.
We all know that life can get stressful. Managing multiple schedules, work and keeping up with your spouse can feel overwhelming. It helps if you both can find some lightness while you’re in the thick of it.
Usually, if a couple has humour and knows how to use it, it’s a good gauge of how much perspective they have in their outlook on life.
Whether it’s little inside jokes, an unexpected funny text, or watching your favourite comedy together, laughing with your spouse connects you over time. It’s known that the happiest couples have an ease around each other. They know how to laugh regardless of the circumstances they’re up against.
Some of the best marriages function in the same way as deep friendships.
The way you respect, trust, and prioritize your friends is how you should also treat your marriage, if not more. Carve out designated times to be with one another and try new things together. This builds your marriage up in the same way that it does your friendships.
At a minimum, ask your partner to share three things that happened during their day and how they felt about them. This allows an opportunity for conversation to flow. It gives you a chance to check in with the other person and see where they’re at in the moment.
We can all agree that games are no fun in dating, so why do we bring them into our marriages too?
Keeping clear and consistent lines of communication open is important to making sure you and your spouse feel heard and understood in the relationship. It will look different for each couple, but perhaps you spend time cooking dinner together and catching up on your day, or start your mornings together over a cup of coffee before you head out the door.
However you choose to do it, you and your partner should come up with a system to stay on the same page and keep the other up to date on what’s happening in your lives, what expectations you have for each other, and things to look out for on the horizon.
While we know that no marriage is easy, and there are certainly going to be good times and bad, working together with your spouse can add joy and fulfillment to your life. Meaningful marriages don’t happen overnight and are not the product of a wedding day celebration. Instead, they are the result of consistent work and choosing each other every day. Commitment to your partner, working within each of your strengths and celebrating the small things helps couples weather the storms of life while growing in one of the most important relationships we’re lucky to have in this lifetime.
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Written by Tori Mudie, BA, MA, RP, CCC