Here I am, literally over a year after I decided to start blogging. The idea to share with others the wonders of marriage and family life kept pushing me to write, but the fear in my mind was so powerful I couldn’t type a single word for an entire year. I am sitting here today, confident that I will write my first post ever. (I can do this!)
I want to dedicate this first post to my partner in crime, my sweet husband.
Marriage is tough, like when you realize that two people simply cannot have the same exact opinion; it is maddening, like when your spouse starts to recognize that you have been irritated for the last two days because you are about to have your period; and sometimes awkward, like when you discuss stool color and consistency because one of you is sick.
Marriage is all that, but it is also therapeutic, like when you verbalize your debilities, faults, insecurities, and dreams, and your spouse listens without judging but with the intention to help you magnify yourself; it is motivational, like when you realize that one of the reasons you try your best is because of your spouse; it is fun, like when there is no need to impress but to laugh at each other’s dorky habits; it is also sexy, like when… well… there is really no need to explain here, is it?
Marriage is all that and much more. Marriage is good. IT IS WONDERFUL!
The true story is that now days we hear of how common conflicting and dysfunctional marriages are, yet long lasting, fruitful, and happy marriages are very possible. To being able to achieve a healthy and loving marriage, there are fundamental elements to consider:
Commitments are commonly associated with contracts and obligations. Let me tell you about my friends Kevin and Marissa and their history with rental contracts. Their landlord presented them a contract that contained agreements, rules, responsibilities, etc., but yet, a great and fair deal. For a $550 monthly rent, everything looked like they’d be renting their first apartment for a long long time, or at least until they finished college. Little did they know that after a couple months in the apartment was falling apart and the lazy management kept ignoring their demands. So what did they do? The heck with their 12 month rental contract! They just paid an extra fee and moved the heck out of that place.
The same thing could happen to any of us. Needless to say that Kevin and Marissa lived in three different apartments in the span of two years. Can you imagine treating your marriage like an easy-to-get-out-contract? The sad thing is that a lot of people do treat they marriages as contracts, and when adversity comes, instead of looking to fix problems and strengthen their marriages, they look for an easy way out of it.
What happens when we see our marriages as an obligation? Just ponder on the things we normally consider an obligation: taking the trash out, going to work, filing taxes, etc. Personally, I don’t like to think of my marriage as something I am dragging. … A real healthy marriage commitment, on the other hand, is one where there is personal dedication to your partner and your relationship, a loving and binding connection, willing to grow despite differences and difficult situations; and where each gives 100 percent.
Love and Friendship
I married my husband because aside of his sexy smile and good looks, we are best friends. I recently read an article titled “10 Things that Real Friends Do” in which my husband and I scored 10/10. Yay us! But in all seriousness, I truly think of my spouse as my very best friend, and that friendship consequently blooms into true marital love. Experts (Gottman & Silver, 1999) suggest couples to do a few different things to keep nurturing their love and friendship, things like:
- Know what you partner loves and get into it. Have you heard of the 5 Love Languages? Well, it simply is knowing how your partner likes to receive love and do these things often. My husband, for example, loves basketball, chicken wings and to feel me close, so every now and then I order wings, have him set up the TV and we sit together and enjoy of each other’s company despite of how stressful a competitive basketball game can be.
- Have conversations like friends do. Marriage is not and should not be all about adult conversations like “how we are going to pay our bills?”, “I hate my job”, “the kids got into a fight again”, etc., etc. Marriage is all about having a supportive companion who will listen to you, validate and empower you.
- Read between the lines and respond. This is a tough but very important one. Stereotypically speaking, women are known for sending less clear bids and how a man responds to these bids will dictate his partner’s mood for the next couple of hours, days, weeks, … months? This can go the other way around. Men can also get hurt by unresponsive partners who will not laugh to their jokes. What to do then? Pay attention to your partner’s bids, read between the lines and respond ASAP! A bid can be any expression, question, gesture, look, or a touch that between the lines it’s a request for attention, love and support.
- Be there unconditionally and intentionally. Love and friendship is above any misunderstanding or situation. Make an intentional effort to show your love for your spouse. You might think that your spouse is sure of your love, but a constant reminder never hurt anyone, in fact, it is more than welcome.
Accept Positive Influence
One of the hardest and dangerous things of being “Mrs. Always Right” is that I want to be always right! No matter how irrational and unfair I can be, I want my poor and sweet husband to agree with me. This could happen both ways, whenever a spouse feels themselves as the one with more power in the relationship, they will expect to have the last word. Doesn’t this sound awful? Well, I agree with you and often I have had to get my prideful butt off my throne and accept my husband’s influence.
Marriage experts like John Gottman and others (2006), suggest that successful marriages are those that can accept spouses’ positive influence by listening, understanding, compromising and working together, sharing power, to make decisions. My friend Maria, recently shared with me how hurt she felt when a friend of her marriage revealed that her husband recently made an investment. She was hurt not because of the money that was involved in that investment, since she was confident that it was a profitable one, but because she was never consulted and she came to know about it through someone other than her own spouse.
There can be so many situations in which one can feel betrayed by their own spouse, that is why each spouse needs to make the effort to seek for and accept spouse’s influence. Asking for advice, considering other’s feelings and opinions, leaning from each other, being respectful, and showing trust and compromise are key behaviors that can help you strengthen you marriage.
Remember when I mentioned that marriage can be tough? Well, never forget that! How could you, anyways? We all marry people different to us, and with difference comes conflict. But, agree to disagree, right? How many of you have verbally used that phrase, but on the inside thought how dumb another person is for thinking differently than you? Guilty! Same here though! And we might be able to get away with it outside our marriages but when it’s about your spouse, STOP. IT. THERE! How differences are handled are key to successful marriages. If the way we handle arguments with our spouse is by thinking they know less than us, we are claiming we have the power in the relationship, which is contrary to how successful marriages work.
Arguments come in all colors and shapes and they invite different feelings. I have learned through my own experiences and through others that it doesn’t matter what the problem was or who caused, instead, if we choose to focus only on how respectfully fix the problem together as a couple, the whole experience can empower a marriage. No matter how difficult a conflict or argument cab be, we can always choose to react in a calm, respectful, loving and forgiving way.
Preventing a conflict is another way to show that we love and respect our spouses. Putting all our efforts towards our companion’s happiness is an important factor that will lead to a happy and long-lasting marriage. Some ways we can prevent conflicts can be by expressing our expectations and compromising, using soft and gentle voice, and making and receiving repair attempts. It never hurts to be the first one to say “I’m sorry.”
Never Ending Courtship
One of my husband’s sweetest and precious requests is for me to never get used to him. He knows that our busy daily activities leave us pounded at the end of the day, sometimes keeping us from spending quality time together, which really, really worries him. This being said, he has also set himself the goal of never letting me get used to him. When he does that, it definitely gives me the motivation to reciprocate and to never let our relationship to go stale, because, yes, some marriages end because of that.
So, how to avoid your marriage to grow cold? Be intentional in strengthening your marriage, set aside time to specifically focus on your spouse and your relationship, and, more importantly, never assume that words are enough, show your love.
Do not underestimate the power of each one of these principles. They truly can help you and your spouse to start, continue or to renew your commitment to love each other forever. These can help you achieve the happy, exciting and sexy marriage you and your spouse deserve. I encourage you to read this again with your spouse and discuss what needs improvement and work together. Also, if you think someone else needs to read this, don’t forget to share!
Enjoy of a happy marriage!
Gottman, J. M., Gottman, J. S., & DeClaire, J. (2006). Ten lessons to transform your marriage. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Gottman, J. M., & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York: Crown Publishers.