Tag Archives: marriage secrets

Happy Anniversary

 

Our happy day back in 1995

It’s hard to believe I’m celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary this week. We were certainly different people back then and have really grown up together. It reminds me that we shouldn’t be surprised when we think, “This is not the person I married.” We all change and grow so dramatically (or we should) every decade of our lives, that we can’t possibly be the same person years down the road. (Read We all married the wrong person for more on that.) It makes marriage much more interesting that our lives, habits, and interests change over time.

I wanted to give a quick thanks to all of you readers and contributors to this blog for teaching me more about a strong marriage. And, of course, a big thank you to my husband for his commitment, love and patience over the years as we have figured things out together. And to all those personal or virtual friends who have served as positive role models for loving marriages: Thanks to you as well. I’m very grateful for the friendship and love that have surrounded this blog.

How have we fared well so far after 21 years (including 5 years of dating)? A sense of humor and an openness to change have propelled our relationship. Our joy and challenges with parenting and our shared faith life have brought us closer together. Over the years, we also learned (slowly) that a willingness to forgive the little things and move on have kept us from carrying grudges that would weaken the marriage. We support one another’s hopes and dreams by listening and nudging each other along. We have a lot more to learn, and I can say I’m not bored or tired of being with the same person for more than two decades.

So in honor of our anniversary, how long have you been married? And what is one marriage tip you would like to share?

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The Biggest Marriage Myth of All and How it Could Ruin Your Relationship

Last week, I talked about Five Marriage Myths shared by Scott Haltzman, M.D., in the Secrets of Happily Married Women. The last myth was the biggee, and I wanted to devote a full post to it. Dr. Haltzman says, “assuming infidelity, violence or addiction are not the problem, marriage myth 5, above all others, is the greatest cause of unhappiness in marriage.

Myth 5: If your marriage makes you unhappy, the best solution is to get out. 

Dr. Haltzman says a Centers for Disease Control poll from 2006 showed 44 percent of men and 50 percent of women agreed with the above statement. It seems odd to me (and to many who are committed to marriage) that “get out” would be the best solution to being unhappy when there are so many causes of unhappiness and so many possible solutions. Of course, most couples don’t take divorce lightly, but the point is it’s not seen as a last resort. Don’t look at an “unhappy marriage” as an unchangeable situation.

The good doctor (a psychologist and a marriage therapist with more than twenty years of experience) goes on to report that the top three reasons cited by women who initiate divorce (and let’s face it, women initiate two-thirds of divorces) are 1) gradual growing apart, 2) serious differences in lifestyle and/or values, and 3) not feeling loved or appreciated by my husband.

These seem like big problems on the surface, but Dr. Haltzman and many other marriage experts assert that these are most certainly solvable problems. Taking the first problem first, it’s very likely that we will all have periods where we are closer and periods where we have drifted. That’s the nature of our growth and development as individuals. As one spouse grows in one direction, the other doesn’t necessarily follow the same path or exact course. However, even after drifting apart, a couple who is committed to one another can drift back together with effort.

The second problem (differences in values or lifestyle) can be more severe when the differences relate to drug or alcohol abuse, but he says the majority of couples are not talking about this kind of a severe problem or destructive behavior (which can certainly be justifiable reasons to leave). More often, he says it’s related to how the couple spends money or raises the kids, issues that have many gray areas of disagreement. In these sort of cases, the couple (perhaps with help) may need to listen and learn the basis for one another’s concerns and ideas, see things from one another’s perspectives, learn to compromise more and pick their battles.

On the issue of not feeling loved, “They walk away from marriage because they are no longer feeling happy about the relationship,” says Dr. Haltzman, who adds this category falls under the definition of no-fault divorce. “These feelings are true and honest expressions of personal distress—but…they’re no reason to break the marriage vows,” he says. Instead, it’s often an opportunity to grow and develop with your spouse to create a stronger, happier marriage. There may be a time when a couple needs to focus on the indirect benefits of marriage—such as family security, social comfort, financial advantage, a safe sexual partner, etc., while they work on their marriage. Often, especially when the wife takes the lead, the spark returns while they are both focusing on the positive aspects of their relationship.

Remember our spouse can’t “make us” happy, but we can each take responsibility for creating a positive environment in our marriage and supporting one another as often as possible. Search for something to make you and your spouse feel happy today, then make it a priority. It could be something as simple as a walk together around your own garden, or something as elaborate as a planning a special event or trip for the two of you.

Related Post:

I recently came across a series of articles in Psychology Today by Rachel Clark starting with How I got my ex back—the story of a marriage that reconciled after she read the research on the effects of divorce, followed by part 2 She Blinded Me with Science. Rachel’s experience shows that even after infidelity and divorce occur, there can be hope to reconcile a family. She also conveys why knowledge of the effects of divorce is so important to pass along, since it was strong enough to convince both her and her ex that they had made a huge mistake, but one they worked hard to correct.

 Photo courtesy of Stockvault by Boris A. Nesterov

 

Two Dozen Experts Share Keys to Lifelong Marriage

More than 15 relationship experts have teamed up to share their personal and professional advice for marriage in Creating a Marriage You’ll Love: Secrets for Building a Rich and Full Life Together. Some of the contributors, such as John Gray, PhD, are rather well known, and others have been researching marriage behind the scenes for decades to determine what works in real life. The book’s royalties will be donated to organizations dedicated to helping domestic violence victims.

With marriage failure rates between 45 and 50 percent, and when one out of every three children in this country can expect their parents to divorce, such compilations of best research and advice can be helpful to couples serious about success. The advice is presented in an easy-to-understand manner, along with personal illustrations, some from the researchers’ own marriages. Following are just a few nuggets I appreciated:

Terri Orbuch, PhD, writes about how today’s economy is forcing couples to spend more time making ends meet and concerned about jobs, health and children—and less time focused on each other. She followed 373 couples for 22 years and developed recommendations from her research.

Orbuch says it’s the small annoyances and irritations—rather than the big events and problems in life—that often lead to unhappiness and instability in a marriage. In fact, the larger events, such as unemployment or a death in the family, often cause a couple to rely on one another for support and love. Tough times can bring us closer together, while failure to listen to and acknowledge your spouse on a day-to-day basis can be deadly to a relationship.

She also offers the great advice for couples going through a rough patch to focus on what is working well in the marriage instead of dissecting what is wrong with the marriage and trying to fix it. “I have found that the most effective way to boost happiness, commitment, harmony, fun, and passion in a marriage that is basically sound is to add new elements to the marriage, and to focus on how to support and strengthen what’s already working well,” says Orbuch.

She adds that in her long-term study, loving couples shared four characteristics: having realistic expectations, regularly reconnecting with one’s spouse (i.e. taking a bike ride or sharing some laughs), sharing trust, and affirming and validating each other (especially important for men).

One piece of advice from Gray: “To fully open our hearts together and enjoy a lifetime of love, the most important skill of all is forgiveness.” This means forgiving your partner as well as yourself for not being perfect, allowing you to give and receive love again. Anyone who has been married more than a few years will acknowledge the importance of forgiveness in being able to reestablish true intimacy after a conflict.

Creating a Marriage You’ll Love offers many other studies and insights you may find valuable. (I receive no compensation for reviewing the book or for resulting sales.)

If you have a satisfying marriage, what do you think is the secret to your success? Or, if you struggle in your relationship, what is the one thing you desire most? Do you agree with the above advice from Orbuch and Gray?

Outlast Your Marriage’s Stupid Phase

The Honorable Leah Ward Sears, a retired chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, has had her hand in dissolving more than a few marriages. She wrote a thoughtful article last month sharing some of what she has learned about marriage during her 26-year career on the bench, as well as in her personal life. Her take:

  • Love, yes, but be committed to marriage. Marriage is always complicated. Divorce is almost always a tragedy, even more so when children are involved. She once refused a divorce to a couple after meeting with them individually and realizing neither wanted it, although the husband had cheated on his wife of 40 years. She ordered counseling, they worked it out, and he later came back to thank her. “I don’t know of any long-term marriage that doesn’t go through a ‘stupid’ phase,” she says.
  • Marriage is the most pro-child institution we have. She cites research that children living with married parents have higher self-esteem, are less delinquent, are more likely to delay sexual activity and have lower rates of teen pregnancy than children from single-parent families.
  • Judge Sears adds that married parents report being happier, more satisfied, and have fewer emotional problems than divorced parents. “For your children as well as ourselves, it’s time for our country to recommit to the institution of marriage,” she says.
  • After years of studying this nation’s divorce epidemic—and even pondering her own failed first marriage—Judge Sears has come to an insightful conclusion about what makes a marriage succeed. “They key to most successful marriages is when the couple is more committed to the health and longevity of the marriage than to each other. That way, during those times when they can’t stand each other—and those times surely will come, as no one is perfect—they have something to fall back on and remain committed to.” She says while love, laughter and common values are important in mate selection, commitment to the marriage itself is more important.

Judge Sears serves as a Distinguished Fellow in Family Law at the Institute for American Values. Read her complete article: Love, yes, but be committed to marriage.

What are you committed to? Your own happiness? Finding enduring romantic love? Your mate? Or  the health of your marriage?