As a person who works in the relationship industry, it is quite common for marriage relationship articles to come up in my facebook thread. They are from many of the various other relationships experts out there who are helping people who may in struggling at various stages of their marriages or relationships. And, on days when I find that I have a bit of time, I occasionally like to read the various opinions out there to see what other experts are seeing, reading and what their opinions are. As I have a belief that I will never know it all, and that everybody can learn something from someone so I am always looking for new, valuable information and/or stories that I can add to my knowledge base.
I also think that for the most part, if you were to gather all of the marriage experts into a room and ask them about what they recommended to make a great marriage, most experts would probably point to some pretty common principles. Each expert uses different methods, or approaches, or addresses different depths of things, but none the less, I think that the principles would generally be the same.
Lately, however, I have been reading and hearing several varying opinions about what it takes to truly make a marriage work. I am honestly a bit surprised by the broad range of different things each expert has stated is needed to in order to make a marriage work. Because to me, there is only one. Commitment.
The truth is that if don’t want your marriage to end, you simply do not get divorced. It really is that simple. But is that what people mean when they say they want to make their marriage work nowadays? Is the goal still just to stay together? Because for centuries there have been couples before us (even with arranged marriages, where they didn’t get to choose their spouses) that couples were able to come together and make their marriages work. So maybe the question we really need to be asking ourselves is how do we define “making our marriage work”.
If for you, “making your marriage work” is defined similarly to the countless numbers of husbands and wives that have gone before us, and is just a matter of not getting divorced, then again that solution is simple, just don’t get divorced and you will have made your marriage work. It literally is just following the vows of sticking together “through good times and bad, sickness and in health, until death do you part”. And Wala!! You have made your marriage work.
However, I think that nowadays, that is not the definition that most people are thinking when they ask the question “How do I make my marriage work”. I think that what they are really asking for is some form of the question “What do I need in order to be happy in my marriage?” And it is the answer to that question that is bringing up all of the various answers from the various experts.
With this, I think that the reason that there are so many different opinions and suggestions about this is that there are so many different things that we all like that make us happy. For example, I think that we could all agree that in order to “make a marriage work” where both partners are happy in the relationship, that it is probably important for each person to feel loved. However, what has to happen for each person to feel loved is likely different. Therefore, one expert could suggest always remembering to buy them flowers, or some type of gift to show you were thinking of them, or another expert might say to always remember to say nice things to let them know that you think highly of them. All of these suggestions are great suggestions, however, they are not all-inclusive suggestions, which means that they may not necessarily be the thing that you or your spouse need the most in order to be “happy” in the relationship.
In our practice, our motto is that we don’t want to teach people how to “make their marriages work”, we thrive off of the idea of teaching couples how to make their relationships SPECTACULAR. Which to us means that you are basically living the very best life and marriage that you can imagine. So without question, in order to be able to live life at this level, you absolutely must learn what specific things you and your spouse need and want in order to be truly happy. AND PLEASE NOTE THAT I JUST SAID BECAUSE IT IS REALLY IMPORTANT… to live life at this level you absolutely MUST know what it takes to make YOU AND YOUR SPOUSE happy. Especially if this is the MEASUREMENT GUIDE that you are using in order to determine if you are “making your marriage work” or not.
So the reason that what I said above, in the order that I said it, is so important is because it is our belief that both your and your spouse’s happiness are indeed important in order for you both as a couple to have a truly Spectacular relationship. Yet, the reason that the order in which I said it is so important is because, although BOTH you and your spouse want and deserve to be happy, your happiness has so much more to do with how you are showing up to your relationship than what your spouse is doing (or not doing).
So perhaps maybe an even better approach to discovering “what would make a marriage work for you” would be to approach is two-fold. First, what has to happen for you to be happy, and then secondly, what has to happen for your spouse to be happy. When we look at it this way, I think that it helps us realize that creating happiness for ourselves is first and foremost our own responsibility, and then we have the ability to HELP create it for others. Again, notice that I used the word “help” create it in others. This is because ultimately the only person who is in control of whether we are happy or not is us.
So, for the first step, of creating happiness for yourself:
As I mentioned above, there are an endless number of things that people want, need, etc… in order for them to be “happy”, and it is important for you to invest some time into discovering what things do this for you. However, we have also found that at the core of each of us there a couple of fundamental personality characteristics that essentially create happiness in themselves, and as such we recommend that ALL individuals that desire to be happy possess these personality characteristics:
Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
In our “Creating Spectacular Relationships” program, one of the very first things that we have our clients do is go out and get a “gratitude journal” and then start journaling each day about the things that they are grateful for. The truth is that the majority of us have soooooo much that we could be grateful for if we wanted to be, but unless we have developed this personality characteristic, we have fallen into the trap of constantly seeing what we don’t have and how we are not where we ultimately want to be. Happiness lies in the realm of being grateful and feeling appreciative of life and all of the magic in it. And don’t just say it in your head logically, or mentally. You must notice what you appreciate and really FEEL it. If you have never done a gratitude journal before, do yourself a favor and do it for at least 3 months. This one habit alone can change your life completely.
Look for the Good
Be a person that sees the good in others, even if you have to look for it. No person or situation is ever perfect so then it becomes up to us to choose whether or not we want to be the type of person who notices and focuses on what is bad in a person or situation or what is good about a person or situation. As human beings, our natural instincts tell us to notice what is wrong in life or in others as a human instinct to protect ourselves against potential danger. However, this instinct only keeps us alive, it doesn’t create happiness. Although I know that it is not true for everyone, I am guessing that nowadays, there are not many of us who are struggling to merely survive, and therefore not every person or situation needs to be seen for its potential to threaten our existence. This being the case, it may benefit our level of happiness then to in turn notice what is great.
Looking for the good in others and in situations does two things. First, it allows you to show up in a better place. We all know that anytime we feel threatened or that life is being unkind, we act differently. We treat people differently, and it simply doesn’t bring out the best in us. It also doesn’t bring out the best in others. Which in turn creates its own version of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Secondly, it allows you to see the good or even potential good that you can then build off of if reinforced. In short, it gives you a better alternative that you can utilize, expand and even develop if need be, rather than just thinking that things or people are a lost cause. It gives life to what is possible, rather than just always noticing what is wrong, giving up and engaging in an endless search for something that is perfect.
Be a person who looks for solutions rather than focusing on the obstacle
Develop the kind of personality that believes that no matter what comes your way you are the type of person that can find solutions. Commit to being the type of person who is resourceful and creative, and if there isn’t already a solution that you can find, that you have the imagination to create one.
This type of personality will not only benefit you in your marriage, and give you the belief that you that you can overcome any challenges that come your way, but it is also just as valuable in other areas of your life. Developing this type of personality allows you to go through life with less worry and having more faith because you know that no matter what comes your way, that you have the ability to get through it. When it comes to marriage specifically, I truly believe that no matter what challenge you are facing, there has been someone who has been where you are and has found a solution. All you have to do is seek out those that have done it before and then find out how they did it. However, in order for you to be willing to put forth that effort, you have to have a personality of a person who is willing to seek out or create solutions, rather than just giving up when certain obstacles arise.
I think that it is pretty easy to see that anyone who develops these three personality traits will have a much higher chance of being happy in life than those who don’t. What is also great is each of these traits can be learned. So if they don’t come naturally to you, there are activities, and exercises that you can do that will develop them until they do naturally become part of your personality. Can you see that how developing just these three characteristics could change the course of your marriage, just by learning how to be grateful and appreciative what you do have instead of what you don’t, seeing the best in others instead of focusing on what you don’t like, and developing a personality that seeks to overcome any type of challenge no matter how big it may seem, how developing these three things alone could completely change your marriage and make you and your spouse better equipped to “make your marriage work” for both of you?
If you answered YES! You are absolutely correct. These three characteristics are in my opinion an essential foundation for all happy marriages. Please also note, that all of these are things that you can do yourself and you don’t have to wait for your spouse to sign on or agree to do with you. They give you the ability to create change in your marriage right now.
Then, once you have developed a strong foundation with these, you can move on to step two in “making your marriage work”, which is to discover what else is needed to make you and your spouse happy… but that I will have to save for the next blog.