My nephew is getting married this weekend. It’s the first wedding in our family in 28 years, and everyone is thrilled about this oh-so-special occasion. In honor of Greg and his delightful bride, Catherine, I’m sharing a few suggestions about how to have a happy marriage.
My advice is simple. It’s appropriate for every couple. And, if faithfully followed, it guarantees years of marital contentment and success.
Be a pleasant partner
Speak in a polite, courteous manner. Keep your living space neat and clean. Do your share of chores around the house. Don’t use your spouse as an emotional trash can. Of course, we all have our less-than-stellar moments. Just do your best to minimize their effects. Make your partner glad that he or she has chosen to live with you.
Be respectful at all times
There is never, ever a reason to be dis-respectful to your spouse. He or she is your cherished partner. Even in your most heated disagreements you must still show your utmost regard. If you start to get hot under the collar, leave the room until you’re calm. Then return to discuss the matter further to try and reach a workable solution.
If you’re perennially at each others’ throats, get professional help to learn how to better resolve your issues.
Compromise with your partner
Married life means placing the needs of your relationship ahead of what you want for yourself. Be willing to discuss possibilities with your spouse and, if necessary, to back down if you can’t have your way. Apologize when you’ve been wrong. Marriages are fertile breeding grounds for hurting those we love the most. No matter how cautious our efforts we inevitably make mistakes. Because we never stop stepping on each others’ toes, it is imperative we learn to be repentant. Accept responsibility for your errors. Explore ways you can do better in the future. A spontaneous, heartfelt mea culpa soothes most emotional bruises and prevents minor mishaps from becoming major catastrophes.
Forgive quickly and completely
Once your partner has adequately apologized for an error he or she has committed, it’s time to put the matter to rest — for good. Don’t rehash previous issues. Your spouse can’t change what’s already happened and feels powerless and humiliated by continual bashing. Turn your attention to the present. Make your life together the best it can be.
Express your appreciation
Thank your partner regularly for his or her contributions to the team. Give frequent pats on the back for big things, such as going to work every day. Remember lesser efforts, too, such as picking up dinner on the way home from work and taking Rufus to the vet. Kudos makes us all feel warm and fuzzy and lets us know we’re on the right track.
Accept each other entirely
Relationships aren’t like Mexican restaurants. You can’t order a la carte. You get rice and beans with your entrée whether you wanted them or not. Marriage requires that we tolerate our partners’ imperfections, even embrace them as a part of the deal. Let go of trying to change them. Instead, smile at those petty irritations and focus on the many qualities you love.
Find common interests
Common interests are the glue that holds relationships together. The more hobbies and activities couples share, the stronger the bonds of their union. Interests can be as varied as the two people involved and may revolve around church, politics, classic films or sky diving. They’re also flexible and evolve along with both partners’ stages of life and current hobbies.
Make sex a high priority
Sex is an important way to show you care and to keep energy high in your relationship. Allow ample time for physical intimacy. Avoid making excuses or overscheduling yourselves.
Never use it as a method of inflicting punishment on your partner. Instead, invest sex with the passion and inventiveness it deserves to make the most of this special aspect of your marriage.
Ask, “How can I please my partner today?”
It’s easy to overlook our spouses. We get busy with our jobs. Kids arrive and feel all-consuming. But when we marry, we join forces with a partner. And we need to keep him or her front and center in our lives. Do something special every day. You may bring your wife coffee in bed or text Hubby a sweet message on your lunch break. Your efforts needn’t be monumental. Yet each one says, “You’re No. 1 one in my eyes.”
Have fun together
We all know that marriage takes work. But it’s equally important to play. Laugh often. Get together with friends. Go camping. Take ample time away from work. Listen to music. Make your lives a celebration of the joy and happiness you share.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com