I believe I have found a solid recipe for a successful marriage.
This recipe comes to you from the kitchen of the recently divorced. I have witnessed many, many divorces in the last few years, including my own. I also have a few examples of successful marriages in my group of friends and family. I believe that implementing a handful of key ingredients can help you avoid the challenges and heartache of a divorce.
One simple, key factor in determining whether or not a marriage will succeed or fail—do we feel lucky to be with our partner and does our partner feel lucky to be with us?
The moment we know our marriage or relationship is ending is the moment when one or both of us stop feeling lucky to have this relationship. It only takes one person feeling that way. When we stop being grateful to have this person in our lives, it’s only a matter of time before the relationship is completely beyond repair.
Periods of feeling annoyed at our partner are common and normal in a long-term commitment. We all have times we’re angry or feel like we’re being taken for granted. However, when we’re in love with our partner,at the heart of it all we still feel blessed. When we begin to look outside of our relationship and think that someone else has it better than we do, we begin travelling down a slippery slope that often leads directly to divorce court.
Marriage takes 5 C’s: Communication, Compromise, Commitment, Constancy and Choice. Let’s take a look at how practicing these (as well as gratitude for the relationship) can help save a marriage.
Do we tell our partner that we are lucky to love them? Do we communicate about the things they do well and how they add value to our lives? Do we speak up, lovingly, to tell them when something they’re doing is creating hurt in the relationship so that we can take the time to address those feelings? Communication is key, and expressing one’s hurt in a loving manner is equally as important as expressing our love. Here are some basic guidelines for communicating effectively with the ones we love:
Use “I” statements. When the emphasis is on how we feel rather than on making an accusation, the other person is more likely to hear and understand our message. For example, “I feel hurt and invalidated when I’m not heard.”
Avoid using “always” and “never” when confronting your partner. For example, “You never listen to me!” Or “you always do this!” Whatever message we want to communicate will be lost if we use these words.
Speak softly with love and kindness. Avoid name calling, profanity and raised voices; a softer voice is heard more easily in an argument than a loud one. Take turns speaking; each partner should have time to discuss his or her feelings. Don’t interrupt when it’s the other’s turn; listen without thinking of what we’ll say next.
When in the wrong, apologize without using an excuse. Apologize for the behavior without blaming the other person. Once we’ve apologized, it’s important our actions reflect the apology. Repeating the behavior shows that we weren’t genuine in our apology.
Compromise: Do we consider the other person’s wants and needs when we make decisions in our relationship? Do we speak up, with love and kindness, when our own needs aren’t being met so we can find a way to meet them? Compromises can be difficult, but they are a wonderful way of showing the other person that we value his or her feelings and opinions.
Commitment: Do we affirm the relationship we’ve chosen by avoiding relationships that may cause harm to our significant other? With commitment, it’s important to show the person we chose that we continue to choose him or her. Part of that is avoiding creating situations that could harm our relationships. For example, if we are in a committed relationship, it is normal to have friends of the opposite sex. It becomes a challenge to a relationship when we hide that contact or have inappropriate contact with someone who may lead us from our commitment to our partner.
Constancy: Do we continue to live our lives in a way that shows our partner we’re in this together? Constancy is being steadfast in our relationships. It’s making the effort to keep showing up in the relationship even when we’re tired or angry or going through changes in our lives. Constancy is continuing to put the effort into the relationship because we know that we are so lucky to have this love in our lives. Not any love—this love.
Choice: While Communication, Compromise, Commitment, and Constancy are all important variables, the most important variable of all is—Choice. When we choose our partner every single day despite their imperfections and our own, we can have the love that we desire. We both simply have to choose it. It seems that being lucky in love is all about feeling lucky in our love.
With all of the divorces I’ve witnessed, I hear the same story: one or both partners decided that they wanted something else. Something different. Something better. It seems that the relationships unraveled the moment they let go of each other and started reaching for something else. The opposite is true for the successful marriages I’ve seen: they continue reaching for each other, despite life’s challenges. These people don’t have perfect relationships, but they have relationships where they constantly communicate, compromise, and commit to one another.
I understand that relationships are filled with complexities. Often, a relationship may not work out due to timing or differences too great to be reconciled. Sometimes people change over the years and grow away from each other. There are many factors that can break down a relationship, but I do believe that applying the 4 C’s to the relationship we’re in can only make it better.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Apprentice Editor: Elly Woods; Editor: Sarah Kolkka