Written by Lori D. Lowe
How can some marriages survive repeated crises, while others don’t stand the test of time? That’s what I set out to learn and share in my book, First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. Here are a few lessons based on my interviews and research.
- Love is a daily decision.
This is one of the key lessons I learned after interviewing dozens of couples who improved their marriage through adversity. Each day we have choices to make about how we spend our time, what kind of effort we put in the marriage, and whether we offer a kind word or a complaint. We decide the type of attitude we’ll walk in the door with, and we decide how to respond to our partner, especially when s/he isn’t having a good day. Can you afford five minutes today to do something nice for your spouse? Will you smile and kiss your spouse when you see him or her?
- Life rarely goes according to plan.
We all want to be in control of our lives, and we don’t plan for grief, sickness, injury, or car breakdowns. Couples who support one another in the midst of adversity often improve their bonds over time. Those who turn outward and don’t try to understand what the other is going through may feel more divided. Encourage one another’s dreams, and also support one another when life doesn’t go according to plan.
- Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses.
When things aren’t going well in marriage, it’s so easy to focus on our faults and problems. It’s natural to want to fix problems. However, experts say as many as 67 percent of our conflicts are perpetual problems that won’t go away no matter how much energy we give them. They are based on personality differences or preferences, but are not deal-breakers. By giving them all of our energy and focus, we make the problems appear bigger and more important. Experts say focusing on our spouse’s positive attributes and on what is good in the marriage can help us maintain better balance and perspective.
- Forgiveness is a gift for the giver and the receiver.
A marriage that harbors negativity and lack of forgiveness in the small, everyday things can be in bigger trouble than a marriage that has one big obstacle to overcome. We don’t just forgive because we want to be nice to our spouse. Withholding forgiveness can be emotionally and even physically harmful, say medical experts. It poisons the marriage, to boot. We may even be holding grudges for misunderstandings or trivial matters. Forgiveness is one of the essential keys to a happy marriage. Forgiveness, like love, is a decision.
- Live each day with gratitude, and infuse your marriage with it.
A Blackhawk pilot leading an entire unit in Iraq and performing MedEvac flights while under fire, and a wife at home with four young children in her care wondering if her husband will make it back–these are two people you wouldn’t expect to be living in gratitude. You’d expect their days to be filled with worry. However, a shift in their mindset during a year-long deployment changed the way they viewed their marriage and life in general. In fact, this young couple says the dangerous deployment was one of the best things that happened to their marriage because it taught them how to focus daily on gratitude for each other and thankfulness for all those around them. Research shows the benefits of expressing gratitude. Focusing on gratitude is especially helpful when things are NOT going well, although we are less likely to give it our focus during tough times. This is exactly when we need it most.
What is your best marriage lesson? Feel free to share it on the comments.