About 40% of marriages end in divorce, so it’s amazing that the institution hasn’t gone out of style! Couples continue to tie the knot around the world. Newlyweds continue to have total faith that their marriages will be among the 60% that last – till death do them part. Even with the rate of broken marriages so high, for many, divorce is simply not an option. In some societies and religions divorce is prohibited.
Yet even in an environment where one has the option to end a marriage, there are those who believe so strongly in their vows – in the promise they made to love one another to the very end – that they want to stay in a marriage even when it might not be functioning optimally.
We live in an increasingly disposable culture founded on the principle of continuous and instant gratification. The commitment one makes in a marriage is counter to the shifts our culture has taken. Marriage is not meant to be disposable, nor is it continuously and instantly gratifying. Marriage is long-term, and every couple has their ups and downs. After all, when your car breaks down or needs repair you wouldn’t just throw it out… you’d find a way to fix it. The same thing can be said of a marriage. It might be confusing and complicated, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how to keep your eye on a truly happy ending!
It’s important for every couple to be open about their feelings on divorce. If it’s simply not an option for both people it helps to create security in a marriage early on. Discussing your commitment to one another also helps to create the security that each person needs to move forward in the marriage. Promises of fidelity are another important way of creating solidarity in a marriage. If problems arise, each person knows that together with their partner, the commitment to work through problems is there.
Maintaining honest communication is the cornerstone of every successful marriage. You and your partner should be able to express how you feel, what you think, need and like, and what is upsetting you. The key is being able to do it in a gentle and non-accusatory manner. Talking about difficult, emotionally loaded issues in a constructive way is a true skill that if mastered will help maintain the health of your marriage. It’s helpful to express yourself in terms of how you feel and what you want, rather than pointing out what the other person is doing wrong. Sharing information in a courteous, gentle way is often all that’s needed for a spouse to change or cease behaviors that make their partner unhappy. Some partners just don’t realize that what they’re doing is the source of unhappiness, but once they are made aware of it, they can take the steps necessary to behave in a way that creates happiness versus hurt.
When a couple is facing turmoil in their relationship, the first step is open, honest and gentle communication of the issues. Once each person has come to understand the other’s point of view, the negotiation process can begin. Successful negotiation doesn’t just result in you getting as many of your needs met as possible, but in both parties understanding what each other’s interests and needs are, and then coming to an agreement in which as many needs as possible on both sides are met. When meeting your spouse’s needs is as important as meeting your own, successful negotiation can be achieved.
4. Life lessons
When the going is really tough in a marriage, it’s important to avoid thinking of yourself as a victim. Instead, consider what you have learned about yourself via the relationship. If there has been a betrayal in the marriage – infidelity or other broken promises – what spiritual lessons have you learned from these experiences? If what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, in what ways has your relationship grown? If you’ve worked to restore love and trust in your marriage, give each other credit for it!
5. Look ahead
In good and difficult times it’s important to look forward in your relationship. This doesn’t mean forgetting about the past as if nothing bad ever happened. Conditions for recovery must always be set and worked for in any marriage that has undergone a trauma. But envisioning and sharing with each other what you would like in a happy and fulfilling relationship in the future is important if you want a stronger, better marriage than before.
Look, we know every relationship is not perfect. And some are easier that others. But if you start out by committing to forever and to working on what you’ve got (instead of dreaming about what you haven’t) you may actually reach happily every after. Sixty percent of people do!
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