When you marry you expect your marriage to last a lifetime. You have married the love of your life. The wedding ceremony was beautiful and all your friends and family were there to see you start your new life with your soulmate. Your honeymoon was one of dreams.
But as time moves on, you’re living in the day-to-day drudgery and you find yourself living with a person who has become a total stranger to you. You think you may have fallen out of love with your spouse and wonder if your marriage is headed for divorce.
You’ve read about the nation’s divorce statistics and you know that the statistics are grim. (Depending on the research study, divorce rates in the US can range from 40 to 50 percent. Those numbers are pretty discouraging considering that no one starts out their marriage thinking of divorce in their future.)
But although the divorce rate has declined since the 1970s and 1980s, the sad reality is that many people go into marriage with an exit plan in mind. Many couples wed and believe that if something goes wrong they will dissolve the marriage and file for divorce. Going into a marriage with this mindset is extremely negative since they are already laying the mental groundwork for bailing out if things don’t work out. This is akin to the self-fulfilling prophecy.
However, the good news is that most marriages do make it. And couples who make their marriage work share one main thing: they are committed to each other and to their marriage. No matter what happens, they will work together to make the marriage work.
In today’s throw-away society, when things break down, we throw them out. We don’t fix them. No, we go out and buy something new. Unfortunately, many people view marriage as a dispensable thing that can be discarded and replaced.
The sad reality is that many people go into marriage with an exit plan in mind. Many couples wed and believe that if something goes wrong they will dissolve the marriage and file for divorce. Going into a marriage with this mindset is extremely negative since they are already laying the mental groundwork for bailing out if things don’t work out.
Going into marriage with this mindset is a key to certain failure. But couples who have been married a lifetime say that divorce was never an option. They vowed to stick it out and work through their problems and find solutions. They always knew that they were in for the long haul and they would resolve the issues and conflicts. In the long term, this brought them closer and strengthened their bond as a couple.
Faith also plays a big role in making a marriage last. It is no wonder that couples who profess to be religious and have a faith in a higher power are less likely to get divorced than those couples who do not profess a faith in God. Couples who are religious consider their sacred wedding vows. The promise made unto each other before witnesses and God carries a weight that these couples want to honor and respect. These words are a tie that unites these couples till death do them part: to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance.
Couples who have been married a lifetime say that divorce was never an option.
In addition to having a strong commitment to each other, the institution of marriage, and a strong faith in God, couples who manage to make their marriage last a lifetime share certain traits.
10 Keys to a Long-Lasting Marriage
1. Marriage is not a 50/50 partnership. When people say that teamwork is 50-50, there is an implication that each person is only giving or doing half of their best. This does not work in a marriage. The thing is that the 50/50 cliche has permeated our psyche where we believe that this is a way for a marriage to be equal, for a partnership to share responsibilities in which no one carries the burden of keeping the marriage on track. If you believe this, your marriage may be headed for trouble. The reality is that each spouse has to give 100 percent to the other spouse and to the marriage. As a matter of fact, keeping score in a marriage is a sure way to breed resentment and bitterness if one spouse feels that he or she is doing more than the other, whether it be working longer hours, taking care of the children, doing the household chores, or giving most of the affection. You both have to give 100% of your heart, your body, and your love for each other. Marriage has to be a 100/100 partnership.
2. There are 3 in a marriage. Now before you think I lost my mind, no, I’m not talking about another woman or another man. I want you to think of the marriage vows you took. You made a promise to each other before God. It is not surprising that people who profess to have a strong faith or consider themselves religious stay together and have a lower divorce rate than those who don’t. When couples look to a higher power and have the tenets of faith and religion as guiding factors, spouses tend to work through their problems and divorce is a solution of last resort. Ecclesiastes 4: 12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” This verse signifies the covenant of one man and one woman united in sacred union with God himself.
3. Put your spouse above your children. While this might seem counterintuitive, putting your children first may actually harm your relationship with your spouse and your marriage. When you put your spouse’s needs above your children’s needs, you are making your marriage strong and secure. And that security will be felt by your children. They will know that their mom and dad love each other and that they are being raised in a loving home. There is no greater sense of security for a child than knowing that their parents love each other and that they love the children as well. That the home is stable and they will be taken care of by loving parents who will preserve the family unit above all costs.
4. Choose to commit to each other. Having a commitment mindset is another factor that sets apart couples in long-lasting marriages. Couples need to realize that once the idyllic honeymoon phase is gone and real life with real problems sets in, the marriage may seem stale and they may want to search elsewhere for the romantic feeling they had when they got married. Understanding that love is not a feeling, but a choice is crucial if the marriage is to survive. Spouses who choose to work on their marriage and choose to love each other, even when they are not feeling it, are the ones whose marriages make the distance. If the marriage is broken, they fix it. They don’t throw it away.
5. Know that there will come a time you feel you don’t love each other. It will pass. Every couple experiences what psychologist Dr. Jed Diamond refers to as the Disillusionment Stage. This is the time of your life where you feel like you made a mistake and you think you are not in love with your spouse anymore. Unfortunately, this is the stage where most couples separate or file for divorce because they feel that there is no turning back and have lost the love that they used to have for each other. If you can stick it out and recognize that this is a phase that every married couple experiences, you can come out stronger than ever and your marriage will enter a new phase of renewed love that’s profound and indestructible.
Couples who recognize that love is not a feeling, but a choice, choose to work on their marriage and choose to love each other, even when they are not feeling it.
6. Speak each other’s love language. Recognizing that people have love languages is a concept developed by Dr. Gary Chapman. Simply put, your love language is what makes you feel appreciated and loved. There are five basic love languages: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Your spouse’s love language may not be the same as yours, so it is important to be aware of what makes your spouse feel loved and appreciated. For more on how to speak each other’s love language read my article here.
7. Spend time together. How do you fill your time? Do you try to carve out time where you can spend some alone time, just the two of you, without the interruptions from children, parents, work, friends, tv? You may find that you’re busy and that you don’t have time for each other. But what couples who have successful marriages tell us is that they make each other a priority and find a way to spend time with each other. This can be as simple as waking up early and sharing a cup of coffee before the kids are up. Or going for a walk in the evenings after dinner. When you like someone you want to spend time together. It’s no different from your spouse. Just because you love each other doesn’t mean that you can take each other for granted. Show him that you love him by wanting to be with him and spending quality time by his side. Remember that your spouse is your best friend and best friends share special moments, have a close bond, and make time to get together and build each other up.
8. Don’t try to change your spouse. People who enter into a relationship with another person thinking that they are going to save them or change them are in for a big surprise and huge disappointment. If you’re trying to change your spouse, this says more about you than about your spouse. You have no power over another person, and your spouse will feel belittled, inferior, and inadequate. Is he or she not good enough for you? Are there qualities or traits you don’t like about him? You should focus on changing yourself instead of changing the other person. Demanding or expecting that your spouse change is damaging to the relationship because of the resentment, bitterness, and disappointment that will build up between both parties. Accept your spouse for who he is and the unique qualities he possesses. After all, those quirky qualities you now find annoying and obnoxious were adorable and cute at the beginning of your relationship. Think back to how quirky and funny he was when you first met. Try to recapture those moments and feelings and let your spouse be the unique individual you fell in love with.
Couples who have successful marriages tell us that they make each other a priority and find ways to spend time together.
9. Don’t keep score. If you are keeping score, someone is the winner and someone is the loser. And in this case, the relationship or the marriage is the loser. Unfortunately, if you are keeping score, you are probably not keeping a tally of all the wonderful things your spouse has said or done. You are focusing on the negative aspects and the petty things that have happened throughout the course of your marriage. This is extremely detrimental and can only breed resentment. Keeping score is a way of criticizing your spouse and making them aware that you are dissatisfied with them. A more constructive way to approach conversations is to use the “I” statements. For example, instead of telling your husband, You never help out with the dishes you may say, I feel unappreciated when I have to do the dishes and you are watching TV. This is a less threatening way to approach the subject and you’re not coming across as a score-keeping critical nag.
10. Foster intimacy. Intimacy in a marriage is essential if couples want to develop the deep physical and emotional bond that is the lifeblood of a marriage. Long lasting couples cuddle, hold hands, kiss, and have sex on a regular basis. As part of a human’s need for closeness, couples who engage in regular acts of intimacy develop a deeper and more connected bond than those who let intimacy fall by the wayside.
What Makes a Marriage Successful
Making your marriage last is a conscious decision based on the mutual commitment that both you and your spouse actively choose. Couples who choose to love each other and make their marriage a priority manage to stay together “till death do them part”. You made a vow of commitment before God and to each other, and no matter how grim the divorce statistics are, the fact remains that the majority of marriages DO make it because each person puts the needs of their spouse above their own. This is the meaning of true love.