In my quest for building and keeping my current relationship healthy and strong, I have been reading a book called Project Everlasting (see The Secrets of Successful Marriages – Part One for a more thorough explanation of the book and my initial discussion of some of the important keys to a great marriage). From this book, I am learning a lot about where I might have gone astray in previous relationships. Is it possible I have been wrong in my definition of what love and marriage should be and look like? Naaaaw! Well, ok, maybe a little.
I think I wanted to hear that if the right two people meet – it just all falls into place. And if it does not all fall into place, then it is the wrong partnership. After reading this book, Project Everlasting written by Mathew Boggs and Jason Miller, I realized this is not necessarily true.
Communication is the key
Healthy marriages ebb and flow, just like life.
There are times when one or both partners won’t nurture their relationship and they will drift apart. They will get caught up in their careers or the kids or the dozens of things going on in their lives. One or both partners will possibly stop sharing their thoughts on things that bother or hurt/offend them.
When this happens, the couple will no longer feel connected. They end up communicating less and less.
The difference between the marriages that lead to divorce and the ones that remain intact and happy is that the successful ones realize they are in a rut and pull up their socks. They do the work to reconnect and have heartfelt communication.
Communication? You are probably thinking, “I speak to my partner quite a bit through out the day. We communicate!” Well, telling your partner that it’s laundry time because you have no clean socks left is not really the type of communication I am talking about.
What you need to focus on with this essential key is what kind of communication do you have with your partner? Do you tell your partner what is really going on with you? Things that you agree/disagree with? Or are you passive aggressive?
If you’ve a bad day, do you sit in the corner watching TV…mulling over the upsetting days events? Or do you tell your partner that you had a bad day and then explain to them what happened?
I am reminded of a conversation I had with a married male co-worker. He said when he and his wife were first married and living together, she would get very upset with him and he never really understood why.
After many arguments, my co-worker had a light bulb moment. He realized that she just wanted to know what was going on with him – what he was thinking. It didn’t have to be a profound revelation either. She just didn’t want to be left in the dark and guessing at what was going on. Once he started telling her more things suddenly her level of frustration improved.
Improve YOUR Communication Not Theirs
To be clear, improving your communication skills doesn’t mean making a list of what your partner can do to be a better communicator. It means you need to figure out what to change and then you make the effort to change.
Focus on the positives…not the negatives
Another theme I noticed about the couple’s stories was what qualities they focused on within their partners. Ask yourself, do you focus on the positive or negative aspects of your partner? Are you judgmental? Do you obsess about all of their short comings and how if they would only change?
Be more accepting
To maintain a healthy relationship, accept your partner’s quirks or annoying habits. From what I read, all relationships have them. YOU do as well!
Work together for the best solution
And in case you were unaware, couples fight and have disagreements. There are no two ways around it. But the disagreement should never be about winning (or being right), it should be about coming up with the best solution. Know when to pick your battles and when to let go.
Quality versus Quantity
There is also no specific amount of dating time before marriage that will guarantee success. Some couples were engaged after their first date and some couples analyzed their relationships for years before becoming engaged and then married. Both scenarios have equal chance of success and failure.
I personally know of a couple that was engaged after 2 months of dating and married 7 months later. Two kids and 11 years later, they are still happily married. I work with both of them and observe them on a daily basis.
So pick your battles and focus on the positive traits of your partner. At the very least speak (better done in private to be respectful to your partner if it was something they did) when something happens that you disagree with. Don’t become passive aggressive. As well, don’t expect your partner to be perfect because I can guarantee you are not!
Next Sunday, I will be posting the third and final article in regards to the last pieces of great advice given from the Marriage Masters (what the authors call the couples they interviewed). Don’t miss it as all of the keys must be used together if you want to have a happy and successful marriage. Until then…