The Secrets of Successful Marriages – Part One

Have you ever observed an old couple holding hands? Watched them waltz with their feet never being more than an inch apart? Have you ever wondered if you will have a similar fate with the divorce rate being so high? I have always wondered what the secret is to a successful marriage.

Well, I believe that last question led me to read Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of Americas Greatest Marriages written by Mathew Boggs and Jason Miller.

Project Everlasting Book Cover
The authors traveled across North America interviewing over 200 Marriage Masters (what the authors affectionately call the couples they interviewed) that have been married over 40 years in their quest to find out what their secret was for a lasting loving marriage. After absorbing every last word, this is what I discovered from reading this book…

RESPECT was a common theme that the Marriage Masters said played a key part in their marriage success.

You would think that would be a given but it is amazing how easily we slip into a disrespectful mode – especially when we are stressed.

These disrespectful moments accumulate until you find yourself in a pattern revolving around nothing but disrespect. You may not even realize it is happening until one day you wake up wondering why your partner is no longer your best friend.

I observed this phenomenon during dinner at an ex-boyfriend’s house. The meal had started out with polite conversation between us and his parents…his mother made a not-so-flattering comment about his father and really, before I knew what has happening, his parents started bickering.

After a few minutes, that felt like hours, my ex brought his parents under control. It didn’t take long before the pattern repeated itself a few more times before the meal ended.

Was this pattern so prevalent in their marriage that they had no idea how hurtful they were being to each other? Through out the entire evening (and many other dinners I attended at their residence) they never once spoke kindly to each other or agreed with what the other person was saying.

With the high number of marriages ending in divorce, I wonder if the problem is we don’t really know how to be respectful? Or maybe a better description is that we don’t recognize that our behaviour is disrespectful.

I know that sounds crazy but could you define what respect is right now? And now that you have defined it, would you say you ACT respectful to your partner? Even in the tough times?

To me, respect means listening to your partner and validating/supporting what they are saying/requesting. It doesn’t mean agreeing with everything. It does mean not belittling them when disagreements happen.

When your partner makes a request of you and it is in your power to do it…then DO IT! Unless, of course, it goes against your values or moral compass.

If I tell my partner that it really stresses me out to be late for things and he is constantly making me late…that is disrespectful – his actions are saying that my need is not important.

When you are in public with your partner, are you supportive of them or do you try to prove them wrong so you can use it as ammunition in your next discussion of the topic?

I found the following excerpt from the book really gave a great explanation of what respect looks like in a marriage.

You have to be vigilant about honing this discipline (being respectful). It was like a muscle they had built up over the years and, when compared to mine (the author), it was like Schwarzenegger’s quadriceps next to a drumstick. Don’t get me wrong, the Marriage Masters treated their spouses disrespectfully at times, too. But whether it was single incident or an emerging pattern, they not only recognized what was happening, they did something about it. They allowed each other to grow and change. They listened when they’d have rather tuned out. And each stood up for the other, even at the expense of their own comfort. This newfound and deepened respect became the pattern that defined their relationship over decades to come.

So I suggest you take a closer look at your relationship/marriage. Are you respectful? Swallow your pride/ego and be honest with yourself…as that is the only way to truly make improvements.

There is so much information and great relationship advice in this book that I could not possibly discuss it all within one article so I have decided to give the different ‘secrets’ more attention by dividing them into multiple articles. So stay tuned for my next article that will discuss another very important secret to having a long lasting successful marriage.

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