1. Tune in to each other.
Like a radio station, the frequency of your marriage should have a good, strong signal. The connection must be clear and transparent. Keep communicating with each other unambiguously. Be interested in what is going on in each-other’s lives, ask for advice and share experiences.
2. Have your own life.
Each day you both go to places where you interact with other people. You encounter, learn and observe life in different ways. It’s important to your personal and/or professional growth that you both have this opportunity to develop a passion or interest in a goal or aspiration that you strive for.
It’s these goals that will give you the unique ambition to be the best ‘you’ that you can be. Offering your marriage the best of you maintains the quality of your lives together.
3. Distinguish the ‘small stuff’ from the red flags.
After getting to know each-other over time, there are always little personal habits or behaviors which set the other off. Communicate how these things affect you and try to reach a compromise about how to manage minimizing them. They never really go away completely.
If there is true love at the very core of your relationship, the compromise should be kept most of the time. At the end of the day, don’t sweat the small stuff. The small stuff is always tolerable, annoying, but tolerable.
No-one is perfect.
Red flags are different. They are tiny warning flares that may start off as ‘small stuff’ but when left unaddressed, fester into a full blown chronic Marriage cold sore. They hurt everyone involved to varying degrees and while some people find a tonic to cure and prevent further infection, sadly others do not or cannot.
Red flags can prove to be fatal to marriages in the long term. In any case the outcome is what it is. Stand there and deal, but don’t try to do it alone. Surround yourself with your most trusted networks. Tomorrow is still going to happen, decide how and where you want to spend tomorrow and the day after that, and the day after that.
Image: Hannah Iris Tolonen via Flickr
4. Work as a team.
All that you do in life should be geared toward an overall collective goal you share as soon as you said, “I do.” I liken the sharing of your lives together to returning all team members to home base as in (T-ball) for as many innings, as long as you both shall live. So at all times, help each other to do this.
This can range from picking up milk on the way home, to caring for the other when they’re sick. Helping each other reinforces and maintains a team mind-set, belief in your goal and the path you both travel to achieve it.
When I was younger and not keen on helping her with the laundry, my Mum always said, “Just give it a try first – complain later”. At the time, at every turn, I did the total opposite and not surprisingly, it was a pretty slack effort. It wasn’t until I moved out on my own that I realized that I had needed her help way more than she had ever needed mine.
We may sometimes not want to do our share of the work, especially if the path you travel becomes difficult, obstacle-ridden or the home base seems too much effort and a change in sporting code seems, by far, the easier option.
Remember, that the goal was jointly set up to embetter your future together. So keep your eyes on the prize, don’t get distracted and don’t lose hope. Most importantly – never leave a team member behind.
5. Be proactive
You may have heard of this before, but I have to reiterate the importance of it once again, MARRIAGE IS HARD WORK. Like a bird building a nest, you must gather everything you need to build it safe and sound. Think about planning to pre-empt the nest’s needs to survive all weather conditions especially the stormy strong winds, rain and hail.
Create boundaries and then contribute only things that serve to strengthen and protect it. Make sure you communicate regularly about the building process and materials needed. Foster a joint decision making process. More often than not one sole executive decision could possibly unravel all your hard work.
6. Be Loyal
When you marry you become a member of a team. Place loyalty to this team first and foremost. Back each other and give regular pep talks reminding each other of your game plan frequently. If you need to tweak it so that you can improve your team strategy, do so together with that sole purpose in mind. Of course you may always be a supporter of other teams but try not to tweak too much, too often, as you run the risk of copying other teams and losing your own authentic team philosophy.
7. Eat at home
There is a common thought that it doesn’t matter where you get your appetite as long as you eat at home. This is especially true in a marriage. There are always going to be tasty treats or temptations that you pass by every day, inhaling the mouth-watering aromas that waft past. It is only normal to appreciate the quality and appeal of such deliciousness. Don’t be weak and give into temptation, stay focused. Work up that appetite and thirst and take it home. Home is where the heart is.
8. Be privileged
To honour a life-long commitment to someone is no easy feat for anyone. Honour is the key word, in every thought, word and deed. Feel privileged to have your marital status, there’s no badge needed or, dare I say, ring even. The status itself signifies your courage to share your life with someone else. It’s a big deal, never belittle it. No matter what happens, it’s a privilege.
9. ‘Like’ one another
It’s always easy to say that you love someone but the act of doing so, I believe, is in the concept of ‘liking’ them. It’s way more difficult to keep liking someone as change over time always throws a spanner in the works. This concept is more transient, stilted and sometimes over even before its fully begun.
Both of you have to work at keeping things fresh, vibrant and alive. Date nights and other creative fun and affectionate ways to spend time together, is vital. Even at your low points be thoughtful and considerate. Politely walk away from each other until such a time when you are likable again!
10. Be responsible
Marriage is an institution that is deemed valid for people of certain age groups only. I assume this is in the hope that partners are fully capable of being responsible for all requirements needed to commit.
Accepting responsibility is a skill needed in all facets of life and as you grow up, you grow together in building your marriage and family unit. Marriage is a selfless institution and one that favors those who claim and carry out their role with the best intentions. It also favors those who own up to their mistakes and aim to improve, although ideally – not too many times!
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