As my husband and I celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary, people asked me to write about how to achieve a successful marriage, so I’ll share a few of my thoughts on the subject.
Getting married is such a big commitment – we have all at least heard, if not experienced, this fact of life. Frequently, however, we see that the supposed commitment is broken with such ease that just the opposite becomes clear – people are, in fact, not committed. From the get-go it was just an empty promise. Particularly for those who, before they get married, are thinking, “If it doesn’t work, I’ll divorce him/her.”
Love is very important, but certainly not enough to sustain a marriage for a lifetime without the total commitment of both parties. I have learned that the kind of dedication required to make a marriage work, goes beyond, at times, what we though we were capable of.
I’m not advocating here in favor of allowing someone to disrespect our spiritual, physical, or emotional boundaries, as would happen in an abusive relationship. Abuse should not be tolerated. What I’m talking about is the kind of commitment that gives us the internal strength that allows us to fight to unknown limits in order to save a good relationship with a person who’s worth the effort.
To break it down, let’s say that the good times are those whimsical periods in which everything goes well; when both parties are very agreeable and there is almost no noticeable difficulty. This period usually happens in the beginning, and during many different periods along the life of the marriage.
After a few weeks, even a few months, when we discover the differences we have with our partner, the bad becomes obvious. Even though we try to be tolerant, it is not always possible. The friction – from differences in education and customs and from those shenanigans that we do every day – becomes insufferable. The arguments ensue, the passive-aggressive behaviors take center stage, and we start double-guessing our decision to tie our life to such an undesirable person, who quite frankly doesn’t listen, doesn’t understand, is selfish, and is not willing to change.
Since using logic doesn’t seem to work, and yelling worsens things, we keep those feelings silent. We avoid making waves until the day comes when we cannot stand it any more and hell breaks loose. Then we start considering the possibility of divorce. Yes, most successful marriages have gone through these periods, also.
In my view, it is at these very moments when the difference can be seen between a successful marriage and one that ends in divorce. Marriage is a contract, after all. Those couples who stop in their tracks during the difficult times and go back to analyzing why they signed this “contract” in the first place, have a better chance of achieving their common goal. As in business, when we sign the contract we shouldn’t expect that it’ll be an effortless endeavor, or that we won’t find pebbles, stones, rocks, or even boulders in the way. We sign knowing that we will overcome almost anything in order to realize the desired outcome.
You may have noticed that I used the word successful, and not “long-lasting” marriage, as these two things are not necessarily the same. A successful marriage is one that both parties value and enjoy throughout the years. A long-lasting marriage may persist even if one or both people are miserable but for one reason or another – family pressure, custom, or finances – it doesn’t get dissolved.
But wait, we have not yet gotten to the ugly part of marriage, which I consider those periods in which huge, life-altering events come our way, out of the blue in most instances. Those moments in which it seems like not only the marriage, but also the whole world is coming to an end (most couples go through at least one of these periods, if not a few). It is then that a couple needs full commitment, the decision to succeed, and reassurance that they can hold onto each other until the storm passes.
Long-lasting, successful marriages aren’t always easy and breezy, but they are not impossible either, as long as we choose the right person – not necessarily the cutest, funniest, or richest, but the one who’s going to have the same level of love, respect, and commitment to work on the relationship as we do. Then, your marriage will be strong enough to survive the good, the bad, and the ugly, hand-in-hand with the one we love.