Nearly everyone that gets married, goes in wanting to be happy and stay married for the rest of their lives. So what happens along the way to cause people to end up hating each other or frustrated to the point of divorce? Why does verbal, physical and emotional abuse happen so often in marriages that started out with so much hope?
Most people that end up getting married, don’t put much work in on the front end. They may date for a while and many people are now pretending to be married, thinking that is a good way to prepare for marriage. Unfortunately the results have been dismal. Couples that live together have a much greater chance of divorce than those that do not. Couples that do not go through some pre-marital mentoring or counseling have a much higher chance of not making it. So for people that are thinking about getting married, go get some help in preparing for this lifelong commitment. Why wouldn’t you get some training for the biggest relationship commitment you will ever make.
For those that are already married and maybe did not put a lot of work in at the beginning, it’s not too late. Marriages can be improved dramatically with some work and a different perspective. Here are some tips or thoughts on how to build a happy marriage:
- Change your expectations to desires – Marriage is not so much about you, but about serving and loving your spouse well. If you are looking at your husband or wife to meet all your needs and make you happy, you are heading toward failure and disappoint. No human being can meet all our needs and make us happy. Only God can do that. Many times we put too high of expectations on our spouse and then are upset when they don’t live up to that. Instead of expecting certain behavior, change your mindset to desiring certain behavior. When you see it happen it is more meaningful. That shift in thinking can change your marriage.
- Learn to love well – To love well, a person must understand what speaks love to their spouse. If you do not understand what is meaningful and special to your spouse, you can be doing the wrong things and actually be hurting your marriage. Gary Chapman wrote a book called the “Five Love Languages”. He describes 5 ways of communicating love to another person. Those languages are; Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Gifts and Quality Time. Everyone has one or two of those that are more meaningful than others. Find out what your spouses language is and what yours is and then sit down and talk about it with your spouse.
- Focus on growing yourself, not changing your spouse – The more you try to change your spouse the worse it usually gets. The only thing you have control over is yourself. When you focus on problems or the shortcomings of your spouse, you are no longer working on your own issues or growing closer to God. Seek out a mentor or someone that can help you work on your own issues.
- Deepen your relationship with God – To have a happy marriage, it will take more than what you have on your own. When you develop your relationship with God, He gives you strength, courage and wisdom you can’t get on your own. When you grow spiritually, you grow relationally with others as well.
- Bring God into your Marriage – Spiritual intimacy in a marriage relationship is one of the biggest keys to happiness and contentment in marriage. Making God central in your marriage builds a solid foundation. Praying together, going to church together, going to small group together, reading the Bible & devotions together and having spiritual conversations together will build that intimacy. If your spouse is not where you are at spiritually, don’t force this on them. Instead pray silently for them regularly and demonstrate your faith by loving them well and serving them as best you can.
- Build Emotional Intimacy – This is all about being best friends. Connecting with each other through meaningful conversations, doing fun things together and just hanging out. This usually happens through the dating process, but often slows down after the marriage. Start dating again and work at becoming friends again.
- Prioritize Physical Intimacy – This area of marriage often get neglected as life gets busy. Children, work, family functions and children’s activities can keep married people from having enough physical intimacy. Take time to plan for this if needed. God designed sex for marriage for a reason. It was meant to increase closeness and intimacy. It is a way of serving each other and surrendering yourself to the other person. Physical intimacy is much better when the emotional and spiritual intimacy are doing well.
- Always believe the best about your spouse – When you always think the best about your spouse instead of assuming the worse, you are more likely to be happily married. Trust is essential in marriage. Honesty and openness in marriage leads the way to trust. Connecting emotionally, spiritually and physically helps to deepen trust and belief in your spouse. When your first response is to believe the best instead of assume the worse, it leads to a better line of thinking. Less suspicion and more trust. When trust is broken though, boundaries need to be put into place in order to re-establish trust.
- Listen – Most people are really poor listeners. When it comes to marriage it can get even worse. If you will simply work at becoming a better listener, your marriage will begin to improve. Listening takes more than just paying attention. It means to actually try to understand what is being said and being able to repeat it back. It means you follow through on what is discussed. In other words listening needs to be active, letting your spouse know you are truly interested and want to understand and then acting on what you hear. First trying to understand before being understood leads to good listening.
- Think Team – Your on the same team not on opposite sides. Team mates need to communicate well with each other and work together through whatever problems come your way. Problem solving becomes a joint effort instead of one sided. To function as a team you need to know your role and understand how you best contribute to the success of the marriage. The approach should always be we not me.
These ten things are not the only things that help build a solid marriage, but they can get you started. Marriage takes work to be successful. A selfish person does not make a very good husband or wife. Pride and arrogance leads to destruction. So if your marriage is a mess or struggling along, humble yourself and get some help. If your marriage is doing well and you have worked through some struggles, then you need to help others work on their marriages.