Everyone defines success a little differently, it depends on your filter or how you view the world. In marriage success can mean many things as well. To some a successful marriage is not getting divorced or maybe not fighting too much. To others it may be having a family and a house and two cars. To someone else it may be a close friendship with their spouse. Think about what a successful marriage looks like to you.
I thought I would talk about what good marriages have in common. If you don’t know what a strong healthy marriage looks like you can’t work toward it. In a landmark twenty-five year research project that studied 14,000 families around the world, Dr. Nick Stinnett, a marriage expert, found that strong families have at least six major things in common.
1. Commitment: trust, honesty, dependability, faithfulness
2. Appreciation and Affection: caring for each other, friendship, respect for individuality, playfulness and humor
3. Positive Communication: sharing feelings, giving compliments, avoiding blame, compromise, agreeing to disagree
4. Time Together: quality time in great quantities, enjoying each other’s company, simple good times, and sharing fun times
5. Spiritual well-being: faith, compassion, shared ethical values, oneness with mankind
6. Ability to cope with stress: adaptability, growing through crisis together, openness to change, resilience.
This information came from a book by Dr. Greg Smalley “The Marriage You’ve Always Dreamed Of.”
I want to focus on two of the most important factors for a successful marriage.
The first is spending time together. Most of the couples I talk to that are struggling in their marriage are not spending much if any time together. When you are not spending time together you quickly fill your time with other things and people. Soon your needs are being met without your spouse and over time you feel you don’t need your spouse around. You are doing your own thing and she is doing her own thing and you are no longer a team. Between work schedules and children and other busy stuff you don’t find time for each other. It becomes easy to not talk or go on a date or schedule a time to get away. You cannot become intimate with someone if you are not spending significant time together.
Think back to when you were dating. You spent a lot of time together. You talked on the phone, went on dates and spent every free moment together. When you got married that began to change. If you stop spending time together you don’t communicate about money, children, faith, work, family and most everything else. Time together is a big deal in successful marriages.
The second thing I want to mention is this; In the most successful marriages learning about each other is a high priority. Dr. Smalley surveyed 10,000 couples and the second thing on their list behind time together was “getting to know each other on a deeper level”.
I call this being curious about your spouse. Trying to figure out what makes them tick. Discovering what their love language is and what their top 5 needs are. Talking about your past, your childhood, your dreams, your hurts, your fears, your core beliefs, your goals, sex, religion. Basically everything and anything that will help you gain a better window into the soul of your spouse.
That sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? You are exactly right. Every couple I meet with I tell them they are going to have to put in a lot of work because a lot of damage has been done to get where they are at. If you don’t work on things for years you need more than a tune up, you need an engine overhaul. You can’t fix it in a month or two. You need to dig down into the relationship and rebuild it. That is why it is so important to start working on it today. Don’t wait for the right time to make changes in your marriage, don’t wait for your spouse to change. It starts with you and your willingness to change and grow.
Remember your wedding vows: I, Chad take you, Vikki, to be my wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish till death us do part, and thereto I pledge you my faith.
Are you keeping your vows? Are you loving and cherishing? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to build a successful relationship with your spouse?