10 steps to have a happier, healthier marriage
There is a question I used to dread. As a relationship coach, I often hear clients (especially after a divorce) asking why bother with marriage? With all the gusto they can muster, they will inevitably tell me they will never get married again and that marriage doesn’t work!!! They don’t know anyone with a happy marriage and if it looks happy, it’s probably fake anyway.
The question I dreaded is, “Do you know anyone who has a really healthy, happy marriage?” Every time I am asked that question, only one marriage came to mind. It was Susie and Barry. But honestly, that is IT! Of all the people I know, they are the only ones whose marriage I would like to emulate.
They are the ones who are the steadiest. They have been married over 20 years and they are really good friends. They take vacations together as well as apart. If one of them gets sick, they can count on the other one to be there. Fiscally speaking, they are saving for retirement, they have their cars for long periods of time and save BEFORE they buy a new one. They’ve even lived in the same house for over 20 years. I am not saying they never argue, they do argue, and it is clear that they want the other person to get their needs met, so they typically have win-win solutions to their issues.
Family is very important to both of them. Barry has parents, Susie’s have passed over. Barry did not have children, Susie had one and Barry is a fantastic step-dad and is the kind of Grandpa any grandchild would love to have. And although Barry has never really enjoyed long going to another country kind of vacations, he goes on his own to see his grandson in Taiwan. Because Susie does love to travel long distance, she goes with girlfriends on vacations to places like Ireland and Mexico. They have a rhythm that works for them.
Even though I don’t really have many couple role models, I do have this one and when I wanted to get married, and was frustrated with my husband’s hesitation, I turned to Susie and Barry. I found out that it took Barry 8 years to step up to the marriage alter. Yet, I was complaining at year 1, 2, 3, and at year 4, Kevin finally popped the question. But it was Barry and Susie who helped me see how necessary it was to give Kevin the space he needed to come to the conclusion that he was in fact ready for marriage, and that my own timeframes were not working for either of us.
We live in a society filled with neurotic people seeking a quick fix, medication, counseling and/or coaching, which is fine, but I want to recommend going to the wise ones, going to the people who are living the kind of marriage you want to live. In addition to the professionals out there, a few conversations with a successful couple you know, love and respect could really help you. For example, let’s say you have some issues around money, like one person wants to buy a second house and the other wants to save more for retirement, how would YOUR favorite couple handle that?
I asked Susie what advice she would give to newly married couples, and she said, “While love is important…trust and respect are more so. Give your spouse space and support to live their lives along side your own.” I love that!
I believe the success rate in marriages would be higher if people to go into marriage like they go into their professions. Here is a list of 10 steps you can take to have a better marriage:
1. Research what works and does not work in marriage.
2. Be curious about their partner’s attitudes, values, and beliefs.
3. Learn how to problem solve.
4. Respect your teammate’s space, differences and desires.
5. Have both long-term and short-term goals.
6. Be on the same ‘team’ rather than working at odds with each other.
7. Have an attitude of gratitude for who this person is and that you ‘choose’ each other.
8. If you are going to assume something, assume that your spouse is not trying to hurt you. If someone does not meet your expectations, look to change those expectations before changing the other person.
9. Gear up for being in a marriage like a triathlon. Practice being the best person you can be in relationships.
10. Forgive frequently. No one wants to be held to past mistakes and holding onto resentments in a relationship is poison.
What kind of commitment do you want to have in your relationship? Make sure you are both on the same page. I’ve studied relationships for years, and I certainly made my share of mistakes. I suggest being gentle with yourself and not beat yourself up for past mistakes. Rather, practice increasing your ability to live a long-term committed relationship by practicing one of these steps each month, make each step a habit, and at the end of 10 months, you will certainly be well on your way to a successful marriage. Even better, have a friend join you in this commitment challenge!
Lori S. Rubenstein, JD, PCC spent 18 years as a divorce attorney-mediator, however, her passion for helping others led her down the path of divorce, relationship and forgiveness coaching. She is the author of three transformational books and has a special gift of holding sacred space for people to transcend their “stories” and step into a new, more empowering life. Contact Lori now to set up a 15 minute consultation to learn how you can start to mend your own relationship hurts