Marriages are difficult. There is no doubt about that. Two people, with different personalities, different beliefs, different families, different backgrounds, creating a brand-new family is no easy feat.
However, I do think that many of us often make it harder than it needs to be. Not on purpose, of course, but rather because we don’t know how to make it simpler.
For most of us, the best role-models we had for marriage were our parents. For some, you may have learned more about what you DIDN’T want in a marriage than what you did want from your parents. And for others, even if it seemed your parents had a pretty picture-perfect marriage, you may have not learned how to argue in a healthy way, or understand the pressures that finances or intimacy may have on a marriage.
So, this is why marriage is harder than it needs to be: it’s harder because we weren’t taught how to do it any other way. For most of us, we weren’t taught at all. My parents and teachers certainly didn’t sit down with me and share their wisdom or the principles or philosophies that helped them create a strong, fulfilling marriage. I’m presuming that yours didn’t either.
Not only were we not taught, but in the last couple of generations, all the “rules” of a normal American marriage have been turned upside down, primarily as women started working in force outside of the home as much as they did inside the home.
So why am I sharing all this? I’m sharing this to normalize that for most of us, relationships are really hard because we simply weren’t taught how to do them well and there aren't the same dynamics any longer.
Well, let me tell you after not one, but TWO failed marriages by the age of 35, I dedicated myself to learning all that I could about what it takes to create a really great relationship/marriage. I wasn't about to make the same mistakes yet again, and knew that what I had been doing wasn't working. Nor was it working for about 50% of other once-married couples.
And while there is so much that I can share with you about how to create a great relationship/marriage what I realized is that it all comes down to two fundamental principles. If you can remember and implement these two concepts into your marriage, you’ll definitely be headed toward a much stronger, more fulfilling and meaningful marriage.
The first principle is this:
Be intentional with your marriage. Many people have this subconscious idea that once they’re married, their relationship is “locked in” and they just put it on auto-pilot. Because your cabooses are hitched, it seems easy to let kids, work, family and other people, responsibilities and obligations take priority because you believe that your partner will be there no matter what happens. That is NOT being intentional.
Being intentional in marriage IS about making your partner and your marriage one of your top priorities, no matter what.
Being intentional in your marriage is giving your marriage specific focus and intentionally making sure you’re creating clarity about what it is that will bring you joy and meaning in your relationship, what you want it to look and feel like, what goals & dreams you want to have not only with your partner, but in your lives overall.
Let’s use your home as an analogy. When you are building, remodeling or even settling into a new-to-you home, think about your experience. You think about what would make that home feel comfortable, safe, functional and beautiful to you. You put time and intention into it to make it all the things you’d like it to be. You are intentional about the decor, the colors, the big things AND the little things. Think of this like your engagement or maybe even your newlywed year. But you rarely stop there with your home. You don’t ignore it, just hoping that it takes care of itself for the rest of the time you live there.
No, you maintain your home with intention. You repair things that are breaking or broken, typically before they full on are broken. You plan upgrades like new flooring or lighting, or maybe even a remodel. You maintain it by getting your furnace serviced each year, putting on a new roof and painting the living room. You give your home your intention in all those ways, and while you might not literally be thinking about it every moment, most folks are thinking about it on weekly or monthly basis.
Think about what would happen to your house if you never did anything to it other than live in it for years on end? Yes, that’s likely what will happen to your marriage as well. It will fall apart, get broken and dilapidated and no longer bring you that joy, that comfort, or security you used to have.
So, just check in with yourself at least once a month and ask yourself, or better yet, have a conversation with your partner:
What do we want our relationship to look like now and into the future?
What can we do that will bring us joy?
What do we need to bring us fulfillment?
What do we want more of in our marriage?
What do we want less of in our marriage?
What is going well?
Where is there room for improvement?
The second principle of a creating a great marriage is this:
Give it ATTENTION
This seems like a no-brainer, but again, as humans we often make things harder than they needs to be, and giving your relationship attention is no exception.
Yes, giving your marriage attention by going on dates, for example, is really important. That also sounds big and hard and complicated and expensive and time-consuming, so many of us don’t do it. And...it doesn't have to be any of those things.
Giving your partner and your marriage attention can be so super simple, it can literally take SECONDS each day.
It’s really about giving it attention consistently, in little ways that make the biggest impact.
Let’s go back to that house analogy. Think of all the little ways that you give your house attention (almost) every day.
You wash the dishes.
You do a load of laundry.
You tidy up your space.
You make your bed.
You wipe off a table or counter.
You replace a lightbulb.
You tighten a screw.
You sweep the floor.
You get the idea. The list is long (although not always the same) of all the ways that you give your home attention in some way, shape or form almost every day, if not every day.
Many of these things literally take only a few seconds to a few minutes to complete,
and yet we do them every day without a second thought. If I asked you why you did them, you’d probably share that because doing a little each day is less overwhelming. Because you care about your home. Because it feels good to be in a neat and clean space. And maybe this one…
Because you invested in your home and want to nurture and take care of this thing that is very valuable to you and when you take care of your home, your home takes care of you.
So, what if you replaced the word “home” with “marriage” or your “emotional home”? How would you think about the importance of giving your relationship attention each and every day?
ere are some ways to start doing that:
Look your partner in the eye and say “Thank you for _______.”
Give your partner a full-body hug for at least 15 seconds.
Put phones away for 15 minutes (or more) during the evening to have uninterrupted connection/check-in with your partner.
Send them a text letting them know you’re thinking of them and love them.
Make them their coffee in the morning and bring it to them while they are getting ready or have it ready for them to take with them.
Dance with your partner.
Tell them a joke.
Share a meaningful social media post with them.
There are literally limitless ways to give your relationship attention each and every day that will help you nurture and grow your relationship.
So, to recap, the two primary principles to keep at the forefront of your mind to keep your marriage healthy and happy is to give your marriage INTENTION AND ATTENTION.
Practice integrating those two principles into your marriage and you’ll be well on your way to living happily ever after!
If you’d like to learn more about what this could look like for you specifically, you can connect with me here: firstname.lastname@example.org.