Understanding how to make your marriage successful. Advice on how to make your life easier as a married person, and how to avoid the common pitfalls associated with failed marriage. Help for young people, or married couples struggling to find a common ideology to help their marriage. A good article to read for those who are considering marriage, or are currently in a struggling marriage or relationship.
I was married at the age of nineteen, and a father by the age of twenty. As I progressed through much of my twenties, I saw a number of my young friends take the same head first plunge into the contract of marriage as I had, but with a far different outcome. As my daughter now approaches her eleventh year of life, and my wife and I draw closer to our twelfth anniversary, I have spent much time reflecting on the attributes that make our marriage successful, in hopes of passing this knowledge on to my beloved daughter.
Shortly before I got married, I was privy to many talks and lectures on the subject of marriage. Surprisingly, many of the parties who wished to give me "the keys" to a happy and successful marriage were themselves, victims of several failed marriages. My father, absent for the majority of my youth and at the time boasting his third wife (and family), took me aside and insisted that marriage was a "compromise." I am sure that the majority of us have seen this myth perpetuated not only in daily chatter, but also highlighted by Hollywood (who again has little room to talk about successful relationships as they boast a 96% divorce rate) and the main stream media. This "compromise" however, is as fictitous as the over exposed love stories they sell us year in and year out.
The very definition of compromise relates that there is a sacrifice, (or submission if you will) between two parties, in order to keep the peace. Now, before I get ahead of myself let me stress, that marriage, like life, will present moments when compromise is necessary to maintain stability. Not everybody likes their job, but the mortgage still comes due on the first of each month, and we still have to eat. Everyday when you get up and go to your job, you make a compromise with yourself to continue on, but seek out better alternatives. Marriage however is a lot different; your job will not get upset and sue you for half of your assets if you don't show up when you're supposed to.
No, compromise does not define a strong marriage. So what does? Love? Well, that's a given. You can forget having a successful marriage if there is no love involved. Romance? Well, this is key to a happy marriage as well, but it is ultimately a perk of the real ingredient; sacrifice. I'm sure this word has grabbed a great deal of attention already, simply because we live in such a self centered society where throwing five dollars into a hobo's cup every Thursday morning, constitutes sacrifice and compassion.
All you've heard about compromise, working together to achieve, and 50/50, set that aside for just a moment and consider the following: What if I told you, that sometimes you were going to have to swallow your pride and occasionally stand alone in your sacrifice? Perhaps you would consider that man or woman, who has that cheating problem, or that drinking problem, is never really going to have to meet you half way on anything. True, we hold on, hoping that one day we will be able to convince them that if we can change this or that about ourselves, they can reduce their drinking (or cheating) to only 50% of the time. Such things are the reality of marriage, and these things are often the stumbling block of marriages.
Because we approach marriage as a forum for compromise, we forget that in a free society, nobody really owes us, nor do they have to change anything. This was a common feature I found when discussing with my friends their failed marriages. "She wanted me to stop going out drinking," "He wanted me to be home more." I couldn't help but question, why was compromise so hard to achieve? The simple answer is, nobody was seeking compromise, they were seeking sacrifice.
In modern society, the valor of sacrifice has been diminished. Sacrifice of ones self, or one's emotions is now associated with weakness and stupidity. If you sacrifice your "man time" on the weekend to be at a church function with your wife and children you are more often labeled a "wuss" rather than a good father or husband. The same is true for women; if they sacrifice their shopping time to be home with their husband, they are often labeled "overly submissive," or their husband is called "posessive" or "over-bearing."
I then began to question how much I had sacrificed in the time that I had been married. Sure, I had lost some of my "guy time" to more family oriented things like weekend volleyball tournaments and company picnics. When it came time for me to choose between shopping with my wife and daughter, or a long awaited boxing match on a saturday evening, I had often chosen to go shopping with the women. While I drew a great deal of taunting from my male friends, I can honestly say it meant very little to me in the long run.
The truth is, neither I nor my wife, had ever expected compromise of one another. When we came together in matrimony the cards were laid out, and acceptance was mandatory for either of us to continue on. I didn't like all of what my wife laid on the table, and I am certain my wife did not appreciate all that I laid before her. There was no compromise of "I'll let you do this, and you let me do that." Such things are ultimately childish and immature, only bringing back memories of "Do this or I'll tell mother you did that." In the end, our cards were laid out as "This is who I am, and you must learn to deal with it."
As a result, I learned to bite my tongue when my wife went shoe shopping with her friends, and she learned to hold her tongue when I went to football games with my friends. Marriage cannot, and should not, be treated as a business arrangement. There are times when you will give everything and get only the promise of love in return for all of your efforts. This idea that we should have something in return for every sacrifice is at the core of our divorce rate in America.
Before you get married consider these things when making your decision:
- What is expected of me?
- What do I expect of my partner?
- Is the sacrifice worth the fact that I may get very little in return?
- Is he/she making sacrifices for me?
Although this answer may not be the route for every relationship in the world, it is the answer to my marriage having made it this far. I get up daily, sacrifice my time, my love and my monetary assets with no guarantee of ever having anything in return. The reality is, I have no guarantee that my wife won't leave me and move on to greener pastures; but I sacrifice regardless. When you see someone sacrificing for you, do not meerly assume that the sacrifice is required. Acknowledge the sacrifice with a simple thank you, and understand that you won't always be able to return the favor. Sacrifice is truly the most beautiful gift one can give to those they love.