Key Elements of a Good Marriage

By Emma Jackson

To define the characteristics of a good marriage is, in many ways, to open a hornet’s nest, since happiness is a difficult thing to define and relationships are often so intricate and personal that only those within them know the secret ingredients that keep them together. According to relationships expert and author of many best-selling books, including The Dance of Intimacy, Dr. Harriet Lerner, despite our differences, there are clear and defined basics that mark all healthy relationships, including marriage. In this article we share a few of her useful tips:

Respect for difference: We sometimes fall in love with a person but make the mistake of trying to change ingrained aspects of their personality or way of processing events and information, only to become frustrated when they do not conform to our ideal. In all relationships, it is vital to respect that a significant other does not feel or think the same about some aspects of life or about particular situations. In The Dance of Intimacy, Lerner suggests that unity is important, but so is the recognition of independence. Lerner says,
“ ‘Being who we are’ requires that we can talk openly about things that are important to us, that we take a clear position on where we stand on important emotional issues, and that we clarify the limits of what is acceptable and tolerable to us in a relationship. Allowing the other person to do the same means that we can stay emotionally connected to that other party who thinks, feels, and believes differently, without needing to change, convince, or fix the other.”

Think of yourselves as a team: A team has common goals, though each component has his/her own role to play. When serious issues come up (involving finances, child rearing, etc.), a team spirit will help you focus on where you are going rather than on arguing for your corner.

Argue about an issue, not about the person: According to Michael Hyatt in One Little Word that Almost Always Provokes Conflict, when arguing over a heated issue, couples often make the mistake of attacking the person through conflictive language such as “You always…” “You never…” Remember to stick to the issue at hand; do not bring up a string of anecdotes from the past in an attempt to attack your spouse’s character or general behavior. This leads to defensiveness and stops you from solving the problem at hand.

Be committed: At times, marriage can be tense. Don’t take the easy way out by seeking solace in a third party or ending the relationship as soon as the honeymoon stage is over. Try to work out your differences, with love and respect. Of course, this does not mean allowing healthy limits to be crossed.

Talk about important issues: Communication regarding important events and issues is vital; allow your spouse to express themselves and try to remain non-judgmental so that talks are fruitful instead of incendiary. Try to avoid the temptation to interrupt; it can be very frustrating for spouses when they feel they are not listened to or that their opinion or interpretation of an event does not matter.

Keep promises made to each other: Even small promises (like agreeing to take a spouse out to dinner every Saturday or to do the cleaning up on the weekend) need to be kept, so that spouses feel valued. When many small promises are broken over time, it can lead to a loss of trust.

Be sensitive to your partner’s needs and show them you care enough about them to change behavior that hurts or annoys them: You don’t have to change who you are, but if something you tend to do or say hurts your partner, try to change it to make them happy.

Do not be a ‘fixer’: In addition to trying to change our spouse, we can also fall into the trap of trying to fix situations and even people, by allowing them to cross limits, or fixing up the damage they may have caused third parties. According to Recovery.org, this is especially true where tough conditions like alcoholism or substance abuse are involved. If you are constantly picking up after your spouse and rushing to the rescue, or fixing problems created between them and other family members, you need to stop, without feeling guilty about it. Encourage your spouse to seek help, but make it clear that you will no longer pick up the pieces they leave behind. This does not mean giving up on them; make it clear that you love them and that you are willing to help them, but do not be afraid to establish your limits and stick to them strictly. This will not guarantee that your spouse will seek the help they need However, according to Harriet Lerner, the focus in any case should be n your own behavior and the changes you need to make, rather than those your spouse needs to make.

Try to maintain respect and love beyond the ‘honeymoon period’: Don’t stop saying words of love to your spouse; they are necessary and act like a powerful ‘glue’ many years after you say ‘I do’.

shopify analytics ecommerce
tracking