Seven Ingredients for a Happy and Lasting Marriage
Perhaps the word marriage does not apply for some people. I don’t want the word to scare you off, so please substitute whatever word applies to you; relationship, partner, lover- it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you understand the essence of any great relationship or marriage. Slightly under fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce. An even greater percentage of dating relationships, around 80% end with break-up. What about just regular friendships? I suspect that friendships end for similar reasons to relationships. I’ve seen first hand how relationships, friendships and marriages end and while a romantic relationship has slightly more elements needed to make it last, the similarities in what makes all human relationships work or fail are fairly simple to recognize and understand. After 12 years of being with my beautiful wife, I can confidently tell you the ingredients necessary for a happy (very happy) and harmonious relationship. I’m not saying things last forever, but I will tell you that if something bad happens in my marriage, it’s going to be my fault. The reason…#1.
1.Taking Responsibility- How much is each person in a marriage responsible for keeping it going? 50/50? 60/40? The answer is 100%. Each person must take extreme ownership of everything in a relationship. Each partner is responsible for 100% of what they do and the situation he finds himself in. Don’t like that? Too bad. Own your life and take responsibility for it. 100%.
2.Desire for Harmony- First and foremost, there must exist a desire to get along with another person in order for a relationship to exist or a marriage to thrive. Believe it or not, I don’t think most people desire harmony. They look for problems. They look for drama because they know others can relate to it. They know their friends will love to hear about everything wrong, so they secretly want problems. You see, many believe in the fallacy that “all marriages have problems.” Or, “the seven year itch.” The truth is, whatever you look for, you will find. If you look for harmony, you will find it. If you look for issues, you will find them. Be careful what you focus on and…
3. Know Your Outcomes- What do you want out of this relationship? What does your partner want? If you don’t know your desired outcomes, or they don’t jive with what your partner wants, your marriage will end. No exceptions. My wife and I talk about what we want and where we want our partnership to go at least once a week. My outcome is to live an incredible life by being in an incredible state with my wife and children. I want my family to always feel my love. I want my wife and I to be partners in our journey together. I know that my wife wants the same. How do I know that? We talk to each other about what we want. Communicate or expect your partner to seek it out elsewhere. Here’s a hint, you should not have to talk to your friends because they “are the only ones who get you.”
4.Value and Values- All relationships must add value to the individuals involved. If you are not getting a significant amount of value by being with someone, or you are not providing value to another, there is no relationship, you have an acquaintance. Along with bringing value to the marriage, you must value the other person. This almost goes without saying, but you’d be shocked at how many people take their partner for granted, or worse, detest them. You must value your partner as well as provide value to them. Beyond that, you must have similar values in how to live life. If your values differ to an extreme, the path your lives will take will be very different. That doesn’t bode well for a successful and happy marriage.
5. Empathy- This is the area of life I think most people are lacking. I admit, even I have trouble with this at times. Seeing something from another’s point of view is very difficult to do and it’s likely the main cause for violence and despair in the world today. Do you know what’s going on in your husband’s or wife’s head? What’s the story they tell themselves about what they are doing here on Earth and who they are? I suggest that if you don’t know the answer to these questions, try to find them out. Empathy is the main ingredient to a lasting relationship. Without it, without understanding your partner, you won’t have a partner for long.
6. Passion- Let us not deny that passion is vital to a marriage. Attraction to your partner is a must. Sexual intimacy that occurs often and is fulfilling is how many relationships start. The lack of it is how many relationships end. You should look forward to being close with your partner. It shouldn’t be a chore or a hassle. It shouldn’t be embarrassing. It should be a staple of your marriage. If passion is lacking, work to make it great. It’s such a vital and fulfilling part of the human experience, to miss out on it is a crime…in my opinion.
7.Love- It’s the strongest word in any language spoken in the world. Everyone wants love. We crave it from our families, our partners and our children. It’s vital to a happy marriage. Love, though, is very difficult to define. The dictionary definition doesn’t quite do it justice. Some define love as a feeling, but I believe it’s more than that. I believe that love, in addition to a feeling of deep affection, requires sacrifice. Whatever you love, you willingly sacrifice for. You go the extra mile, you give up opportunities, you put their needs before your own. I know many in marriages that have deep affection for their partners, but are not willing to sacrifice anything in their own lives to make their partner happy. Is that true love? I would suggest that it’s not. I think love requires deep affection and the willingness to put another’s needs before your own.
So there you have it. The seven ingredients for a happy and lasting marriage (or partnership). I hope this helps. As someone who has never been unhappy for more than a few hours in my marriage (my fault), I think that what I’ve written above is true and valuable. Above all, if you don’t want a relationship to end, do what you did at the beginning of the relationship and there will not be an end.