Does your marriage have a good chance of making it? An article in Time Magazine in 2016 reported that the divorce rate in the US is at a 40 year low. The article continued with the news that marriages in the USA still have about a 50% chance of making it. These numbers remain somewhat scary.
Having a lifelong partner to share all the ups and downs of life remains a major dream, desire, and goal for most people in the USA. A Gallup pollindicated that while the importance placed on marriage has declined slightly, only 5% of Americans have not been married and indicate they do not want to be married.
The majority of people are married or want to be married. Only half of us will be in a marriage that survives. Here are some ideas that can tip the odds more strongly in favor of your marriage surviving.
1. Your marriage has a much greater chance of surviving when you have learned how to listen to each other. At least 1/2 of the communication process is listening which involves really hearing what is being said. There are times when it is hard to listen, such as, after a busy hard day at work or when there is a pressing issue or deadline on your mind. If you are having trouble staying focused on the conversation, the best thing to do is to let your spouse know that what is being talked about is important to you. However, right now you can’t give the conversation the proper attention it needs and deserves. This should be the exception rather than the rule. If that is true, it is right to give your spouse a break – or maybe switch the conversation around to let your spouse talk about what is on his/her mind – if needed.
When you are really listening to your spouse, there are several signs.
These signs include setting aside everything that would be a distraction, maintaining good eye contact and responding appropriately to what is being said. As your marriage develops over time and you give attention to deepening your relationship, you will learn how to break through the communication barriers that are particular to your relationship.
2. Your marriage is much more likely to survive if you learn how to continually grow in your ability to talk to each other. Talking involves verbally relating what we are thinking and feeling. In a healthy marriage, you learn how to talk about the hard things that happen. You develop the ability to let your spouse know, in a straightforward way which he/she can hear, the things that are hurting, frustrating or bothering you in the marriage. These things are not discussed from a place of hostility, but the emotions you may be feeling DO need to be communicated honestly.
Communication in a good marriage will at times be messy.
It is important to learn to live with an occasional messy discussion or spat without being deliberately hurtful in the process. Marriages that survive have learned that skill and continue to hone it.
3. In marriages that survive, both spouses learn to communicate without making assumptions regarding what their spouses are thinking or going to say. Speaking and acting due to an assumption without truly listening to your spouse is unfair, unkind and judgmental. Even if an assumption is largely correct, it is very off -putting when someone is telling you what you think or feel before you can even tell your story. If you come from a place of curiosity when talking, it will enliven a conversation. When you come from a place of assuming you already know what is going to be said, you take the life from a conversation.
4. In marriages that not only survive, but thrive, the couple continues to date often. A marriage survives and thrives when you give it the time and attention it deserves. Couples who don’t make it have often gotten so involved in all the activities of life that they grow far apart and barely know each other. Matthew 6:21 states: ”For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The idea is that your heart will follow and be interested in the things in which you invest. Invest money in the stock market, and you are going to be interested in how it is doing. Invest time and energy into a house, and you are going to be interested in protecting it.
Invest time and energy into regularly enjoying time with your spouse, and you bring life into the marriage.
If other things (usually and honestly important things) get in the way of a regular investment in your marriage, you will find that you are growing apart rather than together.
5. A healthy marriage is one in which both spouses give attention to being healthy and attractive for each other. Nothing in life is guaranteed and that certainly includes your health. Illness can strike with no warning and can change things overnight. With that being said, in marriages that survive; there is an emphasis on staying healthy and attractive for each other. In these marriages, spouses also know that life is busy. Because of the responsibilities of maintaining a household, caring for children, going through pregnancy, keeping up with career demands, menopause and the process of aging, bodies do age and change over time. In surviving marriages, each spouse does the best they can to stay healthy and fit and they grant each other a lot of grace for the physical things that happen which are outside of their control.
6. Marriages that survive a lifetime do not make the journey alone. In marriages that survive, one spouse may believe that outside help and intervention is needed, and the other spouse listens and joins in. In the very best of marriages, life can be hard and couples can face challenges that were unexpected, unplanned and come at an inconvenient time to cope with them in a normal fashion. Years ago we were on a week-long bike trip on our tandem. Less than 10 minutes into the first day out, we looked at the clouds and both thought “should we stop and put on our rain gear?” We did not stop and less than a minute later there was a heavy downpour. We were soaked in a minute. There was no longer a need to put on the rain gear to stay dry. We were out in the country with no place to stop and rode in hard cold rain for 25 miles before our lunch stop and the end of the rain. The next year we took the same trip and on the first day out at exactly the same spot, we saw the sky, had the same thought about our rain gear. We stopped and put it on. Within minutes the rain started, and it kept up all day for our 60-mile ride. We stayed surprisingly dry and had a fun day of riding because we were prepared.
In marriages that survive, when one spouse is going down for the count and needs help; the other listens and engages in the process.
Rather than putting things off too long and waiting until there is significant damage to the relationship, repairs are done as needed along the way.
7. In long-term surviving marriages, each spouse takes an active interest in both encouraging and supporting the other’s dreams and goals. It is extremely satisfying and encouraging to know that you are on a team that wants you to succeed and will help you to do so. It is very dissatisfying and defeating to be involved on a team where each person comparing self to others and keeping score, is jealous of the achievements of others and selfishly stands in the way of others desires. It is often not possible to fulfill every dream or goal that you have. The circumstances of any given season of life may stand in the way. Even so, it breathes life into a relationship and engenders love and devotion when you know that your spouse is thinking, brainstorming and working with you to see when and how it is possible to take next steps toward a goal. In these relationships, you can celebrate together the victories experienced along the way. Both of you are able to celebrate individual and shared accomplishments.
8. In the marriages that not only survive but actually thrive, there is a regular effort aimed at keeping the romance alive. In these marriages, each spouse has paid enough attention to the other to learn the things that communicate “I really care about and love you!” The things that you consider romantic can vary from individual to individual and from couple to couple. Through discussions, experiences and time spent together you learn what keeps the spark alive in your relationship. Once you know what keeps the flame burning, it is vitally important to keep on doing those things. It is equally important to pay attention as to whether something is getting old and worn out and in need of a new idea.
9. Survivors in a marriage have no doubt that they have each other’s back. Both husband and wife in the relationship believe, feel and know that they are safe in the marriage when they have each other’s back. This is a process that is learned over time. It can often take time to get to know the things that cause your spouse to feel safe and the situations that create a feeling of needing to be protected. Until you really get to know each other, it is not always easy to predict what will cause your spouse to feel in need of protection.
Give your spouse time to learn what protection means to you and avoid the thought that your spouse should “just know.”
A particular situation may feel completely safe to your spouse because your spouse has had a different life experience than you have had. You also learn that even though a given situation may be “safe,” if it doesn’t “feel safe” to your spouse, it is not safe. Knowing this, it is time to do the things to let your spouse know you are there for him/her.
Good marriages rarely happen by accident; they take effort, need care and require attention. If you are not sure that your marriage is going to survive, don’t put off seeking the help you need any longer.
If you’re ready, take the next step now and call 630-333-3202 for a free 15-20 minute phone/Skype consultation. We will tell you about how our process works and you will come away from that call with the information you need to make a decision about how we can best work together.