There is nothing like having a thriving marriage. When things are going well, you can feel like you are the happiest person in the room.
However, when an emotional wall starts to form between you and your partner, this can make you feel like you are dying a slow and miserable death. You could be sleeping next to someone every night, and yet feel lonely and confused. And this feeling is disheartening.
Or, you could think things are going great when your spouse can't stand the sight of you. In either case, this is not how you envisioned your marriage, and if things don't change, you could be heading towards disaster.
Not Striving for 100% Honesty
Communication is key to having a successful marriage. But
Many of us have experienced situations where we thought both of us were on the same page, but there were unspoken thoughts that were not brought up.
When we continuously say or do things that our partner wants, but those actions don't reflect our inner thoughts, we are increasing the chances of becoming resentful towards our significant other.
I'm not saying we should never compromise or never do anything we don't want to do. The issue is when we shield our true feelings from our spouse to either make peace or to satisfy our partner.
You can disagree and do something you don't want to do, and still be honest with your spouse. Doing this does the following:
- It communicates with our spouse about what we are thinking. This may or may not change the conversation, but it gets the information out into the open.
- Having your spouse see you are willing to do something you don't want to do, shows them that you care about their opinions and desires.
It's Hard to Listen When You Only Hear Yourself
If you only care about what you want, marriage is going to be difficult. Or you are going to push your spouse into a dangerous space where they can't be themselves around you and say “yes” to everything you want to satisfy the monster.
Your opinion needs to have equal weight compared to your spouse's opinion.
When we don't listen, we also may not realize that we both are saying the same thing in different ways, which can cause confusion and frustration. There is nothing like having a heated debate, only to realize both of you were saying the same thing!
And it is not just about hearing the words coming out of your partner's mouth. It is about them knowing their opinion matters just as much as yours.
Don't Be Overbearing
No one likes to be taken advantage of or used. Some of us might be more timid, or married to someone who is more “aggressive.” In either case, this should not make it okay for the other party to walk over their marriage partner.
Part of it involves the words we use and the tone of our voice during conversations.
When I get stressed, I tend to raise my voice. I'm learning that even a slight change in the tone of my voice can make Andrea feel like she can't open up or be honest in that conversation. In the past, this has caused her to shield her internal thoughts, and it has hurt our marriage.
Be Kind and Gracious
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.Jesus
Many of us have heard of the golden rule. And yet, sometimes we forget one of the most important times to implement this rule is in our marriage. And it isn't like this concept is “hard” to implement.
I think some of us are so used to getting what we want, that we have a hard time putting others before ourselves. If Andrea, my wife, constantly feels like I'm always getting what I want, she will tend to separate from me emotionally.
But when Andrea feels like I'm looking out for her best interest, this does the following:
- I earn more of her trust since she knows I'm also thinking about her
- Discussions and disagreements become less contentious, as we both know we are keeping each other in mind and are not only thinking about ourselves.
- It is easier to come up with solutions that make both of us happy since everything is not focused on ME
And maybe we are in a conversation, where we know we have the right answer. The words we use and how they are said can be just as important as what we are trying to say. The result can be having your partner agree with what you are saying, or storm out of the room in anger or frustration.
Don't Be as Flexible as a Rock
When we think we have all the right answers all the time, we start talking like we are giving advice and knowledge, instead of having a discussion.
This becomes the difference in talking AT someone, compared to having an adult conversation.
This problem starts in how we approach the conversation. If we go into the discussion with the idea there is no chance we could be wrong, that is going to change our tone. And chances are, even if we are right, we are going to make our life partner feel like shit.
Is our goal to make the person we love feel stupid? What exactly is that going to accomplished?
Your marriage partner might start feeling like you look down at them. “Do they think I'm stupid?” is a question that might come to their minds.
Whether you are right or wrong, the goal should not be to disprove your spouse. The goal should be coming to what is best for both of you. If your partner feels like you only care about yourself, this is a recipe for disaster in your marriage.
Consider Marriage Counseling
Counseling has gotten a bad rap in our culture. It's as if any weakness in our marriage or our lives reflect on who we are as a person.
But there is no shame in realizing there is a divide between you and your marriage partner that you are struggling to work through on your own. Marriage counseling can help resolve communication issues that might be impossible to overcome by yourself. They can help bring you to a place where you both are happy and working towards your dreams.
And sometimes this means involving a third party that might not be a marriage counselor. Just be careful involving friends, as they can be biased if they are closer to one marriage partner more than the other.
It's All About the Future
If you and your spouse are not excited about your future together, this might hint at a much larger problem. Or maybe you aren't spending enough time thinking about what each of you want in the future.
Talking with Andrea about our hopes and dreams for our financial future has made both of us excited about pursuing the future we both want. We talk about having more time to travel, and not having to deal with the normal stress we encounter with our day jobs. We also talk about how excited we are to do things with our adult children and our grandkids.
If you haven't sat down with your life partner and started creating a list in how you want your future to look, I encourage you to set aside focused time (without kids) to do this. Andrea and I try to do this regularly, and there hasn't been a time where both of us haven't left filled with joy and excitement.
If your marriage partner stays home to take care of the kids while you work, they most likely have the hardest job.
Being a stay at home parent can be tough for many reasons. Some people can thrive in that role more than others, but it takes a different mentality to avoid going crazy.
- Taking care of young children all day long is tough
- It seems like the tasks you do at home don't have as much value as bringing home a paycheck and are often under-appreciated
- The monotony of day-to-day tasks can get to your head
- Especially with young children, it can be hard to find time for yourself
I do think it is a blessing to be able to spend extra time with your kids at home while they are young. But it should not be used as an excuse to not help out around the house if you are the spouse that goes to work.
If the value of your spouse revolves around how much money they make, you are an asshole.
Making more money can provide more options, but it should not be used to determine your value in the partnership. Just because you bring in more money, doesn't mean you should have more power with
Often each spouse handles things in the marriage that aren't directly tied to money. Are these tasks in maintaining a household worth less than going to a job? Absolutely not! In fact, these types of tasks can be harder because they are more monotonous.
Clash of Temperaments
Usually, the core issues surrounding money arguments are not about money. Our past experiences and our fears can shape how we look at money.
We might have grown up in an environment where money is always tight, so we develop a knee jerk reaction against cutting expenses. Or maybe it has the exact opposite effect, where we have a hard
It is important to continually be talking about money issues like this to figure out how to handle the family budget, and what your priorities as a family should be.
It might be helpful to take a money spending personality quiz to see where each of you land. This information not only can spark some great conversations, but it may also be informative in how you look at money.
Being on the Same Team
The most important thing we can do to help develop a thriving marriage (money included) is to form a bond where both marriage partners feel like they are on the same team.
But this is not something you can just “proclaim” and think it will happen on its' own. It deals with earning the trust of your spouse. This trust requires time and commitment. And once trust starts building, you will find that talking about money, and other conversations in your marriage, get a whole lot easier.
It's worth re-iterating how much honesty and trust factor into our marriage relationship.
If there are things we are intentionally keeping away from our spouse, that is usually a bad sign we are not going in a good direction. There could be reasons why we don't want to be 100% honest with our spouse, but over the long-term, these secrets tend to separate us from our marriage partner emotionally.
However, we need to make sure we aren't trying to micromanage each other either. If our partner feels like we are smothering them, we probably need to back the truck up and give them some space.
Just because you are married, doesn't mean you should have control over everything your spouse does.
I've talked about our marriage struggles in a previous article. We've been married for almost 14 years.
It is interesting to see how our marriage has changed over time. There were periods where we were emotionally distant from each other, and times where we were closer than ever. The great news is our marriage is doing better than it ever has in the past, and over the last few years, we've gotten closer.
Here are a few things we've done differently that have helped solidify our marriage bond:
- We talk more about our financial goals and how we want our future to look
- Respect and trust for each other have grown.
- We are continually thinking about how we can serve and bless each other
- When disagreements and issues come up, instead of pulling away, we tackle the problem head-on and don't let the problem fester and grow
- We laugh more and are more playful with each other
I'm not trying to paint this picture that our marriage is perfect and that we don't have disagreements, because that would be a lie. But it seems like the issues we encounter now aren't as big as they have been in the past.
Don't Get Comfortable and Lazy!
The best marriages don't just happen; they are intentional. When you love life and feel “secure” in your marriage, this is not the time to take a step back from pursuing your spouse.
When you stop dating your spouse, you can expect your emotional bond to stop growing as well.
Pursuing your spouse has all sorts of benefits.
- Better and more passionate sex!
- Stronger and deeper emotional intimacy in your marriage
- A chance to have more conversations with fewer distractions, especially if you have kids
- Creating positive memories and experiences between you and your spouse will grow your bond
My marriage is the most valuable thing I have. And I don't want to see it being de-prioritized, even if it means less money over the long-term.
Building a healthy marriage can be hard. We all have our perspectives, weaknesses, and strengths. But there is nothing more enjoyable than growing closer to my life partner. We are more in love than we have ever been, and this has made both of us happier.
We are excited to build the financial future we want to see for ourselves, and we try to support each other as much as possible. Knowing there is another person out there who has your back, even when times are tough, is life changing.
Learning to communicate and be honest with each other can help develop a strong bond in your marriage. Over time, this bond should grow. I hope my love for Andrea will be like a fine wine that gets better with more time. But it is more than just a “hope.” I want to make this a priority in my life.
If you have a significant other, what are some things you've learned about how to maintain a healthy relationship?
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