I know… there’s probably a joker out there saying, “Don’t get married in the first place!” But actually I read an article with this same title with the hope that someone really figured out this mysterious secret. Sadly, I found that article unhelpful since it was only a bitter woman’s opinion about not marrying your best friend and THAT would prevent divorce. I disagree completely. Having been in a 17-year relationship and now on the other side of the Divorce Fence, I can honestly say there is no one magical formula to prevent divorce. Even if you do absolutely everything you can, divorce still can happen. Why? Because marriage contains TWO people with different thoughts, emotions, feelings, desires, philosophies, etc. It’s great when you are both on the same page and when you are not it can feel like you are living with an alien who took control over your partners body.
Many couples heading for divorce head for help via Marriage Counselors, their religious leaders, Social Workers, Psychologists, etc. And if you read online (so it must be true) that seeking help from an outside source is rarely helpful. I was so disheartened when I read this thinking… are we all doomed for divorce in our society nowadays? But the answer is NO! I realized they were basing the success rate as “marriages saved”. Marriage does not equal success, and Divorce does not equal failure. I would say that success should be based on both people finding happiness – which may mean marriage or divorce.
Since no one goes into a marriage thinking they will divorce, here are some things I think may be helpful for a good start to a good marriage:
Marry for the “Right” Reasons in the First Place: Everyone is unique in what they desire in a spouse. However, some are so desperate to be rescued from their Single status, Finances, Loneliness, Awful Home Situations, etc. that they overlook some major attributes that become disastrous later on. Many of us are SOOOO in love in the beginning and SOOOOO happy we found a friend, a lover, that someone special to spend the rest our life with that we forget what can be truly important and even good for us.
It is important to understand why you married your spouse. What is important to you? What is important to them? Do you even know what’s important to you after 20 years of marriage? If your only answer is “They were so cute 20 years ago!” Then yes, looks are important to you, and that’s fine. But there are other things that could also be important to you going through life with this person such as… they are reliable, honorable, caring, considerate, kind, generous, affectionate, financially stable, ambitious, attentive… and well, you get the idea.
Accept Them 100%: Find someone that you accept EVERYTHING about them and I mean truly accept the good and the bad. You can’t think, “Well, that [fill in the blank] is okay for now but I’m sure I can make them come around to my way of thinking eventually.” That strategy never works! You cannot change someone unless they want to change and if you want them to change, then you truly do not accept them for who they really are. If you can’t accept someone 100%, then you are better off releasing them to find someone else who will – because it is not fair to either of you. What were they like while you were dating? If there were negative attributes before, don’t expect things to be different just because you have a marriage certificate.
Self Awareness: We all get so caught up in our day-to-day, that life can pass us by quickly if we are not careful. Just yesterday you were getting married and suddenly it’s 20 years later and have no idea why you are unhappy. It seems like this unhappiness came out of the blue, when in reality it was happening slowly over time but you were too busy with life to notice it. As an adult there are so many things to think about that keep us occupied like the career, family, money, place to live, health, ambitions, etc. It’s important to take an inventory of your life/marriage to see where it is vs where you want it to be. I heard it best said like this . . .
Disagree Kindly: When you disagree with your partner, try to remember this is the person you fell in love with and they deserve respect/kindness (even if they are not showing you any at the moment). This does not mean to say you should lie down and be a doormat! Try and find a resolution calmly. If you both can’t be calm, you have to reschedule that um…conversation until both of you can be calm and RECEPTIVE to what the other person is saying. If you are only interested in screaming your opinion, that probably will not do much to sway the other person nor find a resolution any time soon.
Now this is by no means the only things that would help. There are millions of books, seminars, courses, and other resources that are definitely helpful. Some additional tips submitted by my mother and grandmother:
- "At the start of your relationship, don't do any behavior you are not willing to do for the rest of your life."
- "Take your marriage day by day and EVERY day is important!"
To illustrate some of my points above, I am reminded of the ending of the 1959 movie “Some Like It Hot”. This funny movie is about two guys who dress up like women and join a ladies band to escape the mob. There is this rich old man (Osgood) who wants to marry one of these "women" and well see what happens when "she" tries to talk him out of it....
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