In the United States, nearly 300,000 couples get married every month, and there are 2.4 million formal weddings every year. The institution of marriage is alive and well. The caveat is that nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. So nearly half of the couples that promise to remain together no matter what break that promise at some point during their relationship. Marriage is difficult, in fact, it’s just plain hard. Staying committed to one person for the rest of your life may seem impossible at some points in the relationship, but the effects of staying committed to your spouse make it worth it. Marriage is associated with a number of important health benefits. Married adults are happier and healthier, live longer, and have lower rates of a variety of mental health concerns than do adults without committed partners. If that is the case, how can you make your marriage not just work, but thrive?
Make Time, Quality Time
If you don’t set aside time to spend with your spouse and connect, then there is no way to create intimacy in your marriage. Without connection and intimacy, you are bound for excessive conflict and misery within the relationship. The person that you chose to marry has a life independent of yours and experiences a whole different set of thoughts and feelings than you do. It takes effort to make time to connect, but it is worth it. They want to share those thoughts and feelings with you, whether it is conscious or not, and we all want to be known and loved by our partners. Whether you have one night a week that you go out for dinner, or you pick up an activity together, the consequence of having quality time together is invaluable. With the 10,000 things that we have going on every day it is hard, but spending time to invest in your relationship is far more valuable than crossing ten things off of your to-do list.
Do Conflict Well
Research shows that, among newlyweds, the frequency of arguments about in-laws is exceeded only by the frequency of disagreements about financial matters. Although in-laws and financial matters can be hot-button issues, they aren’t the only ones. Arguments and conflict will happen. The important thing is that conflict is done well. The more that hurtful remarks are made and issues are “swept under the rug” the more difficult it becomes to resolve conflicts and create intimacy in your marriage. The goal isn’t to get rid of conflict, because I don’t know that it’s possible. Instead, the goal is to approach conflict with patience and generosity. Getting there isn’t easy, but the road is well worth the travel.
If you want your marriage to last, it takes an incredibly large amount of commitment. A commitment which perseveres through the thick and the thin. There will be several days full of tears. Some of those days the tears will be from laughter, and others will be from sadness. Regardless, it is helpful to remember that you made a commitment to your spouse. That commitment leads to a love that runs deeper than the feelings you had when you first met. You will have days where you don’t like your spouse, you will question your love and commitment, and might even grow eager to have a life with less conflict and more simplicity. Commitment is a choice. It is a choice to grow together and not away from one another. It is a choice to listen to what your spouse has to say, work through your pain and hurt, or simply go to the movie they have wanted to see that isn’t at the top of your list. That choice, as difficult as it sometimes can be, moves you closer to the person you chose to be with, for better or for worse.
The effects of a healthy marriage far outweigh getting a promotion or making enough to get that beach house. Take time, work through conflict, and commit. If you get stuck, then reach out for help. Some problems are too difficult to deal with on our own and getting help is okay. Reach out to your friends for support, pastor for spiritual guidance, or counselor for relationship guidance and emotional healing. Your relationship will have ups and downs, but sticking with it will bring unexpected joy, some of the deepest love you will ever know, and a lasting friendship.
I want to add that these tips for making a marriage last are all within the confines of a relationship without abuse. If you are physically or sexually abused, separate from your partner immediately. Staying with a partner who is abusing not only keeps you from moving forward, but it is also enabling to the partner who is committing the abuse to continue hurting people. For help with protecting yourself from an abuser call local authorities or 911.