Today, we hear a great deal about how marriages are falling apart. Many people have become resigned and cynical, convinced that their marriage can’t be tolerable. Most people never dream that their relationship with their spouse can be incredible beyond belief.
But it is possible. My husband and I have been married for more than twelve years. Once we began learning about how to create a great marriage, it has gotten better and better everyday. We’re not self-help nuts. We are simply two people who love one another who found really, really great marriage advice.
There were three things that we learned early that helped immensely:
Key to Building a Powerful Partnership #1: Be Responsible for Your Mood – Often, when we’re in a bad mood, or we’re worried about something, it is easy to dump all of our frustration and anger on our spouse. It takes some presence of mind and discipline to handle these situations well, but it is well worth the effort.
When you find yourself in a foul mood, simply say to your spouse, “I’m in a bad mood. This has nothing to do with you, and I will try not to direct it at you.” This allows your spouse to go on about his or her day without feeling either 1) obligated to make you feel better—which never works anyway, or 2) guilty for causing your bad mood—which is usually not their fault.
Saying those simple words creates a level of self-respect, announcing to ourselves and our spouse that we’re responsible for the daily ups and downs of our moods. Also, it helps us to avoid making assumptions about one another that create problems of their own. The best way to handle a problem is to never start one in the first place. Begin by saying the simple words above and see what miracles occur in your relationship.
Key to Building a Powerful Partnership #2: Make An Effort to Support Your Spouse the Way He or She Would Like to Be Supported – Most of us try to help out our spouses in the exact wrong way. I used to offer a lot of encouragement to my husband. But it never seemed to make any difference. He remained uninspired, and I got frustrated.
When I read this piece of wisdom, however, I actually asked him how I could best support him. He told me that he’d love good home-cooked meals and he’d love to spend time with me. What a surprise that was to me. So I started supporting him how he wanted to be supported and I scheduled time for us to spend time together. He felt taken care of and I felt appreciated. It was wonderful.
Key to Building a Powerful Partnership #3: Learn to Handle Disagreements – This is my favorite key, for it gives us the framework for handling tough situations. Disagreements will arise, that is the nature of being married. Following these rules will help any couple get through an argument:
a. Define the Problem and Ask, Immediately, “Is one of us just picking a fight?”– Actually do this. Sometimes, this will be the end of the argument, for some arguments are not really about anything except one spouse picking a fight. But the spouse who is picking a fight needs to be honest about it. This can take practice and more than a little humility. If your spouse admits to picking a fight, don’t say, “I told you so.” Show them some respect for having been honest.
b. Each Spouse Gets a Turn at Saying what They Need to Way about the Matter Without Interruption – This gives each person an opportunity to shed some baggage. This is needed in order to find a solution. But stop yourselves from going on and on, emoting about how upset you are.
c. Each Spouse Comes up with a Solution – Make these reasonable and not irrational solutions. After you’ve both offered one, then you can brainstorm on the solution. Usually, you’ll come up with one together that is really good.