We often enter marriage with stars in our eyes about the institution of marriage and our prospective partner putting them on a pedestal that will become shakier as we live together and get to know them better. Society fills us with unreasonable expectations. We expect, for example, that once we are married we will live ‘happily ever after’ and our life will be filled only with good things and happiness because our partner will make it all happen. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all less than perfect and everyone, male and female, has their own idiosyncrasies and their own baggage and ingrained belief systems which they bring to the marriage. These things may not have been noticed before marriage because each of you was concentrating only on the good side and positives in each other. You were kind and thoughtful and respectful of each other’s needs.
Do you really think that you can be compatible with your partner in every facet of your life together? If so, you have unrealistic expectations. On the other hand, don’t assume you are incompatible just because you can’t agree on everything. Everyone has a different upbringing; you may come from different communities, even different countries, and your belief systems will reflect that. Although it may seem obvious, men and women think and act differently. When a husband comes home from work, the wife may want to discuss at length the day’s happenings. Men, on the other hand don’t usually say much about their problems. So understanding is necessary and in this instance the wife may need to be quiet for a while and allow time for her husband to relax. He will share when he is ready.
There are many other pressures which add to the difficulties in marriage such as financial stresses and time constraints as well as changing expectations in a rapidly shifting social culture. More than ever before, romance is not enough to build a strong, stable and mutually happy marriage; it takes commitment and hard work and a preparedness to take responsibility for each other’s needs. Many couples are completely unprepared to deal with marriage pressures and have no idea why problems emerge. They become disappointed and overwhelmed by the differences that arise and lose trust in themselves and their mate.
There will be marriage difficulties and they will usually come from a difference of opinion. The smallest things can cause irritation such as a preference for different toothpaste or the way the toilet paper is put on the roll. Perhaps one partner likes everything in its place and hates the fact that the other partner leaves their clothes on the floor. All these small matters need to be talked about and an understanding reached that leaves both of you happy.
Too often, however, one or other partner lets these little things build up inside until another small difference of opinion tips them over the edge and they begin arguing. Soon the relationship becomes more and more difficult and openly discussing the matters that cause irritations becomes less and less possible and a very difficult relationship has begun unless both are prepared to step down from their high egodriven horse and communicate with each other.
It is important to accept that all marriages have problems at various times and it is easier to deal with these problems as soon as you become aware of them for they form part of the fabric of two lives becoming one. Unresolved anger or other personal issues should not be allowed to fester for they will grow in your mind and will eventually erode your marriage. Don’t let differences come between you; rather, discuss them openly and you will probably find they were petty and not worth worrying about. Perceptions can be dangerously wrong and you can get what you perceive. You may, therefore, have to challenge your thoughts. Remember, a vulture looks for dead things and a hummingbird looks for life – and they both find what they are looking for! Difficulties are a normal phase in a marriage and the sooner they are talked over and a solution found, the sooner you will both grow into a solid and happy life together. Marriage is never an easy option; it is for those people who are willing to commit their life to being a ‘giver’ and to making a relationship work, no matter what.
Difficulties will grow out of all proportion if both parties blame each other for their problems. Blame and finger pointing will not solve difficulties they will only ignite arguments where each one wants the final say. This can lead to a yelling match and even physical fighting where you hurt more than just pride. By this time things are out of hand and both people would be quite irrational and emotional. Wherever there is an argument, both parties will always think they are right so no solution can be found in that area. At this stage both parties need to wait until their anger has subsided so they can think rationally and try to resolve the conflict. If the reason for the argument is petty, both of you should be able to let it go and get on with life.
Don’t allow pride to come between you and don’t always insist on having the final say; it can wreck a perfectly good marriage. Instead, put love first, calm down and try to see the other person’s point of view. The hardest word for people to say is “sorry”. Even if you still think you were right, be prepared to say “I am sorry”. Real love and an apology will pour balm on deep wounds. Even if the other person is taking longer to get over the argument, give them time and space and continue to love them.
Crises are unavoidable in marriage; they are all part of the expansions and contractions of life. It is how you handle each crisis that is important and that will depend on your attitude. Each crisis should be worked through step by step by two people working together, discussing what should be done and by putting solutions into action.
The first action to take is to pinpoint the problem so you know exactly what you are dealing with. When and how did your unhappiness begin? What was the cause?
Secondly, don’t blame the other person. If you think your mate is making you unhappy, take another look at your own attitude first. Perhaps you are making demands and have expectations which the other person cannot fulfil. Your happiness or unhappiness come from yourself and you may be the one who needs to make changes.
Thirdly, work on finding a solution to the problem. That means communicating with each other by listening to the other person as well as opening up about your concerns. Try to find common ground so that you can commit to take action and both work on the solution together. If the problem appears too big for both of you, then you should seek professional help. Remember to keep in mind that every crisis brings the opportunity for learning new things and for bringing positive personal growth.
A good marriage can be built up by spending quality time with each other without interruptions. Without meaning to, children can sometimes take precedence over your spouse. Although they are your responsibility as well, try to give priority to your partner. Interact during your quiet times together by talking about your lives, including the high times and the low times. Use these times to come closer to one another and bring warmth, love and respect into your relationship.
One of the most common difficulties that couples face is about finances. It is a sensitive area and financial problems, not always of your making, can creep up on you. The correct structuring of finances should be agreed to early in marriage so lay out everything before you and agree how money should be budgeted. It is also wise to agree on large items you wish to buy. For example when buying a lounge suite, you may have differing views on what to buy. Be prepared to forego the lounge suite you like and they hate and wait until you find something you both like. You will then have a home that reflects the tastes of both of you.
For a happy and fulfilled marriage, treat your partner as you did before you married and don’t make the mistake of taking each other for granted. Show the same consideration for each other that you would show to a friend or work colleague. You would not dare speak to them rudely just because you are irritable. You would be careful what you said and how you said it so you would not upset them. Your attitude should not change, therefore, when you walk into your home and close the door behind you. If you speak to your spouse in a disparaging manner you are taking advantage of the familiarity which is part of your intimate relationship. We all get annoyed at some time and say things we didn’t mean to those we hold most dear. Be prepared to immediately apologise and try to be more careful what you say in the future. Words reflect what is in your heart and if you really love someone you would not want to upset or hurt them. Instead be thoughtful and attentive to the person you love.
Complacency can be dangerous so make an effort to cultivate a good relationship. Marriage takes work and mental flexibility from both of you. It is a vibrant, living relationship of two separate individuals becoming one entity over time. The following points are worth remembering:
Make major decisions together. There will be much more harmony in the family if everyone feels they have a part in the decision-making process.
Show affection and appreciation to your spouse and be kind, gentle and loving. Never take them for granted but remember their good points and your reasons for marrying them in the first place.
Do not keep raising the problems that happened in the past. This often happens in arguments and only serves to inflame the situation.
Be prepared to admit your mistakes and if the other person makes mistakes, forgive them quickly.
Always communicate with each other. It is important to understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. This way you can deal with problems early and honestly.
Keep your expectations realistic. You are not part of a Hollywood film but flesh and blood individuals with strengths and weaknesses which need understanding and acceptance.
Keep trust, confidence and warm companionship in your relationship and you will keep your marriage secure.
A good marriage requires a “So what” attitude. You will have difficulties – “So what” everyone has difficulties. It is the way you handle those difficulties that will make a marriage fail or succeed. You can decide that you are always right and demand to have everything you own way, or you can treat your spouse the way you would like to be treated and work toward a marriage that is based on love and respect, kindness and thoughtfulness, understanding and forgiveness, patience and love. A marriage with all these ingredients will establish a strong emotional connection with each other and build a lasting and happy relationship.