Marriage is probably the biggest commitment many of us will make in our entire lives and whilst we will enter into this bond with the utmost determination to make it succeed for life, we’ll also be only too aware of the divorce statistics and will appreciate the fact that whilst marriage brings with it excitement and expectations, it can also bring fears as we know from others’ experience that keeping a marriage alive is not a simple task nor does it come as naturally to some as it seems to do for others.
Why do our Feelings Change Over Time?
We must accept that life changes and evolves over time and so, we ourselves, have to evolve too if we are to experience personal growth, then it results that our feelings towards our husband or wife will also change. That does not in any way mean that it’s inevitable that our feelings towards our spouse will diminish. In fact, many successful couples only feel even stronger towards their spouse even if their feelings differ in the type of intensity they feel from when they first met.
Those that have fallen in love will recall the early days of romance when hearts kept missing a beat and thinking about a new relationship seemed to consume every minute of our waking hours. This ‘honeymoon period’ naturally comes to an end, however, and is usually replaced with a feeling of a deeply, satisfying relationship over time.
For many successful couples, their marriages remain a vital part of their reasons for living and, nurtured, cared for and allowed to flourish, can remain intimate and exciting right throughout both partners lives until ‘death do us part’.
Unfortunately, however, the divorce statistics are a stark reminder that a commitment to marriage for life is no guarantee that it won’t ultimately fail.
So What Goes Wrong?
There are unlimited reasons why a marriage fails. Things like adultery are just the result of the symptoms that lead up to it. A lot of the time couples simply drift apart as they get older. And, once that happens, they begin to look at alternative sources in order to fulfil their emotional needs.
Partners who get consumed by passion in the early stages of courtship then marriage often find that their common interests, personal goals, values and outlook on life are, in fact, completely mismatched and at odds with where both partners see themselves heading. Hence, demands, priorities, desires and expectations change on both sides and unless there is give and take on both sides and both partners see the need to make adjustments to accommodate these changes, that’s when the problems begin to set in. Money issues and health matters can also have serious implications on the ability to sustain a healthy marriage.
So How Can We Try to Keep a Marriage Alive and Fresh?
Whilst this is going to be different for each couple due to their own individual make-up, keeping a marriage alive and fresh is something that has to be worked at on both sides and couples both have to take an impartial look at the interaction they have with each other and mutually agree to take some positive actions towards improving any areas of their relationship which they’ve identified as problem areas.
Some of the most common problems include assuming how our spouse is going to react to a situation. Over time, relationships often settle into some element of routine but it’s important to both be comfortable with a routine and not to assume that what worked 5 or 10 years ago holds true now so it’s important to find time to communicate with one and other. It’s also important to change routines and to try out new things together. For example, often couples will have separate hobbies and interests and it’s often useful for the other partner to have a go at doing something which the other one feels passionate about in order to get to know more about why this particular interest is held dearly by them. Understanding a partner’s passions about their interests in life are often the key to unlocking their soul and understanding them better.
Choose to listen to your spouse and don’t pre-empt your response. Communication is a two way thing so be attentive when listening as well as when speaking and be open and honest when communicating with each other. Disagreements and differences of opinion are natural and help us grow spiritually. It’s often when we opt to remain quiet “in order to lead a quiet life” that problems get out of control.
Be willing to say, “Let’s do it your way”. Often, one partner will force the lead on the other in the decision making or the less dominant one will simply let the other make all the decisions. However, over time that can cause resentment so it’s important that both partners take the lead now and again.
Just The Two of You
Although it’s good to have our own individual hobbies and our own friends for some of the time, it’s good to try to also have hobbies and interests that you can both pursue together. It’s often said that men prefer doing things together whilst women place more emphasis on talking together and, whether that’s true or not, try to combine both talking and doing in an activity that can be enjoyed by both of you. In other words, be close friends as well as close lovers. Friendship is the bedrock for any successful marriage.
Make time for just the two of you. When you were single you would arrange to go out on a date. Well, even though other commitments such as children and work may tend to squeeze you out of finding time for anything else, it’s important to remember to find the time for just the two of you to, perhaps, go out to dinner or to simply just be together enjoying each other’s company without the distraction of other commitments and obligations getting in the way.
Romance isn’t Dead
Romance doesn’t die just because you get older so writing silly love poems, leaving little kind notes, buying little presents as tokens of appreciation and simply saying ‘I Love You’ now and again needn’t be lost to the passage of time and can really help to keep a marriage alive.
Be kind, encouraging and supportive to your partner. Even when times get really tough, view it once again as an obstacle that’s been put in the way to make you both stronger and hold a determination and commitment to the vows that you made on your wedding day and that you’re in this together for the long haul, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer” etc.
Whilst divorce is never going to go away, it would be interesting to see just how many marriages would have been saved if couples had invested a bit more of their time and effort towards trying to make their marriage work as opposed to letting boredom and routine set in until they had left themselves no option but to get out.
What is certain, however, is that marriage can be the best thing any of us will ever experience in life if we realise that it takes hard work and effort as well as mutual love, trust and respect to make it a success and that we are prepared to work at that throughout our entire lives.