Making Your Marriage Last
Part 1 - How to Communicate
Will my marriage last? That is a question you may have asked yourself. During the first few years of my marriage I asked myself that very question, not because I wasn’t committed to my marriage, but because there were so many outside influences that had potential to foul things up for us. We got married young. I was 21 and he was 23. We were high school sweethearts, with an off-and-on relationship for about a year. We got back together after high school and after a year he proposed. After a year-long engagement, we got married in the church I had attended when I was younger. Neither of us had gone to church in years, but it was important to us that we get married in a church. The reverend didn’t really remember me. I was surprised that he didn’t require us to have any sort of pre-marital counseling. As a matter of fact, I really do not recall even talking about all the important things that two people planning a life together should talk about. I knew we needed a place to live, so while we were planning the wedding, we simultaneously looked for a house. I had an ideal image in my head of the way things should be. I knew that I didn’t want to start off paying rent, that we needed to buy a little house to start off in. I thought the financial commitment that we were making together was important toward the longevity of our relationship. We went from living with our parents to moving in with each other. Was that the right thing to do? I know most couples these days don’t do it that way. Most prefer to grow individually before getting married. Most prefer to establish themselves in their career before getting married. I don’t think there is a right way or wrong way to do it. I think it has more to do with your mindset before you get married, as well as, of course, during. Divorce never was something I considered, not due to religious beliefs, but because I knew I loved this man that much. I knew that, no matter what, I would always love him. Yes, of course there have been times when I didn’t want to even look at his face and contemplated smothering him with a pillow while he slept. Just kidding, of course. But, you know what I mean. My husband is not the best communicator. He isn’t verbally expressive. I knew he loved me because he said so and because he was looking at houses, planning our wedding, etc. It was more the way we looked at each other. I think we could sort of see ourselves in each other's eyes. Not trying to make this mushy, but it was just a feeling that we had found our someone.
We had so much to learn about how to make a marriage work. I will give you my secret recipe to a happy marriage, but first you need to know a little more about me.
We have been married OVER 30 YEARS. We both went into marriage KNOWING we would always be together. Yes, knowing... not hoping... definitely knowing. However, all of our friends were young, single, and going out on the weekends to the clubs. We enjoyed going out dancing, too. But, eventually, the desire to go out on Friday and Saturday nights wore off for me and was replaced by the desire to do landscaping, paint a room in our house, or re-tile a bathroom. We had purchased a two bedroom house and moved into it four months before we got married.
So, what did we need to figure out as a young couple? What was vital to our success in keeping our marriage intact? I’m going to tell you right now.
- We needed to create rules for how we were going to handle disagreements. Nobody was allowed to leave angry. If you got mad, you could go for a walk around the block, go to the backyard, or go to a different room. But, you couldn’t drive off somewhere angry.
- You ALWAYS slept at home. You NEVER stay at a friend’s house if you’ve been arguing. I prefer to think of arguments as “spirited debates.”
- Remember that the purpose of a spirited debate is not to “win,” but to come to a resolution or compromise. You MUST be flexible and reasonable. You must be able to let him/her sometimes “be right,” even when you think they’re wrong.
- It’s imperative that you learn ways to deescalate when there’s a problem. I am going to tell you a method I have used for many, many years. I learned it from my mother when I was in my early 20’s. It works in every situation, when someone is upset and you are trying to calm them down or even just find middle ground during a tense conversation. I use this method almost daily and in all relationships. This method is used in marriage, between parents and their children, between co-workers, and even between adult siblings. It is a successful method to be used in EVERY relationship. Be sure to read my “CLEAR METHOD” below.
- Think positively about your spouse. Be in awe of your spouse. Think about your spouse as if he/she is worth... well, EVERYTHING! When you truly feel honored to have this person as your forever, they will feel the same about you.
- When you are newly married, remember that you are setting the standard for how your marriage is going to be with every day that passes. If there is something that you absolutely will not have or allow, it’s vital to deal with that immediately. I don’t want this to sound bad and I’m sorry if it makes anyone upset... but, ladies, you have only two to three years of what I call “training time.” Understand that you are learning how you need to change, too.
Yes, your marriage absolutely will last forever if you nurture it and have the right mindset.
Okay, here is my “CLEAR METHOD”....
When you’re caught in the middle of a heated debate, or you walk into a room at work where someone is upset (or irate), take a deep breath, slow your speed, lower your volume, and use this method:
C = call the person by name (use their first name if it’s a family member or Mrs. Smith if it’s business related). Say “Bob...”
L = Listen.... the person needs you to hear them. That’s why he/she is getting loud... They think you aren’t hearing or understand their point. Say “tell me what’s making you upset.”
Then, shut up and listen.
E = Empathize... they need to hear you say, “I heard what you said and I understand how that could make you upset. Your feelings are valid.”
A = Ask Questions to make sure you understand what’s making them upset/angry. Say this.... “it sound like you’re saying xgdsrtyhbb and that jbvfyyuuhd, and that kjitfdhuuh. Is this right?” If they correct you or add more explanation, repeat back to them what you heard them say. “Okay, so you’re saying dhbiuddguiuhbjddrh, right?” When they say “yes, that’s what I’m trying to say,” you’ve now acknowledged that you’ve heard them. They no longer have a reason to raise their voice. People get loud because they think the other side isn’t listening... because, after all, if you could only hear them, you’d agree, right? You’ve now communicated that you heard them.
R = Resolve. This is where you can either change your thinking and confirm that you agree. Or, lead them to your way of thinking by asking more questions... “have you considered hvffhjirsfhbbb? I understand how you see it, but have you considered sgtijbjjhgk?” Or, “we can agree to disagree.”
Okay, so now you have an excellent tool you can’t start implementing today. Your mission: use the clear method five times over the next week. You will notice that you’ll get better at using it with practice. I have so many useful tips and methods that can be helpful in relationships. I will write Part 2 next week (which will include your next mission).
Until then, be clear about what you want. Have a lovely day.