Secrets of Succesful Marriages

Most couples will agree that a happy marriage requires an investment of time and energy. However, there are many couples who become disenchanted if their efforts don’t yield immediate results. They quickly give up, deciding marriage is too much work.

The happiest couples however, approach their relationships differently. The following secrets are what most happy couples usually do:

1. Good marriages don’t happen overnight. Most of us grew up believing that love is magical and, ultimately, beyond our control. We don’t “decide” to love – we “fall” in love. But something is asked if love’s rewards are to be sustained. First, we must pay close enough attention to a loved one to understand genuinely his or her desires. Second, we must act on that knowledge.

The quality of a relationship depends on the way two people treat each other, in good times and bad. Marriages either grow or decline and happy couples know that the vitality of their love is their own responsibility. They are active participants in the quest for lasting love.

2. Love is not easily destroyed. Almost all couples secretly fear that their relationship will stagnate and wither. Yet love rarely dies. It only seems absent because other feelings have been allowed to eclipse it.

When bad things happen in a marriage, both partners need to protect themselves. Fearing hurt and rejection, they withdraw behind masks of indifference. Couples with good marriages understand, however, that the sweetness will return after the storm. Realizing this, they survive crises that pull other marriages apart.

To put this into action, try to pause during a marital disagreement and remember what you felt for your partner at the beginning of your relationship. Let your love override the negative feelings of the moment.

3. Marriage is not a cure-all. The rewards of marriage are so highly praised that people come to believe it is the antidote to heal old wounds. But marriage is not a solution to personal problems. No matter how close your marriage, you and your spouse are individuals before you are a couple. We alone must take responsibility for our feelings of self-worth.

The happiest couples know that for a marriage to last, both partners must first learn to love themselves. Otherwise, they will never feel worthy of another’s love.

4. Love is acceptance. Too often we believe that love gives us license to remake someone. We try to smooth out our partner’s rough spots, even though in the process we may diminish the qualities that endear that person to us.

It won’t work. Even when a mate seems compliant, he or she will unconsciously resist the pressure to change or conform. Certainly, problems should be negotiated if they are making life intolerable. But it may be worthwhile to reconsider the phrase “for better or worse”. It’s in the wedding ceremony to remind us that we all have shortcomings.

Truly happy couples understand that love means accepting a mate’s flaws. They know that a person’s desire to change grows out of a sense of being accepted as he or she is.

5. Lovers are not mind-readers. One of the fantasies of love is that a mate is somehow tuned to our innermost thoughts and dreams. When a spouse fails to anticipate these, we feel disappointed, or even betrayed. But it is simply not reasonable to expect a mate to guess what’s on our minds. Those who feel understood by their partners know that, ultimately, we are responsible for making ourselves known. When you tell your spouse what you need and he or she responds to that request, that is a genuine indication of love.

6. The best relationships are always changing. Most of us believe that a solid relationship never alters. The truth is, marital relationships inevitably change, just as individuals do. Couples who encounter the most difficulties are those who stubbornly resist change for fear that their love may not be strong enough to survive.

Couples in enduring relationships have the flexibility to greet change with acceptance and a positive attitude. It is important to believe that the love between you and your mate is strong enough, and the trust great enough to allow each other respect and room to grow.

7. Infidelity poisons love. “What my spouse doesn’t know can’t hurt” is a flimsy rationale for an affair. Even if it doesn’t lead to separation, an affair can permanently damage a bond of love because it is a basic violation of the marital commitment.

When we respect our marriage vows, we feel comfortable with ourselves. We don’t have to worry about covering our tracks. But when we act dishonestly, we secretly know it and feel devoid of character. And we cannot love another if we do not love ourselves.

8. Love doesn’t blame. Before we marry, most of us take life’s lumps in our stride. If things go well, we feel it is because we made the right choices. When they don’t we understand that this, too, is the result of our own actions.

Then we marry. If we are not careful, we begin making our partner the focus of blame: “If I’m unhappy, it’s because of you”.

Marriage partners are, unfortunately, the most convenient scapegoats. It’s easier to find fault with what he or she is doing than to examine how we have created our own unhappiness. Such blame is not only unjust but self-defeating, for it reinforces a sense of personal passivity.

Don’t allow yourself to fall into the trap of blaming. Assume a more affirmative posture in your marriage – and in life. The more responsibility you assume for the quality of your life, the happier you – and your partner – become.

9. Love is unselfish. While mature love requires a balance between giving and receiving, spontaneous unselfishness is the essence of love.

Real love asks that we put our own needs on hold and respond to our mate’s not endlessly, not unilaterally, but often. In fact, we feel more “in love” when giving to a partner than when receiving.

Giving is contagious. It encourages reciprocity. A word of caution, however: don’t give to get, for that is unloving. Neither should you give unendingly to a spouse who takes advantage of your loving intentions. The happiest marriages are those in which both partners give 100 percent – and receive 100 percent in return.

10. Love forgives. All couples hurt and disappoint each other at times. One of two things then happens: either we forgive or we slowly accumulate resentment. For love to last, we must be able to forgive. Simply shelving our feelings, or putting them out of mind, is not forgiveness. Nor is explaining away the other person’s behaviour. Forgiving is a genuine, voluntary release of anger and hurt. And it is necessary in order for a relationship to flourish again.

The most important rule of love is this: towards both your partner and yourself, behave only in ways that enhance your own self-worth, dignity and integrity. When you feel good about yourself, you possess the confidence and personal contentment necessary for love to remain truly alive.

Readers Digest, 1988, Connell Cowan and Melvyn Kinder

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