Your marriage can either succeed or fail, and millions of marriages just barely survive. But you have to decide whether you want to a 50%-marriage… or whether you want to get a distinction in marriage happiness. (more…)
The divorce rate is sky-high. Weddings are expensive. And to fight tooth and nail about the remote is not your idea of fun. Yet, people have been marrying for centuries – and it is a practice that won’t die out soon. Why not? Because marriage is still a good idea. (more…)
When asking people about their ultimate goal, they often say: “I just want to be happy…” But for many people, happiness is an elusive concept – something that they just can’t quite achieve. And only a few can honestly say that they are happy.
American motivational speaker, writer and consultant, Denis Waitley said: “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.”
Yes, sometimes you underestimate the role you play in your own gratitude. It actually has a lot less to do with your circumstances than you think, and more to do with your own experience and perception of reality. Some couples choose daily to pursue healthy, happy marriages.
Happy couples CHOOSE…
- … to intentionally work on their marriages. A good marriage doesn’t just happen, it requires hard work, self-discipline, perseverance and wise decisions. When faced with a difficult choice, they always consider their marital health and aren’t passive puppets in their love story.
- … to grow independently and together. A healthy couple knows that a marriage consists of two individuals who combine their lives. Therefore, it is important to grow together, but also to retain separate identities. They respect each other’s individuality and allow each other to have their own preferences, dislikes, friends, dreams and opinions. But they also know when it is necessary to turn to each other and grow together.
- … to live for a higher goal. Happy couples are content with their circumstances and with each other, but also realize that their purpose in life is bigger than themselves and therefore they make an impact wherever they go, in their interactions with friends, colleagues, families and children… thereby honoring God.
- … love before emotions. We are human, we have emotions and unlike our Creator, we are precarious creatures. That is what makes marriage so difficult. One day you are crazy about your partner’s sense of humor and the next day it is just not that funny. One day you feel like you are in love and the next day you just experience irritation. Love, however, is not a feeling, which is why you cannot trust your “feelings” with your marriage. You have to decide to love your partner. Time and again.
- … to not get bored. So many couples lose the spark and in the script of a Hollywood movie it sounds something like this: “We fell out of love…” There is no such thing! But boredom does exist. And if you don’t consistently and intentionally stay interested in your partner, you are going to get bored with each other. Happy couples decide each day to learn something new about the person they share a life with.
- … to make sex a priority. Sex isn’t everything, but when it is not going well in your marriage, sex plays a big role! Sex can also be the cause of much bigger problems in your marriage and must therefore never become an “obligation” that is merely rushed through every now and then. Happy couples put effort into their sex lives and try to improve it.
- … Oh, that sounds very boring, right?! No one wants a predictable marriage! But that is not what we are talking about. What we mean by predictability is that your spouse must always know where he or she stands with you. It is wonderful to keep some mystery in a marriage, but if your partner causes you to doubt his or her love or commitment, and puts you in a position where you feel unsure, it is emotional manipulation. Be predictable so that your partner knows he or she can depend on you – and be consistent.
- … to count their cents. Happy couples don’t spend more than what their income allows. They work together to set financial goals, create budgets and to save (no matter how small the amount). One might think that finances do not influence your happiness, but just ask one of the many couples who have gone through financial struggles and they will tell you that when finances creates strain, the whole marriage suffer.
- … selflessness. On the United Church of God’s website, author and teacher, Jerold Aust wrote that trouble brews when people assume that marriage was designed by humans for their own comfort. No, it is a divine design and therefore the secret for a happy marriage lies in making the right choices that is in accordance with God’s will. “God has put spiritual laws in place that can lead to good or bad consequences – depending on the choices we make. When you obey God’s laws, it will bring forth good things. But if you break God’s laws, you will get bad results. Selflessness leads to good outcomes.”
In the end, people’s lives – and couples’ marriages – consist of the series of continuous decision they make. Some choices create fear and uncertainty and other choices make us happier. If you acknowledge from day one that you and your partner holds the key to happiness in your marriage, through the choices that you will be making throughout your journey together, your chance for success is great.
“The word is mightier than the sword, and those who can use it powerfully and wisely, are more powerful than kings,” – Jeremias Gotthelf said. Not only can words cause harm… in a marriage it can cause disasters of epic proportions…
If you watch CNN daily, chances are that you will witness the damage caused by some 300 natural disasters per year worldwide. The devastation is horrific. People who are left without any possessions and who mourn for the loved ones they have lost. Pieces of human remains that are strewn between waste and debris. Fine porcelain entangled in dry seaweed. Children’s dolls trapped under concrete slabs. Real tragedies.
The direct impact of a natural disaster is often defined by things that are quantifiable, such as the number of people who died and the damage to buildings, infrastructure and natural resources. However, there are also indirect losses caused by the impact of a disaster on people’s well-being and disruptions in the flow of goods and services, according to Understanding Risk: Evolution of Disaster Risk Assessment and the UNISDR Global Assessment Report of 2015.
When we look at the repercussions of divorce, the picture looks similar. During the disaster of divorce, the people involved are scurrying to survive. Only afterwards, the reality and the effect of the devastation sinks in: Couples sitting at the lawyer’s table – defeated. That which they have built with blood and tears, and accumulated over the years– the first couch they took out a loan for, the lamp in the bedroom that they picked out to celebrate the first baby – are now just assets on paper. Children who are left traumatized with emotional damage that cannot be grasped fully…
Yes, a divorce is a disaster in itself. But there are also many communication disasters – powerful word mishaps – that can lead to the unity being destroyed piece by piece.
Two types of disasters are typically distinguished – natural and man-made disasters. Man-made disasters include war and, in a marriage, a word war can cause irreparable damage. The couple (the soldiers) can become so blinded by anger, that they do not realise how their marriage (country) and the people close to them, are being destroyed. When words are used as weapons to insult, hurt, chastise, punish and torture, the effect becomes so powerful that, in a blink of an eye, it can destroy what is beautiful.
On the other hand, natural disasters include earthquakes, extreme temperatures, tsunamis and cyclones. In a marriage, however, these disasters are also man-made…
Don’t allow these disasters to wreck your marriage:
- DISASTER: Word Droughts
What you will hear/think: “So, ehh…” (silence)
In the United States (US), the most devastating drought on record is the one that occurred in the 1930s during the “Dust Bowl” years. In a marriage, a Word Drought is one that strikes marriages without warning. The one day you and your partner are eagerly conversing about petrol prices, vandalism, home schooling and property at the Coast… and the next day your words are gone. Finished.
This happens when you are not paying attention, and because other things or people consume your words, or perhaps you just don’t make the most of the words you have.
Let’s not call it poor communication skills, but rather inadequate communication investments!
Can you prevent this disaster? If you want to keep the communication going between you and your partner, you must be intentional and create opportunities to spend quality time together and stay interested in each other’s lives.
- DISASTER: Word Snowstorms
What you will hear/think: “I see no way out…”
Heavy snow fall and strong winds can dramatically impact a country and destroy tonnes of grain crops, such as the Great Blizzard of 1888 did in the US. In 1993, the so-called Super Storm originated in the Gulf of Mexico, moved north and caused havoc in some 26 states, killing more than 300 people.
A Word Snowstorm in a marriage does not have that much to do with the snow or wind, but more with the impaired visibility caused by these two elements. Sometimes the words in a “storm” are so overwhelming and relentless that it obstructs the two partners’ views and prevents them from arguing with a clear mind. In such a storm, a couple gets lost and sometimes they never find their way again.
Can you prevent this disaster? If your conflict management techniques are found wanting and you struggle to hear each other over the arguments, or you continue to fight blindly without a future vision, you need to consult an expert to assist you. Don’t face this disaster on your own.
- DISASTER: Word Volcanoes
What you will hear/think: “I can’t take it anymore!”
Volcanoes are frightening natural disasters. It is when an opening in the earth’s crust allows molten rock, gas and debris to come up to the surface. The lava and debris can flow at a pace of 100 miles per hour and destroy everything in its path. Volcanic ash can also travel hundreds of miles and cause serious health problems.
Word Volcanoes occur in marriages where conflict avoidance is common, because one can only suppress conflict for so long before it boils over. When he continuously criticizes you, you keep quiet and turn the other cheek. When she continues to make jokes at your expense in public, you laugh, but inside you cringe. Emotions of hurt and anger are kept inside, until there is an outburst and the heat of the lava that erupts is excruciating. It is this lava that leaves burns so extreme that they never heal completely, and also other consequences that cannot be seen on the surface (such as the gas of a volcano), but lingers…
Can you prevent this disaster? Yes! Fight! Delve in your past to determine why you are not expressing your feelings. The reason probably lies in your childhood. If possible, go and see a psychologist to help you with this. If it is merely a decision you need to make, make an effort to try and express your opinion when you feel powerful against your spouse’s words.
- DISASTER: Word Tornadoes
What you will hear/think: “I wish you understood me better!”
A tornado is a rapidly rotating air column that is contact with both the ground and a cloud (in rare cases, the basis of a cumulus cloud). The associated windstorm is sometimes also called a whirlwind or a cyclone.
The most extreme tornadoes move at a pace of about 300 miles per hour, are over 1.8 miles in diameter and stay on the ground for more than 62 miles per hour. These tornadoes are classified as T11 and cause huge devastation.
Similarly, in a marriage, a Word Tornado turns everything upside down and spreads chaos. Usually it is those words that come out wrong or that are misinterpreted (or both!). He may say something completely innocent, but in the wrong way or at the wrong time, which you misunderstand and all hell breaks loose!
Everything is a mess, your marriage is shaken and the worst of all – tomorrow it happens again. You haven’t yet mastered the art of effective communication and the misunderstandings are busy consuming your marriage.
Can you prevent this disaster? Yes. If you are battling with Word Tornadoes you have to just work on the way that messages are conveyed. Speak clearly and be aware of your body language. When your partner says something that makes you angry, or evokes another uncomfortable emotion, repeat his words back to him and start your sentence by saying, for example: “Am I correct in saying that you think…” This way, potential misunderstandings can be avoided.
- DISASTER: Word Floods
What you will hear/think: “All I want is some peace and quiet.”
In 2005, dozens of villages were engulfed when rains caused the rivers in north-western Bangladesh to flood. A flood is the overflow of water that covers ground that would normally be dry. Some floods develop slowly and other can happen within minutes without any signs of rain.
A Word Flood can be just as dangerous as a Word Drought in a marriage, because too many words can overwhelm your partner and make him/her feel like they are drowning. When you talk so persistently that your spouse feels he/she doesn’t have a voice, it can ruin your marriage. And when you constantly use so many words to moan, complain, accuse or blame… your words lose their power and after a while your partner no longer hears what you are saying.
Can you prevent this disaster? Yes. By carefully considering your words. If you are the “talker” and wants to discuss something with your partner, consider your timing. Be careful not to repeat yourself and not to nag your partner as if he/she is a child. The fewer words you use, the more he/she will listen.
- DISASTER: A Cold Wave
What you will hear/think: An icy silence.
A cold wave is a weather phenomenon caused by a dramatic cooling of air over 24 hours, to such an extent that certain industries such as agriculture and social activities need to take measures for increased protection.
When a Cold Wave hits a marriage, a chill strikes the relationship and freezes any warmth and words. Spouses punish each other with silent treatment and hope to, in that way, get the desired response. The problem is that when words aren’t spoken, the conflict can’t be resolved and it wastes precious time in a marriage. And the more silence is used as a tactic in marriage, the lower the overall temperature of that marriage will drop, until eventually there are more cold than warm days. We are warm-blooded mammals with desires, needs and emotions. Without warmth, we will die a certain death – and our marriages too.
Can you prevent this disaster? Yes, but you will have to work hard at it. The silent treatment is a form of manipulation, which is very dangerous in a marriage. If you use this tactic, you are probably also using other unhealthy tactics that could destroy your marriage. You will have to set specific rules for your marriage and one of them will have to be: No silent treatment. Remind each other that you are teammates, not opponents.
- Additional sources: Understanding Risk: Evolution of Disaster Risk Assessment (GFDRR, 2014) and the UNISDR Global Assessment Report 2015; prevensionweb.net; visihow.com; quora.com; wikipedia.org.
There is a good reason why experts often list communication as one of the most important ingredients for a successful marriage. It is like eggs or baking powder – without it, a cake will flop completely.
I recently had to bake a cake for a fundraising project at my child’s school. I got everything ready. First, the two chocolate-flavored box-cakes (because they are easy to make, pretty much flop-resistant and no one tastes the difference!). Then, the icing sugar, butter, cherries and golden glitter – because glitter makes everything beautiful!
So, I started baking, with some music in the background and the kitchen windows wide open. I was in a good mood and everything pointed to it being a raging success. I was reading the recipe when an incoming text message briefly interrupted me. An irrelevant, promotional message that tried to convince me that some company will lower my monthly car insurance premium…
I returned to my baking station but I have lost my place. Then I found it again, or at least I thought I did. What actually happened is that I had skipped a very necessary step: adding three eggs. Unfortunately, I only realized my mistake when I took out the pathetic brown pancake out of the oven and saw the three lousy eggs still lying on the counter… a flop that no amount of glitter could save.
In the same way, your marriage could be plain sailing. You went for premarital counselling and have put everything in place for a marriage that will last more than 50 years. But then you forget the eggs. Or you remembered to take them out, but forgot to add them in the mix…
15 Quick recipes for blunder-free communication:
- Make time to talk. From discussing trivial topics to debating tough issues. Some couples can talk non-stop from their wedding day until the day they die. But others have to work a bit harder. When you notice that your conversations are becoming less frequent, schedule time for communication, without allowing technology or the children to interrupt you. Chat over a cup of coffee. And if you have something important to discuss, do it when the kids are asleep.
- Choose the right time and place. When it comes to effective communication, timing is crucial. If you voice your disgruntlement about your financial situation while he/she is watching a movie or busy brushing teeth before bed time, a frustrating outcome is almost guaranteed. Neither should you confront your partner in a public setting or when you are between friends or family. It is unfair to the “spectators” and it will prevent you from speaking freely and honestly.
- Reconsider your words – again and again. When you and your partner talk to each other, carefully consider your words – as if you are handling glass. When a conversation becomes heated, it is easy to say something that you will regret later on. Remember, once it has been said, you can’t take it back. And if it so happens that you are arguing over text messages (never a good idea), avoid capital letters!
- Don’t interrupt your partner. Don’t stereotype your partner. Don’t generalize. These are three rules that, should you break them, will mean that you are playing dirty. When you interrupt someone, it makes that person feel angry and helpless. And to say something like: “You men are…” or “You always do this…” is unfair.
- Avoid misunderstandings by double-checking. Some of the biggest fights are the result of misunderstandings. Misunderstandings that arise from making assumptions. So, before you make your own conclusions, ask your partner: “Do I understand correctly if you say that I…”.
- Be aware of your body language and tone of voice. You might be saying the right words, but with so much sarcasm that no one can miss it. Or you might invite your partner to talk, but then challenge him or her with aggressive body language – arms folded.
- Remember that you are in control. Conflict is not escalated by the person initiating it, but by the person who responds. And yes, sometimes it seems unfair when your partner keeps taunting you, but you still have the ability to control the situation. Will you react and start a fight, or will you dismiss the challenge?
- Develop good listening skills. Listening properly, while paying attention, is one of the most important skills that you can learn to the benefit of your marriage. Look your partner in the eye, put your smartphone aside and make a conscious effort to understand what he/she is saying.
- Touch each other. When you and your partner tackle a serious topic, make sure that there is some intimacy between you. Do this by sitting next to your partner and holding his/her hand. There are several reasons for this: Firstly, it creates trust and makes your partner feel more comfortable to open up to you. Secondly, it is very difficult to have a bad fight while there is that kind of intimacy between you
- Be an attentive communicator. Whether you are simply communicating or arguing, read between the lines. People don’t only communicate with their words, but also with their eyes, body language and silences. You probably know your partner by now, so use your knowledge to the benefit of you both. When your spouse’s body language reveals that something is wrong, try to find out what it is. When your partner says one thing, but the body language shows something else, investigate further.
- Design a communication style that works for you both. When you’re not fighting, make some time to discuss your communication styles. You will soon realize why you rub each other the wrong way. Then talk about ways to avoid this. If you know your different love languages, it can also make things easier. If your love language is words of affirmation, you can explain to your partner that you need kind words to feel closer to him/her. If your love language is physical touch, point 9 will be extra important. Tell your partner which words (when you are fighting) really upsets you and where you think you can improve your conflict management skills.
- Don’t sweep things under the carpet. Sometimes you might just be too tired to argue or things are going so well that you don’t want to rock the marriage boat. But sweeping things that bother you under the carpet, has a negative effect on your marriage. If you continue to bury things to avoid a potential conflict situation, the tension will build until an explosion becomes inevitable. This doesn’t mean that you have to have a huge argument about every small disagreement, but rather that you should be open about the things that bother you in order to deal with it as soon as possible.
- Respect each other and sometimes agree to disagree. No couple can always agree on everything. They can also not solve every conceivable problem. Sometimes it better to just accept that you have different opinions and to respect each other’s views.
- Sometimes it is a good idea to ask help from a third party. There are times when it is beneficial to get the opinion of a close friend or a family member to help with an important decision. They can provide a new perspective. However, there are couples who don’t like it if someone chooses a side other than theirs so if you want to avoid getting angry at the person who are trying to help you solve the problem, rather get professional help from a person you don’t know at all – thereby ensuring that the person is completely impartial. An expert can also assist you with better conflict management techniques.
- Don’t try to win. You are not in competition with each other, instead, you are a team. Communicate with the goal to establish a connection between you, not to determine who is right and who is wrong. We often think that the purpose of communication is to let inform our partners of our needs and desires. But that is missing the point! The purpose of communication is to better understand each other…
Effective communication is essential for a healthy marriage – a marriage that “rises” as it should, just like a cake. So, gather as much information as you can about this topic and increase the chances for your marriage cake to be flop-resistant!
There are seven questions that you should ask your partner on a regular basis. These are questions that will change your marriage for the better…
“How was your day?” This is the common backup question – the one you depend on out of habit. The one you use when you want to show that you are interested (even when you’re not) and the one you dig out when you don’t know what to say. Worst of all, if you ask this question regularly, your partner doesn’t really hear it anymore and just answers automatically, without really paying attention themselves.
What you ask and the way you ask it, however, is very important for a healthy marriage. By asking good questions, you keep conversations going, you open communication lines and you get to know your partner on a deeper level.
On the website www.bustle.com, New York etiquette expert, April Masini, writes that she believes a good communicator is someone who knows how to articulate their needs and someone who listens out for misunderstandings and concepts that needs to be explained. “When all people in the communication transaction understand what is being said and expected, there has been effective communication,” April says. Specific questions can help you and your partner to start a successful dialogue so that you can both effectively communicate your feelings, fears and concerns.
Here are some questions to ask your partner:
QUESTION #1: What can I do to help you?
Guys, listen up, because this is an important question to ask. If you are the kind of person who wants to fix things (a doer), you may mean well when you jump right in, without getting the desired response. Why? Because your partner doesn’t always want you to fix the problem. However, he/she wants to know that you care enough to want to do it. If you jump right into action mode, ready to help, your partner may feel like you just want him/her to shut up, but when you ask how you can help, it shows your partner that you care, that you are really listening and that you are willing to do what your he/she needs.
QUESTION #2 What can I do to make you feel more loved?
Everyone wants to feel loved and sometimes the way you feel has nothing to do with your partner, but rather with what happened in your childhood or with things that you are currently trying to sort out in your life. However, you can do a lot to make your partner feel better about him or herself. You may just not always know how. You might think that running a bath for her will show her how much you love her, but meanwhile all she wants is for you to sit right next to her on the couch watching This is Us.
QUESTION #3: Do I understand correctly when you say…?
So many quarrels arise as a result of misunderstandings. Misunderstanding that happen when two people are talking past each other, when they are not listening carefully or are making assumptions. Before you get hot under the collar, take a step back and first ask: “Do I understand correctly when you say…?” Also count to ten before you respond and ask as many questions as necessary for you to get clarity about the situation.
QUESTION #4: What can we do together to achieve that goal?
We are often in such a hurry on the way to achieve our own goals, dreams and future plans that we forget how important it is to work on a shared future dream. Do you really know what your partner is dreaming about? Strategize together and make plans to get there. This one conversation will take you to a much deeper level of intimacy than where you were before this important question.
QUESTION #5: Would you like us to talk about it again?
There are very few serious issues that can be sorted out in one brief debate. Most arguments will need another conversation, and perhaps yet another one. And it is not just arguments, but also conversations about where to move to or which school to choose for the children. These issues need several discussions… and follow-up discussions to make sure that you are both still moving in the same direction or whether it is time to go through everything again. Follow up to make sure that you both have certainty and peace about a matter, and that you are still on the same page after you’ve had time to think about it separately.
QUESTION #6: What is your most beautify memory of us?
This question is super important and you can ask it every now and then, or you can make it an annual event to ask this question on your wedding anniversary. According to research published in Motivation and Emotion, couples who cherish memories of their best times together, reported greater satisfaction with their relationships.
QUESTION #7: Do you think we spend enough time together?
Whether your love language is quality time or not, it is important for any couple to ask this question. According to therapist and author, Tina B. Tessina, it is important not to get so caught up in your role as parents (for example) that you forget how to be friends. Ask your partner regularly if he/she thinks that you spend enough time together, so that the romance doesn’t get lost completely.
There are many other questions that you should ask frequently. Keep some of them light and ask things like: “What on earth freaks you out the most?”, but do not forget about the serious questions, for example: “What is your biggest dream for our children?”. Read magazines and note the questions that celebrities answer. Try to remember things that stood out for you during your childhood and ask your partner about it, for example: “Did you ever eat Catawba grapes as a child?”.
What it actually comes down to is that you should never stop asking your partner questions. While certain things won’t ever change, such as your partner’s past, there are always variables. In ten year’s time she might not feel the same about adoption or university studies, because she is a dynamic being. Keep this in mind, always stay curious and ask as much as you can.
Additional sources: www.bestlifeonline.com; www.bustle.com; The Effect of Reminiscing about Laughter on Relationship Satisfaction, published in Motivation and Emotion and written by Doris G. Bazzini, Elizabeth R. Stack, Penny D. Marincin and Carmen P. Davis.