”We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things, all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness’.” -movie, Shall We Dance
I have always loved this quote because it has such truth, such depth about why our relationships are so important in our lives. I just had a moment of reflection and thought I would expand on it. A couple days ago I asked my husband of almost 19 years (in a month) what he would say were keys to a happy marriage. It was strange, my mind seemed to jump from the conversation to images that began to whirl in my mind of an article I wrote ten years ago. It was an article on “Keys to a Happy Marriage.” It was my first article to be published and I was truly excited about the happening. I couldn’t believe it, it was surreal and my heart was so high at the thought that my words may touch someone—anyone!!
The very next day after the exciting news, my husband had news of his own, he had been emotionally cheating on me. His words began to run through my mind and I couldn’t believe what was happening. Not my husband!! I would never have imagined in a million years that this was my husband, the father of our year old daughter, the man I had spent every day with for the last ten years. Then it dawned on me, “How could this be happening. I am having an article on marriage published. How could I not know. How could I be so deceived…” My heart broke! It was broken, hurt, and didn’t trust…for a very long time.
My point in telling this story is how funny life can be, how a very phrase can whirl images of events that bring back a time of heartache, but also a time of growth. Relationships are never perfect, they take time to learn as individuals, to grow as a couple, to build again after something shakes it to the core. I would never have traded that time in my life for anything. I learned so much about my spiritual self, what I needed, and how to begin again.
My husband is an incredible man that I would do anything for, he is truly my best friend and the one I lean on for anything. It took time to re-build trust, to find loving communication, to let go of blame and heartache, but in everything you do there is a give and take, a flow of what life needs you to learn, whether it is about yourself or the one you love, as individuals and as a couple. True love will work to endure, it will find a hope for forgiveness, and a light of understanding. We both have learned a lot through our journey together and would never trade the ups and the downs to where our life is today. You have to take everything that comes with love.
So here are my thoughts on what helps a marriage become your happily ever after…
Don’t take the gift of LOVE for granted: be grateful for the relationship you are in, for the opportunity to grow together, to learn from your other half, to have a best friend, to have someone who builds and believes in you, someone who cares about your needs, someone who is a ‘witness to your life.”
Respect one another: Relationships include two INDIVIDUALS working together…I love this analogy…What is the definition of a True Relationship? If you break down the word Re-la-tion-ship: “Taking a journey on a ship with your partner and learning how to relate to one another. It is a journey to relate or learn from each other and from everything around you. You are taking this life journey together, creating magic moments and working through the hard or tough times, and most importantly growing stronger together. It is like you are consciously merging to become one—not just getting along–which is what I see a lot of my private clients and couples doing today. Unfortunately they learn about relationships from their parents. And with the divorce rate at close to 50% for first time marriages and 80% for 2nd marriages, it is not a good thing. They also learn from what they see on TV or in the movies, but unfortunately that is not real. This type of learning is make believe and they go their whole life looking for something that does not exist. That is why there is so much infidelity. They are trying to find this everlasting so-called love or soul-mate, but have mistaken lust for love–which are two different things. So a relationship is the path where 2 consciousnesses merge. It is the journey on a ship to relate to each other. If you have not built a strong relation-ship, then all you have is a Relation-Canoe, and it will sink like the other 50% already do. -Dr. Dan
Remember: you are two individuals coming together. You need to learn to love yourself before you can offer your love to another.
Invest in one another: Push one another to stretch, to grow, to try new things, to go beyond comfort. There is nothing like being surrounded by someone who is striving to become better at some area of their life. Whether you want to begin reading a book a month, you want to go on a family walk three times a week, or learn something new at a local community class. You will admire and learn from one another. People striving to become better individuals=better relationship.
Be gentle with one another: Keep in mind people come with baggage, a hard childhood, a broken past, etc. Be gentle and lovingly nurture. “When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.” -Barbara Bloom
Spirit: Pray, meditate, get grateful, go to church, etc. Find a place where you can both be spiritual. Every relationship is different. You may have different feelings about what religion to be part of or not feel comfortable attending a community church. I have found through our differences that as long as you are both seeking some kind of spirituality, love will shine in. Take the time to pray together and give thanks in all you do. Be an example to your children of hope, faith and gratitude.
Healthy Communication: Just talk. No one can read minds, so it is obvious that we need to share feelings–good and bad. It is all in the approach of the conversation, the ability to truly listen and to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Try to see their point of view and if you can’t grasp it or you get angry with the conversation—take a break, breathe and then come back to the conversation. Nothing good comes from anger or frustration. Do a personal ‘feelings’ check—There are only two TRUE emotions–FEAR (frustration, anger, greed, envy, all the negative emotions stem from fear) and the other emotion is LOVE (all the good emotions stem from a loving place). If you are feeling any emotion that is negative or bad–step back, take a break and come back when you can be clear and willing to lovingly listen. My husband suggests: Give the other person the benefit of the doubt. People can find anything to fight about if they are looking for a fight or they need to be right. Sometimes it is better to let the other person have their way and be right. Is it worth coming to blows over something trivial? One last thing…never ASSUME…you will make a ASS out of U and ME!
LAUGH often: When things get really tough, laughter seems to be a great medicine at our house. Have a good stash of comedies or funny movies that will bring you out of a negative state.
Connect: On a physical and emotional level. Emotionally be there for one another, truly listen, have meaningful conversations (and lots of plain fun ones), truly care and want the best for one another, encourage, praise, build, be present, be patient and always think of the other first. On a Physical level have fun together, flirt, text, leave love notes, send a fun pic, let go of all your personal insecurities and explore one another, plan a fun lunch date, do things “just because,” think of the other person in all you do, share spontaneous gifts, and make sure you take the time for special getaways together. This is a MUST!! Time alone is a necessity in any relationship and should be planned at every opportunity. Talk about one another’s needs. This is good communication!
“Love is that condition in which the happiness of the other is essential to your own.” -R. Heinlein
You both need to work at building a happy relationship. It takes two to make things work. If one is working and the other doesn’t=one sided relationship. There will NOT be a healthy relationship balance.
Date Nights: try to incorporate at least one date night in a week. This is time to touch base, to eat something yummy, to connect as a couple.
Be Present: All you are guaranteed is this moment. Live it it!! Don’t get caught in the past or past experiences or mistakes. Think of it this way–you wouldn’t think of driving down the road only looking in you rear-view mirror. It is one thing to glance back and remember where you have been and what you have learned, but constantly looking back will cause an accident for many involved. The past is over. It is a day that is done. It is a chapter that you do not need to re-read over and over. It is done. Do your best to go forward daily.
FYI–My husbands keys: Great communication in all you do, Do fun things together, and make sure to fit in getaways.
“Mature love comes when each person has grown with the other’s help, and when both know how to give and receive–it’s the lifetime achievement award.” -Harville Hendrix & Helen Hunt, Receiving Love
Well, that is all that I have right now. This is an endless topic that needs lots of attention, so I will continually write about relationships and how we can continually strive for our Happily Ever Afters. I would love any of your thoughts on this topic. Thanks for reading.
Have a Happy Day! Heather