Every positive thing we do when we are with our spouse is an investment.
Marriage is getting a bad rap these days. The divorce courts are full of unhappy couples who can't wait to ditch their partners in lieu of something more fulfilling. Many couples are even choosing not to marry, thinking that the idea is old fashioned and out of vogue!
Before you decide that marriage is not for you, remember that the family is the basic unit of society (see The Proclamation on the Family), and it takes both a man and a woman to bring children into this world.
We all experience difficulties in our marriages. Putting two people from entirely different backgrounds into a relationship is bound to cause some conflict. We often blame our spouses for our unhappiness. We think that "If only" he or she did things differently, then our marriage would be better.
Marriage is an investment, not an experiment. What we do on a daily basis either makes or breaks our marriage. The following are five things we can do to ensure that our spouse knows that our marriage is important to us, and that we will do whatever it takes to make it work.
There is just work that needs to be done, and we do it together.
— Brad Wilcox
1. Ask how you can help
We are all busy. Our jobs and careers take everything that we have and then some. By the time we step into the house at the end of a busy day, we just want to put up our feet and relax. Life with our family, however, is just beginning. There are clothes to wash, bills to pay, and mouths to feed.
The most important thing that we can do is roll up our sleeves and get busy. Our spouses are not door mats for us to wipe our feet on. They need love, affection, and relaxation just as much as we do. Our ability to let them know that we are here to help will go far in giving them positive feelings about our marriage.
When we do whatever it takes to make our marriage and family be successful, our spouses know that we care about their health and well being. In the process, feelings of trust increase, the desire for physical intimacy improves, and family life takes on a whole new perspective.
Listening is a pure act of love.
2. Stop what you are doing and listen
The validation of our existence comes from the interaction we have with those that we love. We are in a key position to provide our spouse with a shot in the arm of self-worth whenever they speak to us. We do this by stopping what we are doing, giving them our full attention, and listening to what they are saying.
The following elements are key:
- Eye contact
Most people don't need us to solve their problems, they just need us to listen while we tell what is happening, how we are feeling and what we have done to take care of the issue. Our ability to use the above skills lets them know at that moment that they are loved. Our undivided attention speaks volumes. It is the kindest thing we will ever do.
3. Look at the conflict from your spouse's perspective
Disagreements happen. Any time two people work and live together, there will be times when they don't see things the same. Each of us come from different cultures and backgrounds. The way our parents did things will not necessarily work for us. Conflict does not have to destroy us. Rather, it can be the catalyst that helps us get to know one another and express our feelings of love for each other.
The Trouble With Conflict show us what happens when we use the following distorted thought patterns in our interactions with our spouse:
The Emotional Survival Handbook teaches us ways that we can avoid these types of thought patterns. A big part of that process is looking at the situation from the other person's point of view. When we see that we are not the only players in the game, we have a much better chance at working together for an appropriate solution.
4. Do something together you both find enjoyable
Every investment has a price, or something we put into it that comes back in larger measure. When we plant seeds in our garden, the time and effort we put into weeding, watering, and fertilizing increases the resulting yield, and strengthens our feelings of accomplishment.
Marriage is no different. Investing time doing things together that we both enjoy has a number of benefits. First, we are able to strengthen our relationship. In order for marriage to survive, it has to be strong enough to weather the crises that will surely come.
Secondly, we develop traditions and habits that make our relationship unique. We have special places, songs, memories, and activities that provide meaning on a new level. When we look at one another, we remember these times, and our unity is solidified.
Third, we grow together as a couple. Marriage is not stagnant, it is a growing, living, vibrant entity that provides shelter, protection, and happiness for us. When we do things together we learn more about each other and about ourselves. We grow in our understanding of how the world works and our part in it.
Sharing experiences with each other gives us common ground to grow from.
5. Pray for your spouse
One of the most important things that we can do for our spouse is pray for them. When times are tough and we know our spouse is struggling with the difficulties of life, our prayers in their behalf bring down the blessings of heaven.
When we pray for our spouse, we see them from a different perspective. We see them as a child of God, just as we are, with infinite worth and possibilities. We see that what we do has a deep affect on their health and well-being, and we enlist the assistance of God in treating them with the deference and respect that they deserve.
Our job is to love our spouse, not change them. Turning our spouse over to God when they are struggling frees us from trying to fix their problems. Our unconditional love gives them the room they need to fight their battles and come out victorious.
Change starts with us
The five steps outlined here change our spouses, because, in reality, we change! They begin to see us differently because we begin to see them differently. Our efforts invested into our marriage allow them to feel our love in ways they had not previously,
Our kindness, our desire for our spouse's well being, and our efforts in their behalf, softens not only our hearts, but theirs as well. These things let our spouses know that they are important to us and that we want to be with them, not just today and tomorrow, but always!
Time will tell. We cannot give up. The more we work at our marriage to make it the best that it can be, the more we will see it blossom and grow into a beautiful fruit-bearing tree that provides shelter, protection, nourishment, and most importantly, happiness.