A great marriage can make your life extraordinary
➤ Why being married is so great
➤ Investing in the relationship
➤ The importance of good communication
➤ Creating a partnership with total commitment
Profile of the Perfect Marriage – A great marriage can make your life extraordinary. A marriage is a nurturing partner- ship in which both people feel cared for and supported. You develop shared memories and have a lifelong companion who knows you better than anyone else. It may seem like it should come effortlessly. In fact, having a thoroughly satisfying relationship takes time and effort, but the rewards are priceless. Nothing can make your life as spectacular as a wonderful marriage.
This chapter will show you how to invest in your marriage to make it better than you ever dreamed possible. We will point out the five essential qualities of a great marriage so that you can start making your marriage better today.
What’s So Great About Marriage Anyway?
Being married has many advantages over not being married. Marriage can give you many things that you can’t get anywhere else: a constant companion, a good friend, and someone you can really be yourself around. Your spouse knows you better than anyone else. He or she has the potential to really comfort you when times are hard. He or she has seen you in your worst mood. There is stability in marriage that allows us to fulfill our potential as human beings.
The Best Investment You’ll Ever Make
All marriages, no matter how good, can be made better. A good marriage has some basic qualities. Both partners are totally committed to the relationship and are willing to invest time and energy. They communicate effectively with each other and know how to resolve their differences. And they have learned to be flexible. There is no right way to be married; many kinds of partnerships can work out great. However, there is a wrong way to be married—by not investing in the relationship.
If you consulted a good financial planner about investing in your future, here’s what he or she would tell you: Invest money regularly. The types of financial investments you make will change at different times in your life. When you are younger, you might have more money invested in riskier growth stocks. As you reach retirement age, you might switch your assets to more secure investments. How you invest will change with your life circumstances, but you must continually invest in some way in order to ensure a secure financial future.
These same principles hold true in marriage. Both partners must invest regularly in the relationship to make it flourish. There might be times when it’s easy to have a great partnership (like when the stock mar- ket is soaring and you’re making money without even trying). And there will be times when, even though you are putting forth a lot of effort, things feel like they’re going downhill (like when the stock market dips). But hanging in for the long haul will virtually guarantee success.
To get you started on the way to getting your partnership right, let’s address how to avoid doing things wrong. Below are the 10 most common myths about being a good partner.
MYTH #1: A good partner always puts his or her spouse’s needs first.
TRUTH: If you always put your needs last, you will become frustrated and possibly resentful of your partner, which will hurt your marriage. You need to put the partner- ship first, which includes both of your needs.
MYTH #2: A good partner does not express anger when he or she is upset.
TRUTH: Learning to express yourself when you are upset is a skill that is crucial to good communication in a marriage. There is no reason to be dramatic or to raise your voice. After counting to 10 to relieve your immediate anger, try to tell your partner exactly what is bothering you as nicely and calmly as you can manage.
MYTH #3: A good partner always agrees with his or her spouse.
TRUTH: It is always important to listen to your spouse, but that does not mean you will always agree with each other. Compromising and agreeing to disagree will relieve a lot of stress.
MYTH #4: A good partner assumes that nothing will change in his or her relation- ship.
TRUTH: A marriage is constantly growing and changing. Throughout your lives, there will always be new joys and new challenges. A good partnership will accommo- date these changes.
MYTH #5: A good partner can always anticipate his or her spouse’s needs.
TRUTH: You do not need to be a mind reader to have a good marriage. You need to
get into the habit of telling each other what your needs are.
MYTH #6: A good partner doesn’t put too many expectations on his or her spouse.
TRUTH: It is fine to expect things from your spouse. When your spouse has an op- portunity to do something for you, it will strengthen your marriage bonds.
MYTH #7: A good partner doesn’t need to put a lot of effort into a good marriage.
TRUTH: The more effort you put into your marriage, the happier you both will be!
MYTH #8: A good partner is always willing to forgo what he or she wants.
TRUTH: The secret is to compromise: Sometimes one partner forgoes what he or she wants; sometimes the other does.
MYTH #9: A good partner always takes care of his or her own needs independently.
TRUTH: It is important to understand your own needs and to learn to express them to your spouse. A partnership involves helping to fulfill each other’s needs, not just your own.
MYTH #10: A good partner puts all of his or her energy into making his or her spouse happy.
TRUTH: You cannot have a good marriage unless both of you are generally happy. You each need to put energy into making both yourself and your spouse happy.
You can make your marriage great if you are willing to invest regularly in the rela- tionship. As you are reading this book, keep in mind that a GREAT marriage depends on good communication, real partnership, effort, adaptability, and total commitment.
Which Marriage Would You Rather Be In?
In this section, we will show you how two couples deal with the same situations. Both couples have been married for 11 years, have a similar household income, have two children, and live down the street from each other. Yet their marriages could not be more different.
Car Crash (Profile of the Perfect Marriage)
Margaret was nervous while driving home because she had been in a car accident. She wasn’t hurt, but she knew that Pete was going to be furious. The rear end of her car had been badly damaged. The other driver had been driving too fast in a residen- tial neighborhood, but she had this bad feeling that Pete would blame her for it. While she was driving home, she tried to figure out what to say so that Pete would be less angry.
Margaret got home, badly shaken, but more worried about what her husband would say. She walked in the door and said, “Hi, I’m home.” Pete mumbled, “You’re late,” without looking away from the TV set. Margaret blurted out, “The car was hit by a speeding driver.”
Now Pete looked up. “What do you mean, you got in a car accident?” Margaret nodded, almost in tears. “I can’t believe you! Why didn’t you watch where you were going? You’re coming up with the extra money if our insurance rates go up!” Margaret burst into tears, ran into the bedroom, and slammed the door. They didn’t talk all night, and both went to bed furious with each other.
Kate’s experience went differently. She was really nerv- ous while driving home because she had been in a car accident. She wasn’t hurt, but the rear end of her car had been badly damaged. She felt terrible that she had contributed somewhat to the accident. She hadn’t stopped completely at the intersection. But then again, the other driver shouldn’t have been going so fast in a residential neighborhood.
She got home looking pale, and Daniel was immediately concerned. He asked her what was wrong. She told him she was in a car accident. He immediately interrupted, asked if she was all right, and gave her a big hug. Then she told him how it might have been partly her fault and described what happened, but Daniel told her not to worry about it. Kate then started fretting about how much it would cost and when and where they would get the car fixed. Daniel stopped her mid-sentence and sug- gested they order in pizza for dinner. He wanted her to have a chance to relax before thinking about the logistics of their damaged automobile. Kate felt a lot better after dinner, and they tackled the details of the problem together.
Daniel and Kate are real partners. When Kate was in a car accident, Daniel thought about her, not about the car. He was really there for her and put aside any of his own concerns about how they would pay for the damages. On the other hand, if Pete felt any concern toward Margaret, he was unable to show it effectively. He treated her like she was an enemy who had done something wrong. It’s clear that Pete and Margaret don’t feel they are on the same team.
Bad Day at Work
Pete came home after a horrible day at work. He had been called into his boss’s office and had been chewed out. All he wanted to do when he got home was have some peace and quiet. When he got home, Margaret started asking him if he could come home early the next Wednesday because she had a meeting. Pete snapped at her, “Stop making demands on me. I can’t possibly commit to that.” Margaret was frustrated and started whining that she really needed to go to this meeting and it wasn’t fair that he wouldn’t come home early. Pete exploded and told her he didn’t want to hear about her problems he had his own. He stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind him. Pete came home after midnight, drunk, and stumbled in to bed. Both he and Margaret slept terribly and felt even worse in the morning.
When Daniel came home after a horrible day at work, he had a very different experience. Kate greeted him warmly on his arrival and asked how his day was. He told her that it was horrible and that he was in a terrible mood. Kate asked if he wanted to talk about it. He said no, it would pass, but in fact, he just wanted some quiet time to himself. Kate suggested that he see a movie to get his mind off things at work. Daniel thought it was a good idea and did so. When he came back, he was in a better mood. He went to sleep early, and by the next morning he felt fine. Kate needed to ask him about coming home early next Wednesday night, but she knew they would have a chance to talk about it another time when he wasn’t in such a bad mood.
Daniel and Kate are excellent communicators. Daniel knew how to tell Kate what was bothering him and also to ask for time to himself. Kate knew she needed to wait until the next day to ask him a question. Timing is important in good communication. On the other hand, Pete did not know how to ask for what he needed, and Margaret just added to the problem. Things escalated, when all Pete probably wanted was a little sympathy and some quiet time. Learning how to communicate effectively is vital in a great marriage. (Profile of the Perfect Marriage)
Fighting the Flu
On the day before they were supposed to leave for their annual vacation, Margaret came down with a horrible case of the flu. She had a fever, chills, and severe muscle aches. She left work early, hoping that she would be able to sleep off her symptoms and still go on the trip, but the symptoms only got worse. She was really ill and had no energy to pack, let alone get on an airplane. Pete was furious. “How could you do this? I’ve been looking forward to this vacation. Our airline tickets are nonrefund- able! You always ruin everything.” Now Margaret felt terrible, not only physically but emotionally. For months afterward, Pete talked about how disappointed he was.
Kate also came down with the flu the day before she and Daniel were supposed to take their annual vacation. When she saw that she had a high fever, she called Daniel at work. Daniel told her to rest and not to worry about the vacation; he also said he would come home early that evening. When Daniel got home, he realized just how sick Kate was. He went to the grocery store to stock up on canned soup and fun mag- azines. The next day, Daniel called his travel agent to see what they could do about
canceling or rescheduling their vacation. He wrote down the alternatives so that he could discuss them with Kate when she was feeling better. It took Kate five days to recover, and then Daniel developed symp- toms. They felt lucky that Kate had developed symp- toms before they left for their vacation, or they would have spent all of their time in a hotel room.
Kate and Daniel are flexible. They were unhappy that they missed their planned vacation, but they were able to handle the disappointment and look at the bright side. Pete, on the other hand, couldn’t control his own feelings of disappointment. Margaret had cer- tainly not planned to be sick, and everything he said just made her feel worse.
Qualities in a Great Marriage
It’s likely that you would rather have a marriage like Daniel and Kate’s than Pete and Margaret’s. Daniel and Kate are true partners. They care about each other and are sup- portive in difficult situations. What exactly is their secret? And what can you learn from them that will help you in your own marriage? Here are the five qualities that are absolutely necessary for a marriage to be GREAT:
G for Good communication R for Real partnership
E for Effort
A for Adaptability
T for Total commitment Good Communication
All good marriages have one thing in common: good communication. And, without exception, all bad marriages have communication problems. Communicating in- volves being available to talk, really listen to the other person, and say what you need to as kindly as you can. In the previous examples, Kate and Daniel demonstrated ex- cellent communication skills. They were available for each other and were able to ex- press themselves. When Daniel had a bad day at work, he was able to tell Kate that he wanted some time alone, instead of being grouchy or argumentative. On the other hand, Pete took out his frustrations with work on Margaret because he was unable to let her know how he felt and tell her what he needed.
Communicating effectively is such an important tool in a great marriage that we devote all of Chapter 5, “Two-Way Communication,” to the topic. For now, remember that the core of commu- nication consists of three things:
- Be available to talk to your spouse. Both of you need to be engaged in the conversation to communicate effectively.
- Really listen to the other person. Let your spouse know if it’s not a good time to talk.
- Express yourself as kindly as you can. By speaking kindly, you create an atmosphere
of warmth and closeness. This will make it easier for your spouse to really hear what you have to say.
If you start right away doing these three things, you will give yourself a head start in becoming a communication expert.
The core of a wonderful marriage is creating a real partnership. Both people are equally valuable to the relationship. The two individuals are part of a team. Both people share everything that happens to one person, whether it’s good or bad. Each person doesn’t look to blame the other when something goes wrong, but instead looks for ways to make it better.
Imagine that you wanted to play on your company baseball team. You would need to commit to making all of the team practices and working hard. In short, you would need to be a team player. Being a valuable player on a team means caring about the success of the team above all else. If you score a home run but the team loses, you still lose and need to work with the team to do better next time. Similarly, in a marriage, you need to do what makes you both happy. Say you get a great job opportunity in San Francisco, but your spouse works in New York. If you’re single, it might be a great opportunity. If you’re married, you need to think about what’s best for you as a couple.
Kate and Daniel’s marriage seems so attractive because they are clearly teammates. When Kate was in a car accident, Daniel, although concerned about the finan- cial implications of the crash, made it clear that he was worried about Kate first and foremost. Pete, on the other hand, undermined the sense of partnership by treating Margaret like an enemy. In a great mar- riage, as part of a team, you need to take care of your partner as much as you take of yourself.
Many people put a great deal of effort into their hob- bies, their exercise schedule, even making sure their car is running right. But they expect their marriage (the single most important determining factor in their own happiness) to simply run by itself!
You need to invest time and energy into your relation- ship to make it great. Daniel immediately looked into alternative vacation plans when Kate was sick. He didn’t put this off, because he knew how important having time with Kate was. Daniel also helped her figure out the best solution to get- ting the car fixed. Pete didn’t invest time or energy into helping Margaret or their relationship. He probably spent just as much time, if not more, being angry and selfabsorbed. The effort you put into your marriage is the best investment you can make in your own life. You will get ten- fold back in return.
People who are flexible are generally happier than people who aren’t flexible. Kate and Daniel did not plan for an automobile accident or for Kate to have the flu the day before a planned vacation. But they were flexible enough to handle their disappoint- ment and continue to focus on their relationship and caring for each other. Pete, on the other hand, was completely inflexible and only thought about how his plans were being ruined. Unexpected events are part of life. Learning how to absorb dis- appointment and be flexible are both very valuable life skills that will enhance your marriage.
You need to be thoroughly committed to your marriage. You are choosing to be with your partner forever. It means sticking with this person through good times and bad. If either of you is less than 100 percent committed, the strength of your relationship will be undermined.
It’s easy to feel committed to your spouse when things are going well. You feel like you are part of a winning team and that you are getting a lot out of the relationship. It’s much more of a challenge to feel totally committed to your marriage when things aren’t going so well and you feel despair about your partnership. It’s common to feel angry and overwhelmed. In a desperate moment, some people even think that it might be best to just walk away from the marriage. Focusing on the solution, rather than the problem, shows your spouse that you are committed to the relationship.
Imagine if you were grumpy all the time because you weren’t quite sure if you should have joined your company baseball team. Surely your teammates would notice. You would drag everybody down. Your teammates might even resent you because of your bad attitude, and eventually they might want you to leave the team. Maybe they wouldn’t say so directly, but you would know. They wouldn’t go out of their way to help you. You wouldn’t get invited for burgers after the games. They would be less en- thusiastic about helping you out in a pinch. In short, you would feel very alone.
A lack of total commitment could mean the same thing in your marriage. Your spouse would notice your uncertainty and might end up resenting you. He or she would stop going out of the way to help you. Both of you would feel alone, even though you were supposed to be partners. Never forget how important your commitment to your marriage is. Anything less than 100 percent commitment can undermine your partnership.
Does GREAT Equal Perfect?
There is really no such thing as a perfect marriage. The word “perfect” implies that there is one right way to be married. All marriages are unique, and there are many different kinds of marriages that are wonderful. But there is such a thing as a great marriage. To re- member what qualities are necessary for a great mar- riage, you just need to remember how to spell the word “great” (good communication, real partnership, effort, adaptability, and total commitment).
The Least You Need to Know
➤ Your marriage can and should be the most important relationship in your life.
➤ Good communication is a key part of all good marriages.
➤ Remember that you and your spouse are partners. You must commit 100 per- cent to your marriage to be part of a winning team.
➤ Investing in your marriage will bring you a great return. The time and energy you put into your relationship will be well worth it.
➤ Marriage, as well as life in general, is full of unplanned events. If you are flexi- ble, you will be better able to deal with them.
➤ There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but there is such a thing as a great marriage.