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The Truth About How To Have A Good Marriage: 5 Unconventional Lessons

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5 unconventional lessons discovered over my 8 years of marriage.

Yesterday was Ryan and my 8th wedding anniversary. This past weekend, while on a getaway to celebrate in San Diego, I said to him, “We made it, sweetums! We’re past the 7-year itch. Everything should be smooooth sailing from here.”

He knows I’m joking because, well, no relationship is ever perfect. I think the sooner you realize this, the happier you will be.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth noting again.

It’s easy to look at other people’s relationships and think they’ve got it made, but we all have our challenges. We all have our moments where we question if we’ve got what it takes to be one of those couples that hits that 50 year anniversary and beyond.

I look back on that day we stood on the alter and promised ‘til death do us part. We said we’d be there for each other in good times and in bad, and I realize… we were really young! I was 23 and Ryan was 25.

We had no idea what those promises truly meant. Fast-forward 8 years and I think we’ve got a pretty good idea, but we’re still learning. That said, over our time together, Ryan and I have gotten good at working with each other’s ebbs and flows.

We spent some time at the pool on Saturday, and over a plate of killer nachos and drinks (Stone Arrogant Bastard beer for him and a fresh-squeezed lime margarita for me), we boiled it down to 5 lessons that we think we’ve kinda-mastered during our time together.

how-to-have-a-good-marriage

Like I said, we’ve still got plenty of room to get better at this, and if we’re lucky, we’ve got plenty of years to keep working on it, but these are our 5 best “how to have a good marriage” tips.

Note: For the purposes of not having to say him/her a bazillion times, I will just use “him,” but know that all of these lessons apply to both the guys and us, ladies!

Without further adieu…

5 Unconventional Lessons For How to Have a Good Marriage

1. Ignore what you don’t like.

Whaaa??!! That’s right. Ignore it. We’ve all grown up learning how to point out the things that we don’t like because we think this is the best way to change them. Well in relationships, it’s actually quite the opposite.

Of course, communication is key (more on that in a minute), but after you’ve voiced your concerns, if it’s not something you want to keep happening, then there’s no need to keep bringing it up again and again.

The more attention you put on something, the more it keeps it alive.

And I’m not talking about just the little things (clip your toenails in bed… really?), because most times, the things that irritate us most about our partner are the things that deep down, irritate us about ourselves.

Early in our relationship, Ryan had this habit that whenever he was around “cheat” foods, he’d inhale it like a vacuum. He’d start on a bowl of chips and dip and wouldn’t stop until it was gone or start with one cookie, only to keep grabbing more until the whole plate was gone.

It was so hard for me to watch. Literally, I’d feel all wadded up inside just seeing him do it.

At the time, I thought it was because I wanted to help him and I knew that later on he’d wonder why he was having trouble losing weight or would get down on himself about it. But now I realize the reason why this was so irritating had nothing to do with him and everything to do with me.

I was doing the same thing and was pissed off at myself for it, maybe not in the exact same way, but I definitely had my own binge behaviors with food.

Over time I learned to let it go. I stopped analyzing and worrying about what Ryan was doing and let him do his own thing, and instead I worked on myself.

And you know what, he found his way (and I did too). Today, he’s as much a teacher to me about food as I am to him. We both lead by example and help each other to be the healthiest versions of ourselves, not through repeatedly pointing out what each of us might be doing wrong, but rather by showing each other what it looks like to do it right and not make a big deal of it when we choose to do otherwise.

Focus on the good, forget the rest, and you’ll see that your relationship will start to fill up with lots of good… and negligible other stuff.

Note on a relationship where it’s clear it’s ending: Even in this case you want to ignore what you don’t like. Again, this sounds counter-intuitive, but you never want to leave a relationship because you want to get away from what you dislike about it.

As you make the decision to end the relationship from a place of knowing what you do want, you’ll be in your power, you’ll be clear-minded, and the next chapter of your life will be a lot more enjoyable than if you were to leave out of fear, judgment, anger, or resentment.

2. You can’t change people. Period.

Ryan and I met at a time when our lives (individually) were in a state of flux… super flux actually. We were still growing and figuring out who we wanted to be.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that we were able to come together at such a shaky time and be such a good match, but maybe that’s why it worked so well.

Each of us has changed so much since that first day in 2001, when he walked through the door with his giant side-burns, flowered shirt, and aviators… okay, I guess some things stayed the same.

But, in all that change, we’ve supported each other as best as we could. We’ve taken some pretty big leaps of faith together—moving across the country without a solid plan, starting a business when we really had no experience running one, and through it all we kept the faith, in both ourselves, and in each other. And when one of us started to lose faith in our self, the other would step up and stand strong (see Lesson #3).

Now let’s not kid ourselves, of course there have been lots of things we wished we could change about each other.

For example, I can be EXTREMELY stubborn. Early in our relationship this would often lead to arguments because Ryan would have a really awesome idea, but I just wouldn’t be open to hearing it at first.

Eventually though, I’d come around and stop resisting. He figured this out and now he’ll share a really good idea, I initially say “no,” and then he says okay rather than arguing. Then he waits a few days, and most of the time I’ll come back to him and say, “Hey, I’ve been thinking about your idea…” and am open to talking more about it.

He know he’s not going to change my mind by arguing with me, in fact, most times that makes me dig my heals in even harder. So, he let’s go. He doesn’t try to force it.

That can be one of the hardest things to do when you KNOW in your heart that your partner is being ridiculous, but whoa, is letting go good for your relationship.

Not forcing it and allowing your partner to be who he is, learn his lessons, and make his own choices is not only what allows him to become the best version of himself, but also allows you to disconnect your own happiness from what he’s up to.

Your happiness doesn’t rest in him changing something you think he needs to change. In other words, you can choose to be happy even if he doesn’t do what you want him to. Just let go and focus on the only thing that you CAN control—your choices and your reaction to him.

3. Communicate with more than your words.

Communication comes in more forms that just words. Like we’ve all heard, we need to voice our concerns, tell our partner what we’re thinking, and be open and honest.

Can I tell you how many times THIS has happened:

Viers #1: Hey, will you grab that thing and bring it over here. I need it real quick.
Viers #2: Silence….
Viers #1: Hey, can you grab that…
Viers #2: Hang on a sec! Let me finish what I’m doing and then I’ll bring it over. {cranky huff voice}

Now… a little verbal communication might have been helpful here, on the part of Viers #2. How was Viers #1 supposed to know what you were thinking?

Sound familiar?

But beyond this, we also communicate with our actions.

Do you want more shoulder massages? How often do you give shoulder massages?

Do you want more affection and romance? How often do you show affection and make an effort to be romantic?

Do you want your partner to tell you how hot you look? How often do you make an effort to feel hot?

It’s subtle, but it’s important. Communicate what you want by offering the signals of what you want. It’s not just about “giving to receive” it’s about the signals you are sending him.

If you’re sending the “I don’t get enough shoulder massages” signal, then nine times out of ten your resentment is not gonna get you a shoulder massage because overall you’re in a very contracted emotional state.

BUT if you offer some shoulder massages here and there from a place of love and support, then there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get some in return.

4. Don’t take it personally.

This is probably our biggest relationship nugget to offer. I know, it’s easier said than done but we all have our days. We all get snippy sometimes, and the better you get at not taking it personally, the:

  • Faster it will blow over.
  • Happier you will be.

What to do instead:

Let him be. Give him some space. Go do something else that gets your mind off of his crankiness and after a little while, I betcha he’ll work it out on his own and will come find you in a much better mood.

Make a funny. The best medicine really is laughter. When I am moody and Ryan knows it and does something silly, 90% of the time, I can’t help but laugh. It’s tough to remember what you were cranky about after a good giggle, isn’t it?

Refuse to see less than the best in him. We’re taught that we should try to be compassionate for other people, but I say different.

I don’t practice sympathy. My clients will tell you this. While on the surface, you might say this is tough love, I don’t see it that way. When people are down on themselves, upset, mad, sad, frustrated, depressed, etc… you feeling sorry for them or putting yourself in their shoes doesn’t help. It just plays into their victim mentality. It just feeds their negative feelings.

The most powerful thing you can do for your partner when he is in this kind of mental state is to (gently) remind him that he is more than this. Stand in your knowing of his strength, character, and all of the good things he has going for him.

He may not seem to appreciate this point of view at first (because when you’re sad or mad, all you want is for people to agree with you and tell you that you’re right), but that’s okay. In the long-run, he’ll thank you.

5. Never EVER sacrifice.

Everybody says a good marriage is about compromise, and it is, but here’s the thing. Don’t EVER do something for your partner out of sacrifice. If you are going to do something for him that isn’t what you’d have chosen had you not been in a relationship, you HAVE to make the decision out of love.

In other words, it makes you so happy to do this for him, because you love him that much, that it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. Instead, it feels like fun.

Anytime we ever do something for someone else out of sacrifice it only leads to one thing: resentment. And you know as well as I do that a good marriage is not built on that.

When you choose to do something that your partner wants… because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to… it feels totally different.

I have tons of examples for this, but let’s keep it simple. If you’re choosing between two movies to watch or what restaurant to go to for dinner, what makes for a better night:

When you sacrifice and do what your partner wants to do, which normally leads to you grumping about the movie being painfully terrible or not finding one single thing on the menu that you liked?

OR

Letting your partner choose and being happy about the excitement in his eye and treating it like adventure, having fun spending time together?

The answer seems pretty clear, but sometimes we get so stuck in our “what’s in it for me” mentality that it’s hard to choose our own happiness in the moment over proving a point.

Don’t worry about “getting yours,” you’ll get your payback, both in the long run, of getting to do things you want to do too, and in the short run, by choosing to have a fun night.

BONUS Good Marriage Trick

Okay, so in closing I have one final lesson, or trick, that always helps me when it feels like we’re in a rut.

I make a list of 5 things I appreciate about Ryan in my journal. It’s like magic! Anger or frustration turns to love.

Try it, and THEN try to be angry at your partner. It’s impossible!

When you get on a roll with a list of appreciation… all the things you love most about him, even if you have to start with something really small… your heart will be full of love and there won’t be any room for anger.

So those are my lessons. Now I want to hear yours. What have you learned about how to have a good marriage? SHARE in the comment section below!

And be sure to hit LIKE and SHARE this post with a friend who might appreciate these lessons!

 

Sheila Viers is an Emotional Eating Expert, Holistic Life Coach and co-founder of Live Well 360.

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