What are ten things you’d tell couples: How to have a smart marriage?
It’s not differences but how you handle them that separate the successful marriages from the failures. Disagreement isn’t predictive of divorce. Fighting isn’t predictive of divorce. Stonewalling, avoidance, disengagement, contempt, criticism, and the silent treatment are.
Marriage does matter – it affects your health, wealth, sexual satisfaction, and your kids.
- All couples have approximately ten issues they will never resolve – if you switch partners you’ll just get ten new issues, and they are likely to be more complicated the second time around. What’s important is to develop a dialogue or “dance” with your particular set of issues – as you would with a chronic bad back or trick knee. You don’t like them, you wish they weren’t there, but you keep talking about them and learn how to live with and accommodate them.
- Love is not an absolute, a truth, or a limited substance – that you’re in it or out of it. It’s a feeling that ebbs and flows depending on how you treat each other. If you learn new ways to interact, the feelings can come flowing back, often stronger than before.
- Remember that marital satisfaction often drops with the birth of a baby, and with each successive birth – that’s normal. Marital satisfaction is at its lowest when there are kids in the house between 11 and 16. That’s normal. Hang in there. Satisfaction goes back up with the empty nest – the final stage of marriage, the last third, is the real honeymoon period.
- Sex ebbs and flows too, comes and goes. That’s normal. Enjoy the flows.
- Creating good marital sex isn’t about putting the sizzle BACK INTO your sex life. Early marital sex is sex between strangers – you don’t know your partner or yourself at that point. It’s not about going BACK – it’s about going FORWARD. Passionate sex is based on knowing your partner and letting them know you. Intimate sex is passionate sex. Repair attempts are crucial – highly predictive of marital happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic – but this willingness to make up after an argument or fight is central to every happy marriage.
- Welcome, embrace and integrate change. Learn ways to discuss and update your wishes, hopes and dreams. Your desires and beliefs on a regular basis. We too often interview each other before marriage and then think, “that’s it.” The marriage vow is a promise to stay married, not to stay the same. Take a different marriage education course every year. Become an informed consumer and rate the courses, discuss with your partner, whom you liked best, which ones you think helped you the most. The courses don’t tell you what kind of marriage to have – that’s up to the two of you. They give you the tools – the hammers, screwdrivers, and levels – so you can build the kind of marriage that suits you and which can help you negotiate and renegotiate your own value and meaning.
By : Diane Sollee, director, Smart Marriages®