And now for a completely different kind of blog post!
Maybe it’s COVID, maybe it’s just the time we live in, but several of my acquaintances have ended their marriages recently. It makes me appreciate my own marriage even more.
It also got me thinking about the marriage relationship – traditional or otherwise.
Marriage can be a crucible. What other relationship calls for us to share the same bedroom, bank accounts, property and our very lives “till death do us part”?
Along the way, we can learn lessons about nurturing an important relationship. Here are my top ten. Feel welcome to add!
1: Empathize: Love is a great foundation, but respect and understanding of the other person can help you go the distance. Try to place yourself in your partner’s shoes when things get tough.
2: You don’t have to win every argument. Sometimes, it’s more important to listen and say “I hear you” while giving yourself time to think about the other person’s point/anger. If you feel yourself getting furious, it may be time to step away. Leave the room.
3: You should be honest about everything – except whether s/he’s looking too fat!
4: Appreciate the other person’s strengths while graciously shoring up his/her weaknesses. Never humiliate your partner over his weaknesses. We do not come to a marriage fully formed – and no-one is perfect.
5: Affection and praise should outweigh criticism. You may sometimes have to remind yourself of all the things you loved about her in the first place, and the good things your partner has done. Three of my acquaintances who recently separated/divorced said their spouses criticised a lot and gave little affection. “There was no love”, said one. Another said: “It became a toxic relationship.”
6: Marriage is a cross-cultural endeavour. Understand that you are marrying a partner, but he has a family with its own culture – that intangible thing that goes far beyond visible traditions like the food they cook. What lies below the waterline includes accepted gender roles, the family’s history, the birth-rank of each child, the roles each person performs in that family and how valued each person feels.
7: You may have to find a way to show respect to your spouse’s family members even if he’s told you all the ways in which they hurt him earlier in life. This is a tough one. You don’t have to love them, but if he’s forgiven them, or found a way to work around those hurts, you can’t be the one left holding a grudge.
8: Don’t be afraid to get counselling on some child-raising tools and shared discussion of differences. Children are a blessing, yes. Know that parenting also puts untold pressure on a young marriage. This is where the different styles of child-raising come in. Each spouse brings different ideas about how to raise children – often built on what they hated or loved (or both) about their own upbringing. Is she a more authoritarian parent? Do you take a more developmental approach?
9: Financial ignorance/differing attitudes can strain a relationship. Many young couples in North America dream of owning that first house, for example, but aren’t prepared for it. But with a house come a mortgage, taxes, necessary repairs and updates, utility bills, etc. etc. and it’s always more than you planned. (Regarding repairs: my daughters both got and used their toolboxes when they got their first homes – something I admire, since I always left repairs to my husband!)
10: Finally, remember to laugh. Laugh about something. A bit of humour can change a mood or turn away wrath – bringing the element of surprise to an argument, reminding both parties that no matter how intensely you may argue, you still like and enjoy each other.
And yes – after decades of marriage, I still sometimes need to remind myself of some of these. Something to do with being fallible, different, and human. To close, I’ll quote my blogger friend Michel Fauquet, who says marriage “is a constant act of faith and love until the end of life here”.
What would you add to this list?