Let me start by saying that I believe in marriage, I believe in happiness, I also believe that marriage takes time, commitment and work. I also believe that some marriages cannot be saved, but those are rare! There is no excuse for abuse, cheating and selfishness in a marriage. However most divorces don’t have a major reason, just a lot of minor ones we let build up or bail on because we don’t want to do the work.

So for this article we are going to state hard truths and cause some talk and discussion on what it takes to make a marriage work, ready?

The very first thing it takes to make a marriage work is to choose your partner wisely. Yup, that’s right, the only way to begin a good marriage is with the right person. Now we all know there is no one perfect person and I firmly believe that we don’t find a soul mate, we grow one as we work together. So when you choose a mate to start a life with, look, listen, learn, choose with your heart and your head. Take the time to get to know one another, look for the red flags, do a lot of talking and listening, stay out of the bedroom! Don’t get distracted by looks, money, passion, cars, fun, take a sum total and then do something really wise……pray about it. I don’t care what religion you are prayer is a wonderful tool and should be used frequently.

So now you’re married. It’s not anything like you imagined is it. No matter how well you’ve chosen, how well suited you are to each other, you are two people who now have to make life choices together and learn how to live together. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but we have tools we should apply almost daily.

1. Communication! It’s often an over used word but it’s so stinking important! I firmly believe that ANYTHING can be overcome if you are willing to talk about it. Remember that communication involves more listening than talking, should not be critical, and you should be focused on “I” statements not “you” statements. For example: When you did…..I felt…… or when you said…..my feelings were hurt because…..

When having these hard conversations with my husband I often start with stating what I see the problem or issue to be, speaking kindly and as clearly as I can and then I ask him to state his side of it, what did he see, feel, or did he even know there was an issue. Now I am a girl, so I have often stewed over something small or let something simmer until it was bigger than it needed to be, so I have learned to be careful not to blind side my husband or start with accusations and anger, because often he has no idea anything is wrong. And after listening to his side I often find that I have totally misinterpreted something or have no idea what he is thinking.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you can solve all your issues in one conversation, some small ones of course, but the bigger ones take time, which leads to our next tool

2. Commitment – One of the biggest tools in your kit is commitment. When you married you made vows and promises to each other. Did you listen? Did you take them seriously? Or did you just walk around in a bed of roses figuring that life would be perfect? Being committed means that everyday you get out of bed being committed to and desiring to have a good marriage. Being committed to loving, helping, and being the best person for your companion that you can be. It often means sacrificing your needs for the others needs, overlooking faults and complaints, and on the very hardest days…..focusing on and perhaps even making a list of the good qualities of your mate and being thankful for him.  Commitment means doing the work. Commitment means talking, forgiving, finding solutions together and learning over and over again what it means to love this person.

3. Forgiveness – I need it, you need it, your companion needs it. Be just as willing to bestow it as you hope they will be to forgive you. When we stew about something or let it build it becomes harder to forgive. When we are full of pride and have talked to all our friends about how right we are and how wrong he is it becomes very hard to let it all go. But forgiveness will heal all wounds and will build trust and great feelings of love.

4. Spend time together – spend more time with your companion than your friends, continue to go on dates, find things that make you laugh. Take time to remember why you married this person, do things that are fun, talk about things other than work and kids.

5. Keep your mouth shut – DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES BAD MOUTH YOUR COMPANION TO OTHERS! This undermines your relationship more than you can imagine and it feed the flames of discontent and contention. If you have an issue talk with your companion not someone who will help fuel your anger and pride. And do not get involved with telling personal things or joking or insulting your companion with others.

Marriage is a sacred thing and should be fed, nurtured and kept as a precious thing. Marriage should be built upon a firm foundation of love, service to one another, communication and forgiveness. I believe with no reservations that 90% of the marriages that end today would never end if we treated our spouses with care, in the kind of way you would like to be treated. Selfishness and pride should have no place in a marriage.

I could go on and on about how strongly I feel about marriage, but this is a start. Adam and I will celebrate 30 years this month. It hasn’t always been easy, but when hard things come we do the work. When hard days come, we get out of bed and practice being committed and again…..we do the work. Great marriages aren’t about soul mates or never having issues or trials, great marriages are about doing the work in an unselfish, loving way.

Go do the work, and make your marriage the great one you always hoped it would be!