01 May Some Good Advice
As I write this blog, my daughter is about 11 days from getting married. It’s a wonderful, complicated, busy, and again, wonderful time. The man she is marrying has passed the vetting process and I am as comfortable as any dad can be who loves his kids more than anything in the world and who wants nothing more for them than complete and stress free happiness. Not too much to ask, in my opinion!
But I also am cursed in that I know the dark side of marriage as I work with many couples who have tripped over some pretty complicated and devastating stuff. I see up close every day all the things that make staying married really difficult. So even though I can’t do therapy for my own kids and I’m sure they don’t even read my blog, I have been thinking about what I believe are some of the key elements to a successful marriage. Whether my daughter reads this or not, I have an urge to say them out loud right now and this is the forum I’ve chosen to do so. Perhaps, they will serve some who will read this in helping make your marriages or the marriages of your loved ones more resilient. Every topic I mention deserves more time and explanation than this and many of my previous and future blogs have and will do just that.
Of course, there are the easy, low hanging fruit but deserve to make the list. Don’t lie. Don’t cheat. Don’t abuse substances that impair your ability to function. Don’t demean your spouse and never be violent with or contemptuous of your loved one. But there are other ones that don’t always make the “reasons we are in couples’ therapy” list but often turn out to be key elements to making things better. Do show respect for one another. Have one another’s back in times of trial. Affirm one another. Celebrate one another. Lift one another up. Be intentional about expressing your love and valuing of the other. Be at least as kind to your spouse as you are to guests in your home. Make intentional time for one another and always make your marriage a high priority even when you have kids or important jobs.
There are some other issues that almost all couples need to work on. It’s easy to say but hard to do and that is to communicate. That is, don’t be afraid of conflict but do figure out how to make your conflicts into opportunities to improve things and deepen your relationship. Listen to one another even when you disagree. This deserves a second mention. LISTEN to one another! Learn who your spouse is and what they need to feel loved and safe. Have clear boundaries both with each other and with those around you. Know when to reach out to trusted friends and family and know when to hunker down and work on things with just the two of you. Figure out how to balance the celebration of the union and celebration of the individuals that make the union. Compromise. Make concessions for one another. Accept influence from the other. Stay connected to your community. Make big decisions together. Worship together and keep working on what makes you a better person. Play together and laugh a lot. Be trustworthy and be trusting. And perhaps the biggest of all, forgive one another and learn to let go of the past after you have learned what the past has to teach you.
I’m sure I could go on and on with this but I won’t. To my daughter and my future son-in-law, know that you are loved and that I and your other loved ones believe in you. You can make it! You can create the sort of marriage that you imagine you will have but don’t be shocked when it gets tough. It will get tough. Persevere. It is so worth it!