We've all heard the statistics: 50% of all marriages end in divorce. As someone in a fairly young marriage, I could be frightened by that. But instead I see it as a challenge. I think that there are valid reasons a marriage should be ended, namely abuse and infidelity. But I also know that neither of those things is inevitable, as long as both parties are devoted to a lasting and loving marriage. So I have decided to learn what actions can be taken in order to guarantee a successful relationship.
In looking at the couples I know that have been together for thirty or more years, an image starts to appear of what it takes to stay happily married. The simplest explanation is mutual respect, while remaining within your individual role. These roles are not predetermined: they must be agreed upon within the relationship. Through teamwork the marriage has an outlook of harmony. We both pull equal weight, regardless of what roles we have chosen. We are both happy with our roles, and know that if we ever wish for things to change we need only mention our thoughts.
So as our different roles complement each other and harmonize, we give of ourselves and feel good. If you choose to find fault in your spouse, it would be too easy. But by finding ways to be a good partner instead, you solidify what you would otherwise be destroying. By finding ways to give more to your spouse, you give yourself the gift of unity. When both parties think this way, it is a guaranteed win. Just remember you can't just give what you want; you need to give what is needed of you.
Communication is something that always needs attention. One thing people often forget to communicate is gratitude. Saying "thank you" when he arranges for a sitter makes my husband even happier to do this for me. Every day that I let him sleep in and make breakfast for him, he thanks me. (Some weeks he gets to sleep in 4 times.) That "thanks" is what makes it so easy to get up with the screaming two-year-old, even though that's nobody's idea of a fun morning. Saying thanks is so easy, and makes it easier for your spouse to hear the harder things you may need to say.
"Making time for one another" is a practice I hear people talk about, but it seems like only a few really know how important this is. Not only do you need to make sure you get time together just the two of you. You also need to make sure that your spouse and yourself each get alone time. Each person is rejuvenated in their own unique way. Through communication and teamwork, make sure that that rejuvenation can occur. My husband needs time to nap or meditate at the end of a workday so that he can feel fresh and energized enough to devote hours to our two year old boy who loves to "climb daddy" and "be a hat." I know that it takes a lot of energy to wear a child like a hat, help him fly, and be a jungle-gym. And during that time, I get to shower and practice my yoga. Teamwork allows for us each to have time for ourselves, which keeps us from getting drained. Then we are able to truly enjoy our time together after we tuck the little one into bed.
Even with all this, I think the most valuable lesson is to maintain my marriage's individuality. This is because although a certain set of roles may work for my in-laws, my husband and I have our own roles. I think that if we start looking outside of ourselves for a guide to live by, we set ourselves up for failure. But by incorporating a few key concepts, I think every marriage can not only last more than the ten year mark, but be stronger than ever at years 25, 50 . . . forever.
I hope that every person entering into a marriage takes the time to think about what they can offer to the union. Communicate needs and be a supporting force. Looking back on your life you will have a long blissful marriage to look back on. Yes, you will also remember arguing. But with a little determination you will be able to look at those disagreements with a sense of humor, and they will be overshadowed by a sense of fulfillment.