By: Lisa Philippart
My last two articles have covered the topic of infidelity. And lest you think that all is lost in our ability to make marriages work, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts by answering two separate questions: “What is a healthy marriage?” and “How can you have a healthy marriage?” Let’s look at some of the characteristics of a healthy marriage. Even though each marriage is different, many strong marriages share some common traits. In my opinion, a healthy marriage is based on honesty and trust. There should be no secrets. Honesty is the basis for trust, and trust is earned, not a right. The easiest way to maintain honesty and trust in a marriage is through respect. You can disagree with your spouse and still show respect…through your tone of voice, the way your respond, your attitude, and your ability to hold your spouse’s opinion higher than others. (The exception would be if the spouse is wrong, either morally or ethically.) This includes respecting boundaries within and around your marriage. I believe that respect is strongly tied to patience!
I am always amazed when couples tell me that they rarely spend time together. Friendship, connecting, and spending time with each other, is a necessity for a healthy marriage. Knowing your partner on a deeper level requires intentionality, time, and effort. Connecting with your spouse daily must be a priority. We choose to spend time on what matters to us. And our spouses need to come before friends, extended family, hobbies, and all that extra stuff. How is your communication with your partner? To communicate effectively, a minimum of two skills are required: assertiveness and active listening. Each partner needs to be able to express thoughts and feelings in a safe environment and to expect to be heard. My hope for couples is that they can grow together while the marriage evolves. Your marriage started out on the same path, but as time goes by, couples may end up taking separate parallel paths, still in the same direction (living together like roommates) or separate divergent paths (simply each going different ways as in a divorce.) Take a look at your marriage. Are you working together to achieve livelong marriage goals, with a continued commitment to each other? Does your partner bring out the best in you?
Did you notice I have not yet mentioned love? It’s because if all the previously discussed things are present, then love flourishes. So how do you work toward a healthy marriage? Here are some suggestions:
- Compliment each other…daily.
- Learn to fight fair, and then forgive each other.
- Exercise together, even if it is just a weekly walk in the neighborhood.
- Pay attention to the little things.
- Show appreciation to each other.
- Show you care for each other in front of the kids. This lets them know that you love one another and sets the example for what to expect from a future spouse.
- Find something you enjoy doing together and then actually do it.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Work on finances together…know where your money is going.
- Create and maintain boundaries. It’s okay to balance independence/alone time with time spent together.
Pick one suggestion from the list to start on today. Change won’t happen overnight. But as you work on your relationship, you will be working towards creating a happy and healthy marriage that you both desire.
By: Lisa Philippart
Licensed Professional Counselor