I heard recently: There are no bad marriages; just bad people getting into marriages. I am a believer in marriage. I believe great marriages are made in heaven because it takes God to stay happy and married. And I am a sucker for great relationships. So here I share my favourite gems to help make you a better spouse:
1.Get in with a till-death-do-us part mindset.
Once you remove the exit clause from your marriage, you know you now have to work at your relationship unless you want to be miserable the rest of your life. It also puts perspective to your problems. You do not disown your child no matter what they do. Your sister remains your sister no matter how messed up she is. Look at marriage with those eyes: We are here for the long haul so we might as well make it worth it.
2.Big stones in first.
This is allegory is used to allude to the importance of priorities. Important things need to be worked on first before the small things. What’s important in your life? What are the things that need to be working in your life for you to feel happy and fulfilled and together enough to meet the world head on?
What are the things you would never want to fail at? I know I need to feel successful as a wife and mother.
What would you likely to fondly remember on your death bed? What would you like to be said of you when you are gone? If you knew you had one month to live, what would you spend it doing? These are your big stones. For most us this includes family, relationships and our health.
3. Don’t be fooled by the green grass across the fence; you haven’t seen their water bill or what they have to pay the caretaker.
So you see photos of their exotic travel on social media or their big house and fast car and envy how happy they are, how perfect their life is… you do not know their story until you have walked in their shoes. May be he took on the holiday you are pressuring your husband about because he needed to make up for something major he did. Run your race; live your life by your goals. That’s how you will know of you have been successful. Set your goals as a family, decide what it means to arrive for the two of you and try to achieve that. Of course this will change as you change as individuals and as a couple. Just make sure you are running your own race, not one set by your pastor, parents, friends or some magazine couple. Quit putting pressure on yourself, your children and your spouse by what you see in other people’s lives. We are given each according to our abilities and that is how we will be judged.
4. Marriage is not a competition.
It’s not about who is right and who is wrong or who got there first. It’s about what brings you together as a couple. It is about connecting, interacting, companionship, enjoying the journey TOGETHER. It is about being happy you have someone to share your life with, to exchange experiences, to share the workload and worries and expenses, to attend parent’s meeting at school on your behalf because you have to travel, to help you lull the baby to sleep at 3am because you are beat, to hold your hand through old age or sickness.
So you were right and he was wrong? Does insisting on that fact help your marriage? So you brought in a bigger pay cheque or stayed up all night to lull the sick child? You are all bringing something to the same table; you are a team, with different contributions. As a team, sometimes you will need to put in more to help one who is weak, but as long as each of you keeps trying their best, you will be fine.
One of the greatest marriage wisdom I ever received was, “Do you want to be right or to be married.” That came with the realization that insisting on my own wisdom may ruin my marriage, especially that I am a know-it-all. Humility calls for sometimes seeing things fall apart and letting them do so because the world doesn’t stop spinning because you lost money in an unwise investment decision. You protect your partner’s pride and confidence and they will honour you for that, and hopefully remember to listen to your input the next time.
5. Work at it.
The second law of thermodynamics states that every system left to its own devices always tends to move from order to disorder, its energy tending to be transformed into lower levels of availability, finally reaching the state of complete randomness and unavailability for further work. If you don’t put in any energy towards your marriage, it will die. Or be very malnourished.
We have all seen malnourished relationships where one partner is fighting for love and attention or both have given up and live their lives apart, like two strangers who share a bed. Is that what you want for your relationship? If not then you have to put stuff in. One author called it the love bank. You put in coins so that when you need something, you have a deposit to withdraw from. Does your wife like hanging out with you? Let her. Take a walk with her, take her to visit her distant relative, read a book with her, just sit quietly watching the trees or hills. You are putting currency on your love bank. Does your husband want a clean orderly home, with well cooked food and a beautiful looking woman? Put effort into that. Please him. You are adding notes your love bank.
Be careful about withdrawing and withdrawing without putting in as much. My pastor gave the example one Sunday of a man who never helps his wife with anything at home. When they get to bed, of course she will have a real headache because she is tired. The ATM is saying, “You have insufficient funds to complete this transaction.”
6. Practice generosity
There is nothing like meanness when it comes to killing passion and friendship. Married people can be real mean to one another. We are mean with our time, with compliments, with our bodies, with money, with our friendships… True love gives and gives generously. It gives from a place of non-coercion and joy and service but it also gives because it knows that is what is expected. How can you better serve your partner? How can you be generous with your spouse? What costs you little to give but you have been holding back?
7. Talk to each other.
About important things like saving for your children’s school fees and to build a home, and about unimportant things like how tight the TV presenter’s dress is and how the rain has a nice smell. As long as you keep talking, you will have opportunity to say the things that need to be said before stuff festers and erupts in an ugly scene; or before it gets forgotten until there is a major blow up as your husband wonders why he is hearing for the first time that you are in a multimillion chama from a newspaper article. Or the wife is wondering why he never mentioned he emptied their emergency savings account to do God knows what with the money.
I like to know that I can talk about small unimportant things with my spouse- it means that we respect each other enough to be interested in what the other person has to say even if it sounds unimportant. The other person thought “street lighting systems” or “the heat wave”enough to put it in a conversation. Listen, hear, understand his/her worldview.
8. Finally, let go of stuff.
When two people, especially who have been brought in different environments, live in close proximity of each other, they will rub each other the wrong way. They will say things they shouldn’t have said. They will refuse to do things they should have done. They will do little things that annoy the hell out of the other person. There will be friction. There will be kuzoeana (taking each other for granted). Then there will be the big things. One person will cheat. Another will squander family resources. Another will be physically and emotionally violent. Can we forgive? Can we extend the grace we ourselves have received from God who no longer counts ours sins against us? Can we get reconciled?
The secret to staying happy is choosing to be happy. By holding a grudge you take away your own joy. By keeping scores of wrong done you chose to carry a heavy load that takes away your happiness and energy. Choose to be happy in your marriage regardless of the actions of the other party. Every day wake up and make a mental note to enjoy your life. I promise you that you will.