Structural strength in any physical home begins with a solid and stable foundation. If your relational foundation is unstable, damaged or missing a key component, you will have difficulty resolving common, everyday issues related to work, finances, children, etc. We believe that if you can communicate to achieve understanding, be willing to accept and extend forgiveness, learn to compromise, push yourself to trust and be committed to improving your relationships, you will have the foundation you need to have a happy marriage.
Here are the five keys to having a happy marriage :
1. Healthy Communication
There is so much more to communicating than most of us appreciate. Communication is the only way we can connect with another person. We constantly communicate something through our words, body language, tone, what we wear, etc. Given that truth, it is surprising how few of us put much thought into how and what we communicate. Unfortunately, the only times we give much consideration or forethought to how we communicate is when we face communicating a challenging subject or after we have experienced a breakdown in communication.
It can be very frustrating or upsetting when our spouse misunderstands us or misinterprets our intentions. Without the prevalence of healthy communication skills, we can easily find ourselves disconnected from our spouses.
One important skill that allows us to remain connected is the act of validation. Validation is an action completed by the listener to inform the speaker that they have been heard and understood. When validating, the listener is attempting to let the speaker know that what the speaker feels, believes or thinks is valid.
Validating doesn’t necessarily mean that the listener agrees with or accepts the speaker’s perspective. When you validate, you are simply letting the speaker know that what they have shared makes sense and that you understand it. It only has to be a few phrases (sometimes even less), but validation is vital for healthy communication.
Validating equals Understanding
Validating does not have to equal Agreement
When the listener does not validate the speaker, the speaker may feel misunderstood or rejected. Validation is the bridge that brings two people together on the given subject. The listener might be tracking the speaker’s message in his or her head. Still, if the listener doesn’t indicate that he or she understands, the speaker can feel distant, invalidated or unimportant.
When two people are engaged in a heated conversation, validation can be a difficult skill to keep in mind. However, validation is one of the most important, if not the most important, skill to develop for healthy communication within your relationship.
There are multiple layers to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a decision and an action to let something go that has come between you and another person. Forgiveness is a one-time act and an ongoing commitment. Forgiveness is an essential part of moving on from or resolving life’s hurts and disappointments. It is nearly impossible to have a healthy and happy marriage without forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a necessary component of every healthy and sustainable relationship because conflict and hurt are parts of life. In every relationship, healthy or not, we inflict and suffer wounds, pain and trauma. Damages can be inflicted intentionally or unintentionally, but the effects are often the same regardless of their nature.
Some wounds are superficial and easily forgiven. Others are deep and held on to for years. Without forgiveness, wounds can lead to bitterness and resentment, both of which are toxic for any relationship. When we forgive, we get rid of anger and resentment from the initial wound. We have to forgive others and ourselves for the pain we cause, or we will get stuck in the past and unable to grow in our relationships.
The goal of compromise is to reach a commonality between two people that desire to share in an experience together but might have different expectations, beliefs or needs. Compromise is a necessary component of every relationship because it is unlikely you will agree with everyone on everything. An authentic relationship almost ensures that you will have differences at some point. Compromise is the skill that allows you to grow together despite those differences.
Compromise is often an expression of a person’s willingness and desire to be connected to another person. By contrast, an unwillingness to compromise expresses a desire to be alone or have it your way no matter the cost. When one is willing to compromise, it communicates that he or she values the relationship more than his or her own opinion, belief or idea. In later sections of the program, we discuss how complicated but vital it is to compromise important issues like parenting, spiritual beliefs and careers.
We all have an innate desire to trust. Trust is a vital component of every healthy relationship. Unfortunately, we have all experienced hurt from someone we trusted or someone we were supposed to trust – a parent, a friend or a spouse. Even if we forgive that person, we may be left with feelings of mistrust.
Based on an accumulation of words and actions, you choose to trust or mistrust others. The choice to trust someone is often a combination of two factors: your experience and your perception of the other person. For your relationship to grow and be healthy, each of you needs to trust and behave in a trustworthy manner. Therefore, you need to understand what influences your ability to trust. What you have experienced in your past and your perceptions of your spouse’s behavior are crucial factors in understanding your trust level.
If you have difficulty trusting, we encourage you to extend trust to those who exhibit trustworthy behaviors. Do not let your past hurts restrict your ability to trust others who might be deserving. If you are the one who has broken trust, focus on being trustworthy consistently, and give your spouse time to heal and begin to trust again.
Without commitment, marriage has little chance to succeed. You could be great at the other four foundational components, but without the ability to commit, your relationship would wither away. Although there are usually multiple factors contributing to divorce, one common denominator in every failed marriage is a lack of commitment. In an age of immediate gratification, staying committed to a relationship that takes work, patience and sacrifice certainly tests your level of commitment.
When you think about your commitment to your spouse, do you consider it an obligation, an investment or both? Is your responsibility something you are continually investing in? Investment is forward-moving and has the potential to create a better future. Investments are best understood as countless gestures, acts, and words that play a part in shaping your relationships with your spouse and children.
We have the opportunity to influence our families by thinking of our commitment to them as an investment in the future. If I hope to have a more trusting and intimate relationship with my wife in the future, I will need to make a consistent and concerted effort every day. If I treat my wife and family as an obligation, I will be more likely to see the barriers, traps and negative aspects of our relationships. When a marriage is defined solely by its obligations, it might be sustainable but will not grow. Investing in your relationships strengthens your commitment and will result in a happy marriage.