What makes a marriage work? What keeps some couples together through thick, thin and everything in between for decades, while other unions flounder seemingly right out of the starting gate? There may be as many opinions as there are marriages, but here are a few I've heard over the years, not listed in any particular order.
The Importance of Intimacy
Intimacy isn't just sexual. It's emotional as well.
It's a mental and physical closeness that allows each of you to let your barriers down, something you may not be able to do with another living soul. When both spouses succumb to the rat race, when both work and chase after numerous demands on their time on a daily basis, intimacy can easily be lost unless conscious steps are taken to preserve it. You have to make time for it.
Passion Fans the Flames
Spouses in long-lasting marriages tend to share a passion for life, as well as for each other. Passion heats things up in a good way. Certain neurotransmitters in the brain spike whether you're getting fervent over your favorite sports team or your spouse. This produces rushes of dopamine, oxytocin and vassopressin, which in turn promote feelings of pleasure, trust and arousal — all good things for keeping a marriage going strong. Keep romance alive in your marriage.
Forgive Each Other
Forgiving each other means more than taking a deep breath in the face of minor transgressions, although that's important, too.
Yes, he always forgets important occasions and he doesn't understand why they're so important to you. You can fight over it and ruin those occasions year in and year out, or you can acknowledge that this is the guy you fell in love with and learn to anticipate that he's not going to remember. Take matters into your own hands.
The fix can be as easy as reminding him rather than expecting him to suddenly change.
Forgiveness also means that you don't hang onto past baggage and past hurts. Be willing to let go and to move forward with your lives. Accept your differences and don't try to change your spouse.
United You Stand
You're a unit, a team. This means dealing with crisis and adversity together, and there's bound to be some over the years. Don't let others drive a wedge between you, including your respective parents. They're not part of your unit. They became outsiders the day you said, "I do." The best way to keep them at a loving arm's length, safely away from creating turmoil and stress in your marriage, is to stand on your own two — or four — feet. Try to avoid being financially or emotionally dependent on anyone else. Depend on each other for solutions instead.
Celebrate Your Sense of Commitment
This means banishing the word "divorce," not only from your vocabulary but from your mind. You made a commitment to each other and that's all there is to it.
Honor it through good times and bad.
You're not just lovers, you're best friends, and there's more to marriage than crisis, adversity, commitment and passion. Life — and love — involves fun, too. Make sure you share it with each other. Take time to get away together occasionally to laugh, kick up your heels and do something that both of you really enjoy. But keep in mind that 24/7 togetherness can actually be harmful. Everyone needs their own space and a little bit of privacy. Respect that and make sure you give it to each other.
Although there are plenty of long-lasting marriages, there are no perfect marriages. You'll fight. It's human nature to disagree and to sometimes get heated about it. Just make sure to fight fair — don't bring up the past and don't go for the jugular. Speak your mind. Say your piece. Don't aim to hurt, and above all, don't fight to win. Try to walk away from any skirmish with a compromise solution — you both take something positive away from it. And pick your battles. Take a deep breath before diving in to decide if the issue at hand is really work the stress of fighting with someone you love.