So, You Want Your Marriage to Thrive?
Take a good look at yourself first.
So, you’re looking for your marriage to thrive?
Before you start pointing your finger at your partner, why not begin by looking first at yourself?
You are not the same person today as you were on the day you got married.
You have aged. Perhaps you became a parent, started a family, and bought your first home. Maybe you changed jobs, picked up some new hobbies, and gained some weight. Possibly you’ve acquired some new friends. You may have even changed your political views or religious beliefs.
You are a different person.
You’ve experienced stress. Lots of it. And that stress has affected your overall health and well-being. Somehow, you’ve come to accept this reality, which has shown up unexpectedly both at work and at home. You don’t really have time to do anything about it anyway. You’re busy, and you’ve got commitments and responsibilities to uphold.
The joy, happiness, and freedom you once knew as a single person, have now turned into any number of regular feelings of anger, frustration, aggressiveness, depletion, resentment, or annoyance. You have morphed into an unfamiliar someone who has become apathetic, antagonistic, passive-aggressive, verbally (or otherwise) abusive and maybe even depressed. And your way of being is negatively affecting your spouse and your marriage, while technically still intact, is withering.
Where are you, that person, who tied the knot?
Perhaps you’ve even begun to seek out that person, knowing that somewhere between then and now, that person has somehow ceased to exist.
If you are lucky, you married someone half-decent who is eternally forgiving and accepting of this unexpected change.
Or perhaps not.
Because maybe your partner, after too many years of tolerating you, has just had enough. Because while your partner will always love you, your partner may not have any energy left to watch life run you over. To watch you let life run you over.
As I witness marriages around me doing anything but thriving, I decided to take a look at my marriage contract the other day. What was even in that contract? Which commitments did I make to my husband? I was embarrassed to admit to myself, I had no clue. In fact, the only thing I could remember about that beautifully hand-painted contract was going shopping for it with my mother and caring more about the design of it than anything else.
So, I went to our bedroom where our marriage contract hangs on the wall, and started to read the fine print:
“Vow to cherish, honor and support one another…”
“Strive to be loving, patient, and loyal to one another…”
“Weave a tapestry of celebration…”
And then it dawned on me.
The one thing that was missing.
The most important piece of all!
And the reason I believe most marriages are not thriving.
The contract was remiss of requiring each of us, as individuals, to take care of ourselves. Isn’t that a curious thing? Why is that not in the contract? Perhaps taking care of oneself is a given when entering into a partnership? True, only people of a certain age get married. So, maybe it’s assumed those people already know the importance of self-care? For, how else could each person cherish, honor, support, and love the other person if they don’t know how to do that first for themselves?
But, I believe it is this silent assumption that is destroying most marriages. The fact is, most people are not fully and wholesomely taking care of themselves. They either don’t have the tools, believe they don’t have the time, or don’t recognize the value of promoting their own health and well-being. And when they don’t take care of themselves, they are hurting their partnership.
15 years ago, I did not think twice about this. It was an honest mistake. I was young. I was naïve. I couldn’t anticipate what life changes I would go through and how they would affect my marriage. But now, as I witness marriages suffer and languish all around me, the answer is becoming clear as day.
It’s not to say that by following this theory you can avoid all marital mishaps. But, it is to say, when both sides are committing to their own personal health and well-being, there will be a better chance of success as each person’s personal effort will only strengthen the foundation of the relationship.
While time and experience may change you over time, by committing to your own personal health and well-being, before you commit to enter into a partnership, you will be steadfast in cherishing, honoring, supporting, and loving yourself. And only from that place will you have a glimmer of hope in creating a sustainable marriage that is based on two equally committed to healthy parts.
Even if you are already married, perhaps you can consider taking on a new vow, each and every morning. A vow to honor and love yourself, in addition to honoring and loving your partner.