Two major influences having a lasting impact on your life, your satisfaction and personal happiness, are: career and marriage. It’s quite commonsensical. In a typical career, you devote at least half of your waking hours, which bring a whole set of people around you who impact you in multifarious ways. From this angle, a marriage is even more impactful as you spend the rest of your time with a spouse, who is going to bring a great many significant influences on your life. But a marriage is far more crucial as you can leave your company without many obligations but not a spouse without paying huge financial, emotional and psychological costs.
Of late, the welcome trend of pre-marriage counselling is catching on in the country. And I can vouch for it on the basis of my own experience as a counsellor. I would welcome it as it can save you much heartburn later. In fact, the growing trend of pre-marriage counselling should lead to a corresponding fall in marital counselling cases and divorces.
Marriage is an uncharted path for most of us. However, marriage has many aspects which many people cannot be aware of until they experience it. Men and women have different physical, emotional and sexual needs. Even more, their ways of thinking and perceiving differ from each other. That’s what makes marriage hard. The newly married often get a much of “never go to bed angry,” and “always tell the truth” kind of tips but that’s hardly enough for a new couple grappling with important challenges on so many fronts.
The reality is -the first year of marriage is hugely important from the viewpoint of future happiness. A therapist calls it “the wet cement year,” as it’s the time for both spouses to figure out how to live together without getting stuck and without developing bad habits that might trap them later. It’s a time to forge good patterns and ways of togetherness that can continue for the rest of one’s marriage. When I got married (it was a love marriage), I had the advantage of having known my spouse a bit before marriage but that’s never enough as being in love and getting married are two very different games. I used to wonder: How could my husband and I create a happy marriage? How would we survive and come out happier than we were the day we tied the knot? And all I found out was that despite the well-meaning pearls of wisdom given by well-wishers, friends and parents, it’s ultimately all up to you to find what works for you as no two relationship can ever be the same. Having said that, there are some major, eternal truths I found always work, whatever be the situation.
The Keys to a Successful Marriage
As a practicing life coach, I get to many newlyweds, looking for marital advice. Here’s on to them, based on my own experience:
Make it a home
Create such a space where the two of you would love to be together. You wouldn’t want your home to feel like an office or a hotel. Home is where one would love to come back in the evening. Believe me, there are really very few humans who wouldn’t love to return to a loving home. And when I say home, I don’t mean a palatial house or a highly decorated room. All I mean to say is a vibrant, thriving place full of love, laughter and togetherness that instinctively invites every human.
Communication in Relationships
It’s foundational to any relationship. Remember, communication has two parts: speaking and listening. Listening is vital in communication. Become a better listener and tune in to your spouse.
Communication issues are a common thing among married couples. Learn how to communicate effectively with your spouse as without effective communication, you will encounter a lot of problems in your marriage. Cultivate the habit of listening to your spouse. While taking, hint at the fact that you are indeed listening with an occasion Hmm! and right! And do not react, but respond to your spouse once they have finished saying.
Communicate about everything from small things, such as how you spent your day, to big things, such as how to spend your money. It helps you know each other better, resolve issues, and stay connected to each other.
Talk about everything. Especially the stuff that hurts. No secrets! Not talking about the things that bother you could eventually lead to resentment towards your spouse. .
Disagreements are OK
Disagreements are unavoidable. But a defining aspect of a strong, happy marriage, is the ability to get past a fight. It doesn’t matter if you argue as all couples do, it’s all about coming back to the table later and talking about what happened and owning your part. It lets a couple share deeply how they feel without being angry or frustrated during an argument.
You are two distinct individuals. So, you’re not going to have the same opinions on everything, You and your spouse have different life experiences that shape your worldview. You may have to see the world through each other’s lenses. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree. However, you can come to a mutual agreement on big things like big purchases, career, kids and holidays. But over small issues, it’s alright to disagree.
Conflict in Relationships
A marriage is made up of two imperfect people. Therefore, conflicts are going to happen. One of you may see conflict as a sport, while the other may avoid it. You can’t make them disappear, but you can manage those conflicts in a healthy way.
Among common marriage problems, this one ranks pretty much up there. You may experience a post-nuptial depression – the sad mood that newlyweds experience within the first 3-6 months after marriage. It’s nothing but a feeling of letdown after all the excitement of the wedding and the honeymoon phase being over. Avoid talking about the wedding and instead, go out and do things together. It takes time to reorient yourself, and this is just the beginning of your new life together.
This is quite critical. Think as a team and treating each other as equals respectfully. Value each other, work together, and have an equal say in your marriage. Unless it has a strong foundation, the marriage could easily end in a divorce. So spend some time with your spouse to make a plan to build a strong foundation.
The way you were raised may be different from the way your spouse was raised. What you expect to be the “norm” may not be true of your spouse. Talk of your expectations from each other, be realistic, and make mutual compromises. This thing also includes your gender role in the marriage. Reel and real lives are entirely different.
Keep the romance alive
A marriage counsellor will always tell you that romance keeps you connected and alive. So be creative with your dates. It doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie. And it also doesn’t always have to be in the evening. Schedule dates, put them on the calendar, and prioritize that time together.
Keep your phone off the dining table and never forget to dress up nicely. Many newly married wives have this temptation to spend all their time together in sweatpants. Ditto for newly married husbands, many of whom would love to be in their favourite bermudas. This piece of advice goes both ways —make an effort to win your partner over again and again.
In marriage counseling, it is often aid that not every day is perfect or good. That’s okay. Talk to your spouse about the imperfections and the sore points. A marriage is a marathon, not a sprint and on certain days, you’ll feel it’s an obstacle course where you are carrying your spouse up a mountain. Do not obsess over whether you’re doing everything “right”— accept that you cannot learn everything about being a good wife in a day. It’s an ongoing process. Period.
Lean on your partner
A nice thing about being married is that you don’t have to always shoulder all your life on your own. Let your spouse take care of you occasionally when you are down and need their support and love. You may be fiercely independent in terms of your aspirations of achieving your creative goals, but don’t think too much about working part-time after having kids and letting your husband take on the financial responsibilities for a while.
Life coaches often joke that complaining about marriage is practically an international sport. Women all over the world play it so skillfully but having unreasonable expectations for your spouse or comparing your relationship to others’ are surefire ways to dissatisfaction. Better to practice gratitude and be thankful for the good things your spouse brings to the relationship with regular verbal expressions of thanks. Pay attention to the good things your partner does instead of pointing out the negatives. Even a small SMS saying thank you can go a long way.
Take good care of yourself
Among common marriage problems, this one is caused by an attitude of taking it for granted after marriage. No marriage counselor would ever say that marriage should mean the end of “you” as a person, rather, it is a whole new unit including you and your spouse. But it’s easy to lose yourself in a marriage. It’s easy to nurture your spouse and your relationship and forget about nurturing yourself in this process. Take time off to reset yourself and you will have a better marriage. Pay attention to yourself: exercise, read, enjoy with friends, go out, meditate, relax or do whatever else you like.
Those specializing in marriage counselling advise that while there’s no need to put on a show, getting dressed up nicely occasionally is a fun way to keep the romance alive. It is a way to tell your partner you’re still attracted to them, and you prioritize maintaining this attraction.
After the excitement of the wedding is over, the dip in your mood is perfectly normal. But you can keep that excitement of your marriage intact. Have adventures with your spouse. Novelty i.e. taking risks and trying something new can release dopamine in the brain. It could be some novelty in the bedroom, kitchen, having fun or something else. You can get the same dopamine effect from sampling a new cuisine together or trying out the roller coaster in a fun park. Keep on learning, growing and trying new things together to keep the spark alive and avoid monotony from creeping into your relationship.
Equality isn’t 50-50
There are days or weeks when you may have to do one kind of work because your spouse is swamped with work. Of course, you can switch the role later as per requirements. The balance in a marriage isn’t a spreadsheet — it’s about both of you feeling supported. The balance between the two of who does what ebbs and flows. Remember, your marriage is not like anyone else’s and what works for someone else may not work for you. So, take advice and counsel of the people you love and trust and make your own path to be in charge of your own happily ever after.
Trust and respect
A healthy marriage isn’t possible without trust and respect. Trusting your spouse is very critical for you to succeed as a married couple. So build and maintain boundaries for both of you and your marriage- in-laws, social media, opposite-sex friends, technology, money, friends… the list goes on and on. Boundaries matter, and they aren’t bad. Think of them as guardrails to keep you on the road in the right direction. Talk about them and set them together.
By building boundaries, you encourage trust and safety to grow. Don’t keep secrets from your spouse as it creates mistrust. Respecting your spouse means not saying bad things about them to friends, family, co-workers, etc. It means you respect who they are as a person, their opinions, hobbies, passions, etc. and you treat your spouse in the same way you would want to be treated.
Independent and interdependent
Keep up doing the things you are passionate about. Getting married doesn’t mean you stop doing the things you love. Instead, find a way to incorporate it in a way that works for both of you. Spend time with your spouse to grow together as a couple. Choose one thing you can both do to connect and grow together every day and wake up each morning feeling refreshed, happy, and excited about living with your spouse.
Keep the connection with your friends and family alive. Being married doesn’t mean you have to abandon all in your pre-wedding life. You need social outlets to re-energize yourself for your spouse.
Don’t get caught up in a routine. Have fun and lots of it- dancing in the kitchen, playing games, being weird. Whatever it is, make your marriage fun and enjoyable for both of you.
Avoid taking each other for granted by having date nights and taking romantic vacations. Just going to and from work and never focusing on each other or your relationship is going to bring monotony and boredom. When you are just going through the motions, you will feel less satisfied and less content—and that will rub off on your spouse, too. Marriage is a balance between two people.
Talking about money is an intimate conversation. Whether you have separate bank accounts or are a share-everything couple, finances come up early and often. If you’re not talking openly about money, you’re not building a shared future and leave the window open for distrust. And that’s never good for a relationship.
Avoid debts and unnecessary credit card bills. Money problems put unnecessary stress on a marriage. In fact, it’s one of the major causes of arguments among married couples. Never spend more than you have and keep an eye on the future by always saving for the rainy day.
Sex is vital part to a marriage, especially a new one, so make sure your sex life is satisfying for both of you. If there are certain physical or psychological problems affecting your performance, see a doctor and discuss the situation with them and your spouse.
Frequently, in case of many with couples, sex simply disappears after they had kids. This is unfortunate but the solution is a pretty simple: make time for it. Talk about it, schedule it. Sexual intimacy increases the emotional intimacy in your marriage. You both may have different sex drives. That’s ok. Talk about it as sex is an essential part of your marriage.
Put it on a schedule and stick to it. If you don’t block time out, it’s not going to happen. When you schedule it, you get a bit excited as you anticipate the alone time and fantasize about your partner and planning ways to pleasure each other.
Remember Your Commitment
You both vowed to stay true and together whatever comes your way. And this needs to always be top of mind and sustained. Where there is a foundation of caring and love, you can trust that you will get through whatever the difficulties are. Commitment means you can lay your head on your spouse’s shoulder as you know they are for you when you’re vulnerable or tired. It’s a shared intimacy – a necessary ingredient to a healthy and happy marriage.
Do not Stonewall
Stonewalling- shutting down during an argument – is corrosive. The stonewalling spouse stops responding and maintains a calm exterior, an indication that they don’t care about what they’re saying. The stonewaller may be right in trying to calm the things down but the way is very destructive. Instead, ask for a break and tell your partner that you’re feeling emotionally overwhelmed. Go for a walk until you’ve calmed down and then, return to the discussion and continue it.
It’s important to understand and anticipate that you can’t anticipate everything and must react with flexibility. Unexpected events, expenses, and situations come up in relationships. If we are too rigid, we resist facing the unexpected. The ability to go with the flow especially when it’s dramatically different from expectations, gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and know each other in unexpected ways.
Growth as a couple requires curiosity, which can result in tremendous learning to strengthen your relationship. In challenging situations, you can both learn from what makes those situations hard for you and grow in the process. This way, you will both have pride for yourselves and each other. Your partner will likely change over time, so a shared sense of curiosity allows you to change for the better.
Grow and Learn
Everyone screws up things, makes wrong decisions and messes up. It’s all about how people react that defines a relationship. If you are willing to learn from mistakes related to your partner’s needs and desires, you will thrive personally and in the relationship. A willingness to admit mistakes and apologize sincerely is the key to a deeper bond. So, drink that pride to say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake.
Laugh it out
The best thing you can do for a happy marriage is laugh together every day. If you can laugh together, you can get through anything.
Little Things Matter
Small gestures carry weight- a simple love note, a longer hug or kiss goodbye can make your partner feel appreciated. A short and sweet text can make your lover’s heart pitter-patter.
Be supportive and engaged with your spouse. Couples with mutual respect believe in each other’s strengths and have enough faith to know when to retrace and let them handle something on their own. They know they can’t fix their partner’s problems more than the partner wants to. They know when they need to let go of control and let the partner figure things out.