What keeps a marriage strong? This subject has long been debated and attempted by couples who want a healthy marriage of their own. The questions remains, though. Do you have what it takes to put into your marriage what you will get out of it?
What makes a healthy marriage?
People have many ideas as to what makes a marriage work. But it’s not that simple, is it? Because marriage is the very definition of two becoming one, we not only bring in our own opinions to the relationship but also how we were raised, the quirks we’ve acquired over the years, and our shortcomings. Most of us who have been married for a while know that it sometimes brings out the worst in you. But the good news is, it also brings out the best.
When a marriage works, it’s beautiful and life-giving. But when it’s struggling, it makes everything in life seem hard. I know for myself when our marriage is off, I get depressed, less motivated, and can’t be the mom I know I can be.
Over the past twelve years, my husband and I began to realize that there are positive characteristics to our marriage now, that was never there before; like how we resolve arguments and so on. It’s through these elements our marriage has grown into something beautiful.
Had we never stuck with it through the ups and downs, we would have never gotten to where we are now—a strong marriage, filled with love and understanding for one another. It’s definitely not perfect, but I have never felt like perfection should be an element to a healthy marriage, anyway.
Our marriage has been through a lot—circumstances that most couples wouldn’t persevere through. But the fact that we did, proves not only that it’s possible, but even the most difficult circumstances don’t have to end your marriage.
Characteristics of a healthy marriage
The reason I name grace as the number one element to a strong marriage is that, in marriage, you will hurt one another in more ways than you can count. From grace flows all of the beautiful characteristics of love…
Patience, kindness, forgiveness, perseverance.
Grace is forgiveness, at it’s best.
It’s with grace that we can allow our husband or wife to make mistakes, knowing we are also capable of making mistakes.
The perfect example of grace that I draw from is Jesus. We have unmerited, undeserved favor freely given to us on a daily basis—and it’s all because of Christ, so why not extend this beautiful grace to our spouse?
If your husband or wife has hurt you immeasurably, it can hinder the grace lens you might have been looking through, and learning to forgive them can be daunting. Mistrust begins to set in and you don’t know why or how your marriage turned from contentment to resentment.
This is why grace is the most important element. With grace you can forgive, trust once again, and love your spouse the way that God loves you—unconditionally.
Intimacy is a FRAGILE thing. To open up to someone in that way is one of the most vulnerable things you will ever do.
It is defined by the fact that both parties involved are being equally satisfied. It is not to selfishly fulfill one partner’s desires—it’s a mutual bond that takes years to master.
Seriously, the older my husband and I get, the longer we are married, the better it is — it evolves with our marriage.
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My husband is my best friend. We do everything together, but also respect one another’s need for alone time.
This hasn’t always been the case. The reason I mention that is because I truly believe that this element takes time and intentionality.
Think about your girl friend or guy friend that you’ve had throughout your life. Were you best friends from day one, or did it take time and a give and take mentality that brought you to finally say, “You’re my best friend?”
Living a lifetime with your spouse who is also your best friend, is a beautiful thing.
I am not one to cover up the fact that our marriage is FULL of unhealthy communication. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you would know that. But we are working on it. It’s our area of particular struggle and we are realizing that the healthier our communication, the better our marriage.
Healthy communication comes easy to some couples, but others are daunted by it. Resolving conflict isn’t something people really learn about before beginning a relationship—sometimes, you have to be thrown into the deep end before you learn how to swim.
But if your marriage is going to get stronger, learning to communicate healthily is one of the most important defining factors of a healthy marriage.
Arguments can be a good thing, given they are done right. Yes, there is a right and wrong way to argue.
Humans are selfish. We just are. When we don’t get our way, we become irritable, angry, resentful. Marriage is difficult because it’s two selfish people living together…forever—things are bound to get heated because of that.
But if you want to stand out from the crowd, it’s with humility that your marriage will begin to shine.
Humility is admitting when you’re wrong. It’s putting the other person first; holding true to the promise you made—for better or worse.
It doesn’t want to be right or NEED to be right. It’s also the most difficult practice in marriage. Who wants to be last, or give up your right? No one does.
We learn humility when we desire to see our partner happy. For me, I want my husband to be happy, so there are certain things I will give up or sacrifice in order for him to be okay. He also does this for me.
Sometimes we want what we want and when we don’t get it, we throw a fit. But we try, try again.
This is why is all goes back to GRACE.
Trust and Transparency
We’ve all lied at one point in our life. Some lies are big, some are little and white.
Being transparent with one another is an element of a strong marriage that will protect it. When we begin to let in the little lies, they can transform into big lies. Once big lies are apart of your marriage, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to heal and learn to trust again.
It’s better that from the beginning you are transparent about everything, no matter how difficult. It’s not easy to be transparent. That means we have to admit we are human; that we make mistakes.
Another reason why grace is needed here. Forgiveness is a byproduct of that.
Last but not least is teamwork. Being on the same page is sometimes not something that comes easy. Because you are two different people, coming from two different backgrounds, having teamwork is sometimes like herding cats.
My husband is amazing at this when it comes to helping me out around the house. He helps me clean, organize—he’s actually better at it than I am.
When I am changing diapers, he is scooping the cat poop. When I am cooking dinner, he is helping our son with homework. We recognize that teamwork is needed in order for our family to function as a whole.
Doing life together is much better than living with one another, doing life apart.
You can be right next to someone but feel as though they are miles away. It’s just more painful—you still feel their presence, yet you can’t enjoy it. We’ve been there. Maybe you are there, I don’t know.
What I don’t want is for you to read this and think,
I wish I had that. Why can’t I have that?
Wishing something to be different won’t help you and your spouse have a healthy marriage. But you can do something about it. Taking the first step is the hardest part. But take it from a couple who has been down a pretty hard and heavy road. There is hope.