Many couples at the beginning of marriage do not think too deeply about what is important in a relationship and what makes a marriage happy. Perhaps after a few years together, some may wonder if they may have married the wrong partner. However, if you treat the “wrong” partner like the “right” one, you ultimately married the right partner. On the other hand, if you married the right partner and treat them wrongly, you will ultimately not have a fulfilling marriage. It is far more important to consider being the right partner than to question whether you have married the right partner. In other words, it all comes down to us! 

Personal experiences and observations prove that a healthy and fulfilling marriage does not rely on the passion of the moment. Emotions of happiness and bliss do not always occur in everyday life; therefore, unrealistic expectations can lead to problems in many relationships. Certainly, romantic aspects can spice up or refresh a relationship. But true love that lasts and endures in difficult times is not based on romance. We read of this true love in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13: 

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 

Does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 

Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Feelings are given to us and certainly have their place, but they must not take the lead in our marriage and override biblical instructions. Feelings can be changed by our decisions, and adapt to match our actions. Sometimes it takes time for actions and feelings to be in harmony, but it is the proper way. Let us love our partner no matter how we feel. 

Building a successful marriage means being ready to forgive every day. Forgiveness replaces rejection with acceptance and waives the right to retaliate. Above all, forgiveness decides not to bring up past failures. 

We live in a world that keeps us on our toes. If we are not vigilant and consciously plan downtime, we can quickly become overwhelmed with activities and drift apart as a couple without even noticing. Feelings of isolation and indifference arise. We pay increasingly less attention to our partner and, ultimately, disconnect emotionally. Many marriages do not end in a quarrel but slowly die from the many small leaks through which enthusiasm and joy seep out. A main reason for the loss is that we get accustomed to our spouse and take them for granted. In a well functioning marriage, each partner fulfills their potential when they are supported, loved, and encouraged. Time plays a significant role here. Spouses who spend a lot of time together and share moments with one another, be they sad or happy in nature, establish a strong bond and strengthen their relationship. 

A key skill that can be lost over the years is listening. Consumed with everyday worries and distractions, it is easy to become superficial and miss the underlying message that our partner is trying to communicate. We must ask ourselves: What needs does my partner have that I could help with? It is important to give the speaker our undivided attention through eye contact and body language, to let them speak, to express feelings, and to repeat key statements in a paraphrased form, ie: “Did you mean to say…?”, “That made you angry, (happy, sad, glad, etc.)?”, “I understand you….” It is important to communicate that the person remains loved and recognized even when things have not gone ideally. Specifically, women are not interested in having their problems solved, but rather in “feeling understood”.  It takes a lot of sensitivity to find the right words in such situations. It is helpful to consciously plan time for important matters and to create a calm and pleasant environment in which to have an undisturbed discussion. 

Victor Oliver once said: “Divine wisdom and love in the truest sense leads men and women to recognize each other’s strengths and to allow those strengths to be utilized to solidify the relationship.” There are many aspects of life in which one spouse is strong and the other is weak. Leadership means discovering strengths and weaknesses, agreeing on responsibility in these areas, and regularly reassessing how it is working. Leadership does not mean making all decisions alone. 

A happy marriage is sealed by praying together. When we do this regularly, it prevents resentment or displeasure, which, in time, makes the heart hard and listless. It prevents the development of a negative attitude that can lead to bitterness. Not letting the sun go down on our anger is not an easy task, but it encourages us to strive for peace and forgiveness. 

Problems and contentions often arise because we do not recognize that men and women often have different views on the same thing. The following suggestions can have a positive impact on a conversation:

1. Avoid a harsh start to the conversation. With God’s help, a couple should be careful at all times to start a conversation with kind words and without accusations.  

2. Instead of criticizing the person, address the particular behavior or grievance. We want to resolve the situation without judging the person.  

3. Avoid contempt and disrespect. Cynicism or sarcasm as well as a derogatory body language prevent reconciliation. Disrespect often arises by nurturing negative thoughts about the partner, such as: “typical man/woman,” “I would expect nothing else from him/her.”

4. Do not resort to self-defense. Self-defense, in other words, says, “I am not the problem. You are.” 

5. Stay open and accessible. Especially if a conversation starts harshly and insensitively, there is a high probability that your partner will retaliate and put up a wall. A calm conversation will be very difficult, since what is being said is no longer heard but gets blocked. 

6. Give your partner the opportunity to make amends. Trying to make up for a mistake is very important. Forgiveness plays a big role here. Attempts to reconcile reduce stress and signal the desire to give in and relent. 

Marriage and family is the smallest cell of society and is susceptible to the devil’s attacks. With God’s help, however, it is possible to win and to have a fulfilling marriage. 

Lilly Bebernik 

Edmonton, Alberta

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