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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,975
June 26, 2019
Want a Successful Marriage?
By Mike McManus

June is the wedding month. Too many young couples focus on the wedding, which now costs an average of $35,000. However, a wedding is but a day. Marriage is for a lifetime.

For those of us who are married, June is a good time to take stock, a time to reflect upon our own marriage. Marriage is not for sissies. Marriage has no expiration date and it doesn't come with a warranty.

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. The goal is to seek to build a healthy marriage. Spouses will have differences which can lead to arguments. Both spouses must find ways to make the marriage work.

It takes more than love to make a marriage work. Most people think of love as a feeling, but feelings come and go. But love is a decision to pledge to each other a commitment, a decision to grow together.

The vows are about decisions. If one partner loses in a marriage - both lose. We must build skills to seek a win-win solution. Conflict, if resolved amicably and respectfully, builds your marriage muscle.

Conflicts and hard times are inevitable. However, couples can use those times to grow stronger together. Good times are easy. Hard times are challenging. Couples need to commit to vows pledged on their wedding day.

The goal of marriage is not happiness. Rather, the goal is to seek oneness. By building up your spouse, by making a pledge, a promise to cherish one's partner, the result is oneness - that produces joy.

The key is learning how to manage the bad times, and survive them together - which builds marriage muscle and makes couples stronger. When the hard times come - and they will - learn how to cope and you will become closer to one another.

You can't change your partner, but you can change yourself.

Feelings come and go, but the marriage vows are permanent.

As Scripture puts it in I Corinthians 13: "Love is patient; love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. (One of my biggest flaws.) It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

That's 16 definitions of love -all of which are based on decisions, not feelings.

Happiness is based on circumstances, but love is permanent and is based on decisions. They do not change with fluctuating situations.

It is easy to be a loving partner in the good times. But what about the hard times - the loss of a job, a serious illness, a death in the family? That's when we must love our partner, giving help shoulder the burden.
In flexing marriage muscles, the greatest gift you can give your spouse is the gift of listening. Many think good communication means talking - explaining your point of view. But good communication In marriage is developing the skill of listening, without interruption and without correction.

The goal of marriage is oneness. Many think the goal of marriage is happiness; but rather it is oneness in which spouses work to understand one another.

The key to a successful marriage is to manage conflict so that both partners feel respected, valued and heard. No one should feel put down, dismissed or given the silent treatment. That will never build a high functioning marriage.

Interestingly, conflict can actually build intimacy and trust if we learn how to manage our differences in a mutually respectful way. That will draw you closer as a couple.

The first step is to consider our spouses needs first. We ought to set goals for how to make our marriage better. The first goal might be simple: How can I do a better job serving you? What needs do you have that I am not fulfilling? In our wedding, I pledged "to have and to hold you, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health until death do us part."

Second, how is our love not just a feeling? Feelings come and go. I believe love is a decision. Where am I falling short?

Third, what changes would you most like to see in me?

However, we should be willing to consider new steps that would give us a fresh sense of joy and fulfillment. June is a wedding month.

But it should also be a marriage month in which you say, "I still do."


Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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