In their pre-marital book entitled Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (2006), Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott suggest seven key predictors for creating a lasting relationship in a happy marriage.
- Healthy expectations of marriage.
- A realistic concept of love.
- A positive attitude and outlook toward life
- The ability to communicate their feelings.
- An understanding and acceptance of their gender differences.
- The ability to make decisions and settle arguments.
- A common spiritual foundation and goal.
These seven characteristics form the outline for the respective chapters of the book. These qualities are also frequently visited in marital therapy and are worth consideration as a quick check-up on how you are doing in your marriage.
It is not so much the expectations that get us into trouble. Rather, it is the failure to communicate those expectations to each other that often leaves the other person guessing, hoping to get it right. This is a real problem when one person repeatedly, innocently violates the other’s expectations without knowing it.
Many times people form new marital bonds with concepts of love shaped by what they don’t want it to be. Children who have grown up in unhappy and unhealthy homes will often define love by the opposite of their experiences. True love is more than the absence of dysfunctional, toxic love.
Faith, hope and love are fundamentally based upon the belief that there is something to enjoy in the present and to anticipate in the future. An optimistic view in each other that chooses to believe and hope for the best will contribute towards dispelling negative expectations. By the way, a sure predictor of marital failure is when a couple continually chooses to believe the worst about each other.
In our world of sound bites and text messages, sitting down with the express intention of listening to each other for the simple joy of understanding seems to be a rarity. Communication of feelings has to be intentional and focused, requiring energy and patience.
Appreciating Our Differences
It is one thing to know that we are different and to acknowledge it to each other. It can be something quite different when we begin to appreciate those differences and allow them to compliment our relationship as we learn to dovetail our energies together. Trusting each other enough to allow one’s strengths compensate for the other’s blind sides is a huge accomplishment that goes a long way towards a happy marriage.
Many parents settle their differences privately in order to protect their children. When conflict is destructive and wounding, this can be a good thing. The best scenario, it seems to me, is for parents to learn healthy ways of resolving conflict and demonstrating those skills before their kids. Being too careful to protect our kids from witnessing disagreements may leave them thinking that conflict is always bad, without the necessary tools for learning to resolve differences and formulating win-win solutions to problems.
When we agree that spiritual values are important then, to the extent that they are shared values, marriages can thrive. If not on the same page spiritually, at least a proper respect for each other’s faith will reinforce appreciation of those elements that are similar as well as a humility towards those areas that are different.
So, how did you do? These areas…and so much more…are the realm in which Marriage and Family Therapists practice daily. If you need assistance in helping your relationship grow in satisfaction and longevity we offer free first-time consultations to see if Marriage and Family Therapy is right for you.