Relationships can be challenging. Marriage is no different. Having a flourishing marriage? Even more challenging! A flourishing marriage takes work. Here I offer you three tips for a flourishing marriage.
As a married person who’s almost done with his M.S in Clinical Psychology and well on his way to becoming a marriage and family therapist, this question is incredibly important: how exactly do two people enjoy a great marriage?
What are the steps they must take in order to enjoy not just one really good year of marriage, but to enjoy all of their years of married life?
My wife and I think a lot about these kinds of questions. It’s probably worth adding that my wife is already a licensed marriage and family therapist.
As you could imagine, there’s quite a bit of psychologizing going on in our relationship.
While it’s true that we’re steeped in a professional centered around helping individuals and couples flourish, we’re far from masters on these things.
We do, however, have some helpful ideas and tips I’m excited to write about, hopefully to the benefit of those of you either already in relationship or wanting to be in relationship.
Below are three tips that I recommend you implement as soon as possible in order to set you and/or your partner up for relational success.
One of the biggest obstacles couples face today has much less to do with the relationship itself and more to do with the individuals inside the relationship.
What’s the obstacle? People don’t really know themselves that well.
The might know things like, who they are, what they love, what they hate, and what they can tolerate. But many people lack the deeper and much important information.
People know the what, but they don’t know the why. And knowing the why is crucial in knowing yourself.
So you love quality time, you hate words of affirmation, and you tolerate physical touch.
Do you know why you love quality time?
Do you know why you hate words of affirmation?
Do you know why you tolerate physical touch?
(Side note: these are references to a book I highly recommend called The Five Love Languages: The Secret To Love That Lasts.)
Unless you know the why, the what isn’t all that helpful.
When it comes to relating with your significant other, getting a grasp on the why will be crucial to growing together. Why is this? Because understanding the why creates deeper understanding in a way that catalyzes longer-lasting change than “the what” does.
Simon Sinek makes a similar point regarding organizations in his book, Start With Why.
This idea of starting with why is truly a universally applicable principle. It has gives way to incredible fruits in the case of relationships.
So, my advice to you is to dig into the why. Begin to seek out why you are the way that you are. Oh, and don’t forget: you’ll only be able to take someone as far you’re willing to go, so don’t try and push “the why” on your significant other if you’re not willing to confront it for yourself.
It takes courage. My second tip to help you have a flourishing marriage will give you a way to start practicing the first tip about getting to know yourself.
This tip might sound too obvious to be useful, but keeping a journal has been a game changer for my wife and myself.
Whether you’ve realized this or not, there are going to be moments where you don’t want to talk to your spouse or significant other about what’s going in your mind. You might also not have a good friend with whom you can share what’s going on.
Not only is that perfectly okay; it’s completely normal and healthy. But there might be times where this is really important content, content you don’t want to forget or let go. Perhaps it is content you’ll eventually want to share with your significant other or spouse.
Write it down. Keep a journal. This is a perfect way to begin the processing of getting to know yourself because, maybe for the first time ever, you have a space where you get to be in charge of what’s being said and what’s not being said.
Take advantage of this space. Keep a journal. Be sure to date your entries so you can keep track of what was going on and how you grew from that moment or event.
One thing one of mentors recommends is a five year journal. This one only gives you small spaces for each day, but it provides you the benefit of being able to track changes in your life across five years.
When we’re triggered by our spouse or significant other, it’s easy to forget why we love them so much. Once again, if you’ve not experienced this yet, get ready. It’s natural and normal.
Write an entry detailing all of your favorite attributes of your significant other. Then, when you find yourself in the triggered space, go back to this entry. Sit with it. Remember it. Allow it to take root within you.
There’s much more to be said about “getting triggered” and how to maneuver these spaces. Stay tuned for a future post on this.
Here’s my last tip. This one is for the brave-hearted and courageous—and for the ones who are a bit more financially equipped.
Couple’s counseling is by far the greatest investment my wife and I have made in our relationship. It’s also one of the most expensive investments we’ve made in our relationship, and still we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
There’s a lot to say about couple’s counseling; way more than I can say here. So, I’ll just say a couple things about what it is and why it’s been so incredibly crucial for my wife and I.
In short, couple’s counseling is the process of you and your significant other seeking out an objective third other whose primary job is to help you sort out your relational challenges.
Most people seek out couple’s counseling reactively. There’s usually some event which is often catastrophic to the relationship, i.e. an affair, substance abuse, major financial issues, etc.
There’s another approach you can take to couple’s counseling: the proactive approach. This is the approach you take before there’s any serious or major issue.
It demands a kind of humility on the part of the individuals in the relationship to know that while there may not be anything “catastrophic” happening, no one is immune from such events. And a great way to defend against them is to tackle the BIG project of getting to know yourself and why you are the way you are.
In quality couple’s counseling, this is what you’re doing: with the direction of a trained professional, you’re uncovering, session by session, why you and your partner operate the way you do. You then implement these insights in order to promote and support each other in the relationship.
So much more can be said, but I’ll pause here to move into why it’s been so helpful to my wife and I.
Like I said, my wife and I are therapy junkies. We can’t get enough of it. We’ve both been in our own individual therapy for a collective of 15 years. We’ve now been in couple’s therapy for over a year.
No major catastrophes; simply a conviction we have that there’s a lot to us that we can’t see by ourselves: we need “someone on the outside” to help us.
A quality, trained professional can be this person on the outside. Someone who has legitimate insight to the dynamics that are at play with human persons.
For us, these dynamics are regularly tied to our earliest moments in life. You’d be surprised by how much of the way you act now is tied to the way you were raised.
My wife and I knew before we even started dating that the way to have a flourishing marriage is to remain committed every day to getting to know ourselves.
Knowing yourself is essential, not just to having the best first year of marriage, but to having the best life-long marriage.
Marriage, after all, is a life long commitment. Want to know how to do it well, how to have a flourishing marriage?
Well, for starters: get to know yourself, keep a journal, and, for the really brave and courages ones, consider couple’s counseling. Need some resources? Sign up for our emails newsletter!
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