How To Reach Another Year of Marriage

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Next week, we will be celebrating 17 years of marriage. With so many marriages falling apart around me, I can’t help but wonder why mine is still going strong. The fact is, every couple has challenges. There will be good times, difficult times and those times that will certainly make or break you as a couple. There will be a flicker, moments when the spark you initially felt is very much alive and moments you can’t stand being in the same room. But why do some couples make it and other couples don’t?
If I had to pick just one determining factor that ultimately leads to the success of marriage, it would be commitment. Not the kind of commitment that keeps one faithful but rather a stronger commitment to the relationship and less commitment to self. It’s obvious that people have become very selfish. They want it all. The trick is wanting the relationship to work more than having a hot body or a successful career. It’s purposely choosing the relationship over a hobby or friends or anything else that can drive a wedge in between. Does that mean you shouldn’t go to the gym or take pride in your job? Does it mean you should give up your friends for the sake of your spouse? Of course it doesn’t. It just means that your main priority has got to be your relationship in a time of record divorce and infidelity. The key is putting the majority of time into your spouse and relationship and less time into the passions that drive you apart. When your time and focus is greater on any one thing more than it is your relationship, you can be sure the death of your relationship will soon be near.
I know many couples who get caught up in anniversary gifts. They want the fancy box and the pretty bow. They hold the value of their relationship dependent on whats in the box. For so many years, people will ask, what did he give you for your anniversary. I just smile to myself. The gifts we give each year can’t be put in a box. Every year we give the gift of respect, friendship, support, encouragement and the most important gift of all unconditional love. There is no greater, more satisfying feeling in the world than knowing someone loves you just the way you are, without conditions. There is no greater gift than knowing someone supports your dreams and works along side you to make them come true. There is nothing more special than knowing the person you married is the one who loves and accepts you more than anyone else in the great big world. Love says it’s okay when you make a mistake instead of listing the ways you create your own problems. Love listens and understands when everyone else tries to give advice. Love is there in the hard times and smiling along side you in the good times. Love is a gift that keeps on giving even when the relationship seems hopeless and lost. Love does not criticize, it emphathizes. Love does not blame, it searches for solution. Love does not resent, it always forgives regardless how big the offense. 

What do you think leads to a lasting relationship? What is most important to you?

One Sure Sign Your Relationship Will End Up A Disaster

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There is one obvious sign in a relationship that almost always leads to failure, affairs and/or divorce. I can see it so clearly from where I stand and I wonder why on earth couples can’t figure this out on their own.  What exactly does this red flag look like? It looks exactly like it sounds, a gigantic red flag waving wildly in the air begging for someone to notice. That’s the first sign, not knowing or caring enough in the first place that the relationship has broken down. It’s a husband who goes to every basketball game alone because the wife really doesn’t like basketball. It’s that one female friend that shows up at couples event all by herself making excuses for why her husband isn’t there. It’s Tom going out with the boys and Jane going out with the girls. It’s one parent or the other showing up for Timmys football game but never seeing the parents sitting together on the same night. You cannot expect to have a relationship while living separate lives period. It may work for a little while but over time the relationship will be completely doomed. If your spouse loves something and you don’t, too bad, do it anyway. If it’s couples night and you would rather stay home and catch the latest episode of Bachelorete, too bad, record it and go anyway. Marriage is give and take. It’s compromise and caring enough to be at the side of the person you took a vow to love. Sometimes you have to give even when you don’t feel like it. If you don’t, your absence will eventually take a toll on your marriage and it will be well on its way to being over. You signed a contract, you made a verbal commitment so why do you think you can quietly back out of it? It’s like taking a job and expecting to be paid even when you don’t do any work.  The unfortunate thing is it takes committed people to make a relationship work. The most heartbreaking sight I ever see is one person giving all he or she has and the other physically and emotionally absent. There are all kinds of excuses like “I fell out of love”, “you put on too much weight”, “I’m just not happy anymore”. If you pay for a dinner and the waiter doesn’t serve you any food, how the hell could you ever be happy? You get out of something what you put into it but in a relationship that gets a little bit tricky. The most loving and successful relationships are the ones that truly master the art of balance when it comes to cashing in and making deposits. Maybe that’s the best way to explain relationships of all. If you don’t put money in the bank, there will be none there when you try and take it out. Go to the bank, make the deposit but don’t forget to leave a couple dollars in your pocket for date night.

To Stay or Leave

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Every time I turn around I hear about another friend separated or getting a divorce. I am very naive because I believed if you could make it past 15 years and stay married into your fourties then the rest would be an easy glide downhill. What is it about this particular age that gives people the courage to separate? Is it that life is pretty much half over and we are looking for a new exciting adventure? Is it that the spark has gone out and we are searching to replace it with a new love disguised as lust and physical attraction? Is it that the relationship is disappointing and the only interaction is a chance passing in the hall and we cannot live like that anymore? Do we put our time and effort into someone we think is a better fit while we bide our time and get the courage to really go?

For the ones who do decide to stay, what is it that keeps them together? Does one think I’ve invested all these years so I cannot give up now? Does one decide that they will never be completely happy and it’s safer to stay in a mediocre relationship than starting over in a new one? Is it the guilt and obligation of having kids? Is it not believing you are lovable or deserving of someone who could really make you happy? Is it believing that okay is good enough?

The truth is, as we get older, most of us grow. The expectations we had in our early twenties change as time goes by. Our wants and our needs change also. We cannot easily overlook those things about our spouse that drive us crazy. We no longer appreciate the good qualities our partner brings to the relationship because we are so unhappy. We want to feel that we are the most important person in our partners life and not play second fiddle to a job or TV. We play our spouses flaws over and over in our mind until the list becomes too much to stand. Or we stay and simply give up the dream we once had of a perfect soulmate and a perfect marriage. We comfortably settle as time slowly ticks away. 

What do you think motivates someone to leave and someone to stay? What age is the most common time you see your friends move towards a divorce? Is marriage what you expected it to be? Are you truly happy? Do you secretly wonder what if? I’d love to hear your opinion.