For Richer or For Poorer: Making Contradictions Work for a Successful Marriage
For richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health; from the very first day we say “I do,” marriage is filled with contradictions. The secret to making your relationship last until “death do you part?” Finding the balance between extremes and establishing equilibrium when it matters.
3 Tips to Strengthening Your Marriage
1. Make Grand Gestures, Love Quietly
Marital relationships are enhanced by acts of nurturing, such as planned date nights, affectionate notes tucked in briefcases, anniversary getaways, and thoughtful gifts. While each of these acts may seem small in and of itself, cumulatively, they add up to grand and meaningful demonstrations of love and goodwill, which contribute significantly to marital happiness over time. I think of these acts as putting spare change into a piggy bank and watching the funds add up over time.
Marriages are also enhanced by the quiet, everyday choices we make to enhance our partner’s quality of life and overall health. Choosing healthy foods (even when we know that more butter makes a meal taste better), encouraging a spouse to take time for exercise (even when his work schedule already keeps him away from the family for too long), and freeing him from obligations that create feelings of stress or guilt are all ways that we can love quietly, while expressing our affection in loud and clear terms.
2. Tell Him How You Feel, Hold Your Tongue
Ask a person who has been happily married for decades about the secret of their marital success, and chances are good they will talk about the importance of communication. When husbands and wives can talk honestly and directly to each other about what is on their minds—their wants, needs, concerns, hopes, and happinesses—this openness is relationship-enhancing. The knowledge that your partner is willing to hear and understand you is a foundation of a healthy and enduring relationship.
Be careful not to mistake “honesty,” however, for always saying exactly what is on your mind at any given moment. In any strong relationship, there is a definite benefit to holding your tongue at times. Not every feeling needs to be expressed in the moment and often, couples benefit from waiting for an extreme mood or reaction to pass before they process it aloud with their spouse.
For those who know enough not to express their inner hostility in aggressive terms, sarcasm is a common alternative. Angry feelings, couched as “just a joke,” are a passive aggressive way of expressing feelings and can be even more destructive to a relationship in the long term than direct verbal aggression. Successful marriages combine honest and direct self-expression with choice and discretion about how and when authentic feelings are communicated.
3. Love Him More, Need Him Less
In Biting the Apple: Women Getting Wise About Love, author Judith Sills reveals this wise and valuable instruction for marital success: Love him more, need him less. Sills writes that traditionally, women have needed men too much—made them too important to their happiness—which got in the way of being able to simply love them. Likewise, this over-reliance on a husband to fill all of a wife’s emotional needs impaired the wife’s ability to receive love. Sills’ says that successful relationships are less about who you choose, than about who you are—less about how a husband fills your needs and more about how you fulfill yourself.
In good times and bad, in joy and in sorrow, husbands and wives can enhance their marriage by persistently seeking balance between the extremes of life, as long as they both shall live.By Signe Whitson, LSW. She has been coaching families for over 10 years to help them find the balance necessary for a healthy relationship. Passive Aggressive Diaries is designed to take a light-hearted look at the humorous ways in which all of us encounter (and exude!) passive aggressive behavior in our daily lives. She has co-authored a book taking a more detailed look at the psychology behind passive aggressive actions, "The Angry Smile: The Psychology of Passive Aggressive Behavior in Families, Schools and Workplaces". My Baby Clothes has partnered with her to provide a resource for ways to better the relationships of families. Their specialty is providing affordable tutus, baby headbands and baby gifts for every baby.