3 Must-Have Outlooks for a Great Marriage

The internet is full of marriage advice.  How to be a perfect wife.  How to be a better husband.  How to have a great sex life.  Blogging is not in short supply from people offering their perspective on what makes marriages work, and what doesn’t.  Some of this advice is really great!  But some of this advice can feel like quick-fixes of “do more” &  “try harder”, which can leave people frustrated and exacerbated; feeling that they just can’t get it right. 

So, here is my own version – but with a twist.   Instead of offering what feels like advice such as:

  • “Men, you need to be more emotional”
  • “Women, you need to show your husband respect”
  • “Men, you need to just listen to your wife”
  • “Women, you need to give your husband his space”

I want to share with you the essential outlooks, frames-of-mind, or attitudes that are needed for us to have healthy marriages. Instead of walking away from reading this article feeling like you need to “do something”, I hope you simply walk away reflecting on how this might relate to you.

3 Must-Have Outlooks for a Great Marriage

1. You’re Open to Change.

Yes, it’s true; you should not try and change your partner.  That’s a sure set-up for disappointment and the most common motive why people enter marriage counseling – wishing their partner would be different.  However, in the best marriages, this is not what we see.  What we see in the best marriages is that each person in the marriage is open to seeing their own faults and frailties and how these work against the greater good of the marriage. The more each person in the marriage can adopt a mindset that says, “yes, I know that I’m not perfect and that I contribute to our unsatisfying marriage and I’m willing to work on that”, the easier and faster they can achieve the happiness they’re looking for.  As long as couples stay stuck in demanding the other be different, we will see no positive momentum.  

2. You’ve Accepted You’re Own Disillusionment

There comes a point in time with every marriage that is referred to as the “disillusionment experience”.  This is the moment when you look across at your spouse and think to yourself “I’m not sure if I really like this person that much”.  Hurrah, you’ve just experienced a moment of disillusionment with your spouse – and believe it or not, that’s a good thing.  Every marriage begins in a stage that is commonly referred to as the “honeymoon” period.  We love being in this stage.  Oxytocin is running wildly in our minds, our partners are the most wonderful things we’ve ever experienced, and we just can’t seem to keep our hands off each other.  The bad news is that these feelings inevitably end.  However, also, the good news is that these feelings inevitably end.  The end of this period in your marriage is not a “warning sign” that you’re doomed, but in fact it is an incredibly important developmental milestone in your marriage.  You now are presented with the opportunity to have a real marriage with your partner.  One that is grounded with more acceptance of who your partner really is; the good, the bad, and the ugly.  Many couples end their marriage at the first sign of this developmental stage – inaccurately thinking, “if it doesn’t feel so good anymore, they must not be the right person for me”.  This is so heartbreaking for me to see, because these people are on the cusps of growing into something great, but they give up.  The best couples learn how to move through this developmental stage and develop a deep, lasting, and connected marriage that is rooted in complete acceptance of each other, even when they don’t feel in love.  

3. You’re Willing To See How Your Past Affects Your Present

Something I tell couples in marriage counseling is that they will inevitably repeat marriage patterns that resemble what their parents did. Sometimes, it can be difficult to see the connection, but we need to know we inherited our parents modeling of marriage – for better or for worse.  The good news though is that we can relearn new ways of being in marriage, but that takes intentional effort, a willingness to work, and a willingness to break free from the denial that we had “perfects pasts”.  This can be tough for many to accept – because naturally we tend to be protective when talking about our beloved parents.  What the best couples know is that they were affected by their past, and are willing to adopt a posture of openness to acknowledging how their own childhood experiences have shaped who they are in marriage today.  Sometimes, we’ve been influenced in extreme ways when we come from abusive or neglectful homes.  But sometimes, how we’ve been molded is more benign, foggy, and confusing, but it’s shaping our marriage nonetheless.  Accepting our pasts and how it has impacted us is never easy, but essential for the establishment of the great marriage we all hope for. 

Instead of being tempted to “do more” or “try harder” by following the mountain of marriage advice crowding the internet, my encouragement to anyone reading this article is to simply take a step back and reflect on your own marriage.  And hopefully we can try to identify the ways in which any of these three ideas might be helpful for you actualizing the marriage of your dreams.   

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