A happy, healthy marriage sounds easy when we first fall in love. But as we settle into the routine of daily life, we quickly realize that sustaining a happy, healthy marriage requires us to nourish, protect, and energize it.
Happy, healthy marriages do not happen overnight or automatically once we fall in love. There are no magic words or actions that create them. There are no quick recipes or one shot deals.
Happy, healthy marriages take practice. Daily practice. Like everything else in our lives which we desire to learn, improve upon and strengthen, our intimate relationships also require practice.
If there is any kind of “secret” at all associated with healthy relationships it has to do with cultivating a nourishing, daily practice. This daily practice consists of three steps that you can integrate into your day that will make big differences within you, for your partner and within your relationship.
Think about it. What things are you most proud of in your life that have been the result of dedicated, intentional effort? Would you have been able to create or accomplish these things without that dedicated, intentional effort and consistent attention?
It is the same with strong, happy, healthy relationships. If creating this kind of relationship is a priority for you, then you might be interested in incorporating these three easy steps into your daily life.
The first step in cultivating a nourishing, daily practice is to recognize the misleading and false myth that happy, healthy marriages “just happen” once you find the “right” partner.
Begin to accept a more mature idea that happy, healthy marriages are the result of clarity and intentional effort. That nothing in life worthwhile, comes without clarity, intention and effort. Accept that if you want a happy, healthy marriage, this too requires the best you have to give, daily.
Once you let go of the myths that keep us stuck in chronic disappointment, ask yourself these questions: “Am I willing to invest in my marriage with clarity and intention? Am I willing to accept that I am at least 50% responsible in creating a happy, healthy marriage? Am I willing to do my part in participating in creating the kind of relationship that will grow and strengthen over time?
Adding the Word “today” to Your Questions
Answering these questions will help you understand whether or not you are ready to move on to steps two and three. And using these questions with the added word, “today”, is a way to re-commit to yourself and your partner daily. For example, “Am I willing to invest with clarity and intention today?” “ Am I willing to accept that I am at least 50% responsible in create a happy, healthy relationship today?”
Once we decide that we want to create happy, healthy marriage we need to establish our vision: “What is it that I am trying to create? What kind of relationship do I truly desire?”
Envisioning A Happy, Healthy Marriage
Spend some time reflecting on this. If this seems overwhelming for you to do alone, couples therapy can help you clarify what you want, what kind of partner you want to be, and what kind of relationship you truly desire.
Questions to Help You Envision What You Want
What does a happy, healthy marriage look like for me? What will I be doing more of? What will I be doing less of or not at all? What will my partner be doing? Not doing? What will the two of us do together?
Once you clarify the vision, you can commit to daily actions and practices that will move you in the direction of your vision. For example, if you envision a relationship in which you are more affectionate, you can identify how that will look and opportunities to be affectionate.
For example, when your partner comes home at the end of the day, you can make the following commitment: “When ______ comes home today, I will stop what I am doing, go to ______ with a hug and kiss, and acknowledge his/her presence with love.”
If you want to become more supportive of your partner you can commit to: “I promise to spend more time listening intently to _____’s challenges or interests and find ways to offer understanding and support.”
Now is the time to identify and commit to two to three small things that you feel are realistic and possible for you to do daily that will support the happy, healthy marriage you envision and desire. These can be things like: waking up every day with an affectionate greeting for your partner, or having an end of day ritual that feels connecting and nourishing. It can be things like, beginning to meditate or take a daily walk so that you can be calmer and more present in the relationship.
You can decide to spend your mornings or evenings acknowledging the things for which you are grateful and either write them in a journal and/or share them with your partner.
The sky is the limit when you choose your daily practice items. The important thing is that they can be integrated easily into your life, you commit to the practice and you are gentle with yourself as you practice.
Practice implies there will be good days and bad days. Days during which you are at ease, calm, happy and thriving. There will also be days you feel scattered, confused, not grounded, or struggling with difficult emotions. During these days, it might be helpful to accept with kindness and compassion that your practice may feel harder to get to or missed completely.
Accept Your Limitations
The important thing is that you gently accept your limitations without judgment and with lots of compassion. Practice implies that you are aware that you are not perfect; the goal is acceptance and ease in the process, even when it feels hard. It is about clear intention and committing to putting forth your best effort, not perfection.
Keep Your Practice Growing and Thriving
Once you begin to develop your daily practice, you can expand it or keeping adding to it. Keep in mind that having clear awareness of your tendencies, habits and patterns that do not serve you well, is essential in order to have your practice be effective and transform your relationship. Awareness will help you know where to focus, what to work on, what to commit to.
If you consistently, intentionally and with dedicated attention adopt a daily practice to create a happy, healthy marriage, you will be well on your way in creating the kind of relationship that you truly desire.
Peace in the journey.