There comes a point in every marriage, where the veil is dropped and reality hits. Instead of a perfect fairytale, there are two imperfect people trying to make a life together. It can be a shock to realize that marriage is not the same as dating, but in these moments it is pivotal to realize that good marriages take a committed lifetime of work for both people.
If you want to have a marriage worth fighting for, you have to be willing to do that work.
The payoff is a loving, committed relationship that deepens throughout your entire life. A relationship that on its worst day, still brings you security, compassion, and companionship greater than that of any ordinary friend.
We talk about how work and communication relate to second marriages here.
Create a Marriage Worth Fighting For
All marriages ebb and flow in seasons – there are seasons of passion, of raising small children, of working and personal development, and of peacefulness. There are also seasons of getting on each other’s absolute last nerve. We ALL face them.
So why do some marriages break up and some stay together?
I have a college-aged daughter that has asked me about this many times since she started dating. My advice to her is always –> You don’t have to be exactly the same. But you do have to be headed the same place.
Her dad and I are very different in many ways. He is super athletic, I would rather read a book. I am chatty and outgoing in a group, he can become shy when he doesn’t know someone. I teach our kids to be empathetic, he shows them how to be strong. We have very different personalities.
But we are going the same place.
- We are VERY aligned about family – what we want for our kids, how we will always take care of our parents, what we want for each other.
- We agree on how we make decisions about what is good for our family as a whole and how we make decisions for individual needs.
- We both value education.
- We agree about how we manage our money.
- We both need the feeling of purpose in our lives and support each other’s desire to feel valued and productive.
- We both accept that we need to TALK about hard things. <– more on this one later
- We agree on the rules when we disagree (yes, we fight sometimes!) <– this one is a big one!
Because we share core values, it makes navigating personality differences much easier.
Decide to Have A Strong Marriage Foundation
No matter how amazing your partner, your marriage (and your relationship) will bear the strain of lots of outside forces you have no control over.
Money problems, inlaw problems, illness problems, time problems, sexual problems, child problems… the list goes on. You have to quickly acknowledge that this is as normal for family life as the good stuff is — vacations, dinner out, snuggles with children, quiet time together.
So you have to set some ground rules and make some commitments to each other that help you navigate the tough stuff as a partnership with the same security as you would navigate the good stuff.
Because if you don’t, your marriage starts to feel like a battlefield and the two of you stop feeling like you are fighting for the same side.
The very moment someone wins and someone loses, you’ve missed something really important –> you win and lose together.
Husbands and wives all have to make concessions, we all make compromises, sometimes we even let go of things that make us mad without “finding closure.” Why?
Because when you both agree on shared values (I mentioned my shared values with my husband above), it is about going the same way together — not about being exactly the same person. It is about finding a way back to the values you share more than it is about “winning.” Especially when winning hurts your partner or damages your relationship.
Commitments for a Strong Marriage
Move forward together
When feelings are hurt or you are disappointed, it can be a struggle to see beyond what your partner did wrong. Early in our dating life, my husband and I realized that when we LEAST wanted to talk, was probably when we MOST needed to talk. Communicate truthfully with love and kindness. Listen with grace. It is okay to say you are hurt. Or angry. But forgiveness allows you to move forward together. You cannot move forward without it.
Always Fight Fair
You are going to disagree, even fight occasionally. You can’t live in the same house as someone and not get on each other’s nerves occasionally. You can’t be different people and never, ever disagree. But you learn a lot about your partner by the way they argue. Never call each other names, even when you are mad. You can’t take it back. Never treat each other disrespectfully. Don’t hang up on your spouse, don’t embarrass them in public, don’t post about it on social media. You can disagree and still treat each other respect.
Surround yourself with a good team
Remember how your parents would always remark how you become who you hang out with? The same thing happens as an adult. If your closest friends are constantly bashing their spouses or belittling marriage, it is hard not to be influenced by that. On the other hand, if you are surrounded by friends who value and respect their partners, it will encourage you in your own relationship.
Put a boundary around your marriage
From the day you say, “I do,” you are a family. You have left your parents and have made a new family. Instill boundaries in your marriage. Show your spouse that you choose him every time. Do not gossip about your spouse to your family and friends. Don’t run to them every time you have a disagreement. Because you will resolve it soon and you will find out down the road that your family and friends are still holding that grudge for you even though you’ve moved on.
Remember there will be seasons of difficulty
Sometimes when it rains, it really does pour. Your relationship will pass through many seasons. During the hard seasons, we can push through and fight for our marriage, knowing there is joy in the journey together. And a new season on the other side that is worth fighting for.
Have you created a marriage that makes you want to fight for it every day? What other things do you do to ensure your relationship’s foundation is strong?