Some say the chances of a successful marriage is like a flip of a coin – they argue that statistically half of all couples who walk down the aisle will eventually decide to call it quits. While the divorce rate is high, the idea that they occur randomly is completely false. Over the last 8 years I have come to find that there are variables that affect the chance of a successful marriage - variables that you and your significant other control.
For this article I’ve decided to let science and the true experts, couples who have been married over two decades, speak for the themselves. Upon researching this topic, I was shocked to find that almost all my sources (scientific studies, surveys and anecdotes from successful marriages) all pointed to the same 5 requirements for a successful marriage – all 5 of which I will share with you.
First Id like to set the record straight and offer up some facts about marriage:
- In North America the risk of divorce is is not half; in fact, only 38% of married couples will divorce before their 30th wedding anniversary.
- The two most important qualities of successful marriage are 1) Kindness and 2) Trust. If you don’t remember anything else about this article, remember those two qualities; no marriage can survive without them.
- The top reasons for divorce are: 1. Different values and interests 2. Physical and emotional abuse 3. Alcohol and drugs 4. Infidelity 5. Career-related conflict. This article does not touch on cheating, physical or emotional abuse or career-related conflict. If those are issues in your marriage you need to get those solved first.
Successful Marriage – The 5 Keys:
#5. Be Reasonable: Sounds simple right? Well it’s not. 99% of us are unreasonable in our relationships at some point. As with any human relationship, before you make any major decisions always ask yourself “Am I being reasonable?” Although this sounds like a generic piece of advice, it is actually very important in ensuring a successful marriage. What makes it so important is that any emotionally significant relationships will bring about emotion, baggage, pride and fear – all stemming from the fears of inadequacy or loss. These powerful human emotions cannot be used to guide your decision making, you need to adopt the principle that reason and long-term needs have to prevail over emotion and short-term gain. Like any other life-altering commitment, marriage requires that you accept your immediate feelings and question why they are occurring – but do not make any decisions without carefully examining all of the facts. Understand that feelings always pass and they do not represent reality. They represent your internal alarm system – which can be correct, but can also be oversensitive if you’ve been hurt before.
Ive come up with three actions you need to take BEFORE you react to an issue in your marriage:
- Always wait until your emotions have subsided and you can think clearly. It usually takes 2-3 days to think everything through and prevent a reaction based out of fear, pride or anger.
- Run your situation by 2-3 close friends and ask them if you are doing the right thing.
- Consider that you may be at fault. This is a tough one, it takes a mature adult to admit when we are at fault. Admit your mistake. However, do not accept responsibility for everything all of the time. No one respects a doormat.
- Once your head stops spinning and you’ve finally put everything in perspective, talk to your spouse. Let them know what went wrong, whether you overreacted or what you’d like them to change. Be kind and respectful but be firm if you felt you’ve been wronged.
#4. Emotional Maturity: Emotional maturity is difficult to pin down as a concept, but its safe to safe to say if you can recognize emotional IM-maturity then you are probably emotional mature. At it’s core, it’s this ability to recognize childlike behavior, psychological games, insecurities and manipulation for what they are. Ironically, the more you know about these behaviors the less likely that you will engage in them or accept them from a partner.
As an example: An overly jealous and manipulative person will often see themselves strong-willed, dominant, alpha-type and BETTER than the average person. Whereas, a wise and emotionally mature person will recognize that this person is simply insecure and afraid.
An emotionally immature couple is doomed to failure because all decisions will be made hastily out of raw emotion. There will be no pausing to reflect – long-term consequences will be ignored and selfishness, manipulation and self-preservation will dominate the relationship. Unfortunately, this maturity cannot be bought or read in a book, it comes with age, experience and self-reflection. This is why I would not recommend getting married before your early to mid twenties – and why studies show that people who marry young are less likely to succeed.
Emotional maturity gives you the discipline that allows for long-term success in your personal life - A successful marriage is the pinnacle of emotional maturity.
#3. Maintain Attraction: I always say love and relationships require two things to succeed: Attraction and compatibility. Without attraction you’re a friend; without compatibility you’re that annoying couple that has dramatic fights and breaks up all the time. You need both.
Attraction is the tension in the relationship. Its the subconscious grading of our spouses social status versus our own, its not something we control consciously. This is a lengthy topic that you could spend days learning about but i’ll summarize as best as I can;
Do not give up on yourself once you’re married. Women need to maintain their looks, appeal and vibrance as if they were still dating and men need to maintain social status as well as strength and control over their lives, health and families. In short, they both need to maintain their gender roles, women as nurturer and man as provider. While many would argue this a primitive way to look at it; you need to remember, when dealing strictly with attraction - this is the way it is, whether we like it or not. Trust me.
Take the time to read about, and understand attraction, social status and evolution. Ive written a couple of articles on this topic that can serve as a good start: signs of attraction, how to tell if a guy likes you, attracting women. Dont stop there, read books, surf the internet. Understand attraction. Better yourself by learning.
#2. Never Take Your Marriage For Granted: You’d get fired if you repeatedly missed work, wouldn’t you? You will also get fired from your marriage if you don’t show up for that. Your marriage is something you constantly have to work at, the romantic dinners, the date nights, the small favors should never end. Your marriage needs to be a priority, in fact, it should somewhere within the top 3 priorities in your life. Remember though, it is not large extravagant actions that are required – it is the small day-to-day acts of kindness and support that will ensure a successful marriage. There are no shortcuts or buy-outs - take five minutes everyday and do something completely selfless for your spouse , something they like or appreciate. You also need to be there for them emotionally, all the time, everyday.
You took on a role of a supportive spouse, a helpful roommate a sexual partner and a best friend. You need to be all of these things – everyday.
#1. Kindness and Trust: These are the most important aspects of any marriage – without them there is nothing.
Kindness and trust are passive, you don’t really understand what they are until you lose them. When these two concepts are put together they create the concept of love – someone who you know is there for you, to help you, without fail, every time.
Its this warmth and certainty that keeps people coming back again and again – think about it – what are the main reasons you use to justify being with your current spouse? Ill bet they fall into these two categories. Ill also bet that if your spouse were asked the same question they would answer similarly about you.
These are reasons we fall in love, stay in love, and they are the everlasting spark in successful marriages.
Therefore, do not betray your spouse’s trust under any circumstances. Never. Trust is hard to rebuild, when it gone we have a perpetual knot in our stomachs, and anxiety kicks in. Its terrible and destructive. Be honest, admit your mistakes, explain your position. Be there for them when you say will. Keep your word. Keep your marriage vows. You need to be the one certainty they have in life. You also need to be kind and compassionate even when your angry or upset – expect nothing in return but assume that they will also be kind to you.
I promise you, if you and your spouse fight to maintain these two small things, you are well on your way to a successful future both as a married couple and as individuals.
Reference: Globe & mail, 01032423