But I’m Not a Housewife!

Domestic Bliss, Eventually

10 Tips for a “Smart Marriage”

Image via TImes.com PhotosImage of Paul Newman & Joanne Woodward via Time.com Photos

Marriage came suddenly and surprisingly into my life. My parents were separated and divorced shortly after I was born and I was always  very skeptical about the institution despite seeing many successful marriages in my friends’ families.

I never, ever dreamt about my ideal wedding! 

Then I met my husband and tied the knot! And, you know what? I love being married! It is an amazing and rewarding experience. I think part of what makes it so great is that I inherently knew that marriages are hard work and avoided developing misconceptions or undue expectations about what it should be like. 

I always pity people who have bad relationships and I truly wonder why some people get together. I have many pet peeves about the way other couples treat each other. I watch my friends get caught up in the fireworks of love and get sad when it fizzles. 

I feel that I have a very healthy marriage and I often wish there was some way I could teach others how to have a happy and perfect partnership. And by perfect, I mean perfectly imperfect. I think people set themselves up for failure when they assume that their marriage won’t have its ups and its downs!

Because these things have been on my mind so much lately, I’ve decided to reprint an article about helpful marriage tips:

Ten Tips for having a Smart Marriage@ from the Smart Marriages Conferences: 

1. Marriage matters. Married people & their kids do better on all measures of health, wealth, happiness, & success. And, married folks report having more & better sex than single or divorced people. 

2. It’s not the differences but how we handle them that separate successful marriages from the failures. Disagreeing doesn’t predict divorce. Stonewalling, avoidance, contempt, criticism, and the silent treatment predict divorce. Learn how to disagree in ways that help you fall more in love. 

3. All happily married couples have approximately ten irreconcilable differences – ten issues they will never resolve. If we switch partners, we just get ten new issues that are likely to be even more annoying and complicated. Sadly, if there are children from an earlier marriage or relationship, disagreements about them go to the top of the list. What’s important is to discuss our own set of issues just as we would discuss how to manage living with a chronic bad back or trick knee. We wish they weren’t there, but what’s important is to keep talking about how to manage them and still do the marriage “dance”. 

4. Love is not an absolute (a yes or no situation) and it’s not limited substance. It’s a feeling and feelings ebb and flow depending on how we treat each other. We can learn new ways to interact and the feelings “of being in love” can come flowing back, often stronger than before.

5. Marital satisfaction often dips with the birth of a baby. That’s normal. Marital satisfaction is at its lowest when there are kids in the house between 11 and 16. That’s normal. We need to know what to expect, appreciate our parenting partner – and hang in. It makes good sense to stay married for the sake of the kids – and for our own sake. Even with the challenges, it’s a lot easier to be a parenting team than to be a single, divorced, or remarried parent. Plus there is a silver lining: satisfaction goes back up with the empty nest. The final stage of marriage – with a job well done – is the real honeymoon period. 

6. Sex ebbs and flows. It comes and goes. That’s normal. Plan for & make time for more “flows”. 

7. Creating good marital sex is not about putting the sizzle BACK INTO your sex life. Early marital sex is sex between strangers – we don’t yet know our partner or ourselves. The most passionate sex is intimate sex based on knowing our partner and letting them know us. One of the most important tasks of marriage is to develop a satisfying marital sex style. It’s not about going BACK; it’s about going FORWARD, together.

8. Repair attempts are crucial and are highly predictive of marital happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic, but the willingness to make up after an argument, is central to every happy marriage.

9. Learn to welcome, embrace and integrate change
 – to discuss and update your wishes, hopes & dreams – on a regular basis. We often “interview” each other before marriage and then think “that’s it.” The marriage vow is a promise to stay married, not to stay the same. (Thank goodness!) Keep up-to-date with changes in your partner. Don’t fear changes, celebrate them! 

10. Try several different marriage education courses.
 Become informed consumers – rate the courses, discuss what you liked best – which ideas were most helpful. Decide which courses to recommend to your kids, friends and family – which to give as wedding, anniversary and new baby gifts. The courses don’t tell you what kind of marriage to have. That’s up to you. They give you the tools – the hammers, screwdrivers, and levels – so you can build the kind of marriage that suits you, one which can help you to negotiate, and renegotiate, your own values, meaning, and goals.
Find a class at www.smartmarriages.com Strengthen your own marriage and/or learn how to become a Marriage Educator and teach the courses in your community.

Diane Sollee, founder director, www.SmartMarriages.com®
Copyright® CMFCE

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6 Comments»

  anjali wrote @

Edward and I took a Pre-Cana class before we got married, as a requirement for getting married int he Catholic Church. It was well-intentioned but terrible, awkward, uncomfortable, uninformative (though I did learn a little about saving for retirement). I think other Pre-Cana courses are better.

  b wrote @

1- thank you for commenting on…the left side of my brain. Yes I know it was a scam! Expecially when the person did not respond after I mentions the bank loan and the idea that the check should be made out to the bank. Poof…they were gone.

2- this is a well written post. I have been married for 48 years. I would add one thing…ALWAYS say at least one nice thing to your spouse every day. I will help the giver of the compliment as well as the receiver.

Come back and see me sometime.

b

  Jessielme wrote @

Thanks for the marriage tip b! I’ve been enjoying your travel blog as well. I find it very sweet and thought provoking. I look forward to seeing you around BlogHer and such in the future!

  Jessielme wrote @

Anjali, your description of the Pre-Cana class is priceless! It makes me feel awkward just to think about it. = )

I hope you are still celebrating monthly anniversaries!

Miss you!

  cratemfajournal wrote @

No we are not celebrating monthlies anymore! We’re just noticing them :). We’ll celebrate yearlies! Plus, who has time for anniversaries? I’m buried in applications!

  Robyn wrote @

I strongly disagree with points 4 and 5, and I think whoever made that up is suffering from a case of cognitive dissonance. You can’t make yourself love someone, or “learn to love someone” as is often said. Attraction is a chemical reaction, and I do not feel we have control over it, but perhaps that is something that requires research. And sex with strangers is and will always be better. If monogamy were natural, we wouldn’t have had to make up this whole marriage thing to remind ourselves to practice it.


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