How can a couple go from googly-eyed in love to utter hatred within a few years? Why is it so many adults who once pledged to love and cherish their spouse “till death do we part” stomp on their vows, toss in their wedding ring, and walk away?
Maybe the better question is, what does it take to make a marriage work? Today, my guest Mary Hamilton shares her experience in doing just that when her son comes home from college. Read on and be blessed and encouraged.
What Makes a Marriage Work?
by Mary Hamilton
Upon his graduation from college, our son noticed how many friends from both high school and college were getting married. But considering the number of troubled marriages he’d seen and the number of friends who came from homes scarred by divorce, he wondered how many of these relationships would succeed.
So, he gave his dad and me an assignment. Based on our 34 years of experience, we were to prepare a list of 5-10 bullet points on what makes a marriage work. While the following are not necessarily in order of importance, here’s the list we came up with.
- A common faith, and a similar maturity in that faith. Without our personal faith in God, our marriage might not have stood the test many years ago. Faith provides accountability to a higher authority. It humbles us when pride gets in the way, provides hope in troubling times, and deepens the joy of victory over self.
- Agreement on money—both spending it and saving it. Like most couples, one of us likes to save every penny and one likes to spend them. We need each other for balance so that the spender learns to save for a rainy day (and retirement) and the saver learns to enjoy the benefits money provides. Appreciate each other’s “bent” and cooperate to achieve maximum benefit from your finances.
- Communication skills. Are you willing and able to talk with each other about anything and everything, revealing your deepest, darkest secrets? Can you broach a touchy subject without fear of rejection, ridicule or punishment? Can you argue without making personal attacks on each other? Communication involves listening as well as speaking. Marriage requires both skills.
- Some common interests. Couples should have activities they enjoy doing together. But allow room for differences as well. Varied ideas and interests keeps both partners growing in ways they wouldn’t achieve on their own.
- A strong sense of humor. Laughing together is fun and builds the relationship in positive ways. When used properly, it can also defuse tension whether pressures come from outside the relationship or within.
- Commitment to each other and the marriage. Make your spouse and your relationship a priority over other family, friends, work, etc. Keep complaints and disagreements between the two of you, speaking only good things about each other to friends and relatives and guarding your spouse’s reputation and integrity in front of others.
- Respect each other. Show gratefulness and treat each other with kindness—even when you’re tired and grumpy, even when you’re disappointed with your partner, even when you’re angry and arguing. (Yes, this will happen!) Attack the problem, not each other.
All of these might be summed up in the word “Attitude.” Are both partners in this marriage more interested in having their own needs met or meeting the needs of the other? Are both willing to humble themselves in order to lift up their mate? Are both willing to compromise for the good of the relationship? An attitude that says, “We’re in this together and divorce is not an option,” lays a solid foundation on which to build a strong and vibrant marriage.
Would you add any suggestions to our list?
A mother’s rejection. A bully’s taunts. Summer camp isn’t supposed to be like this.
Thirteen-year-old Brady is stunned when his mother drops him off for a week of camp and says she doesn’t want him living with her anymore. His pain only deepens with the cruel taunts and teasing of the camp bully. But is it possible his mother’s rejection was for his own protection?
Find out when you read Hear No Evil, Book 1 Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.
Mary L. Hamilton grew up at a youth camp similar to the setting for her Rustic Knoll Bible Camp series. Her experiences during twenty years of living at the camp, as well as people she knew there, inspired many of the events and situations in her novels.
Two of those novels have been named Selah Award Finalists.
Mary also enjoys knitting, reading and evenings spent bird-watching from their back patio with her best friend and marriage partner for 34 years. She and her husband make their home in Texas.
Connect with Mary on her website, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Let’s talk about this: Marriage should never be entered into without prayer and great thought. Mary’s son was wise to ask those with strong marriages for guidance! What are some suggestions you would add to Mary and her husband’s list? Share your thoughts in the comments below or over on Living by Grace.
Excellent advice. It really helps to enjoy the same foods so mealtimes are easy to please and grocery shopping is simplified. It seems to me that differences in a lot of areas of life would make things complex and stressful. Lots of shared interests give opportunities for many bonding moments.
Great points, Janice! I can’t remember the title of the book, but a while back my husband and I read one together that talked about the importance of “playing” with your spouse–of finding things you both enjoyed that you can do together. Sometimes, as the years go by, husbands and wives can develop their own lives, so to speak, spending their free time doing things without their spouse. And while it’s good to have friends and time for just the girls or just the guys, it’s so important to find ways to continually connect, on an emotional and fun level, with your spouse.
For us, how we’ve done this has changed over the years. We’ve played softball together, hiked, rock climbing. Now we go to antique stores and out for coffee. 😉
I appreciate you comments, Janice! Mealtimes can be a hassle, can’t they? And Jen, you’re so right about developing common things to do for fun. We both have very different interests, but we try to get a taste of what each other likes and then find some things we both like.
That’s awesome! What do you and your hubby most enjoy to do together?
Birdwatching from our back patio and taking walks together. Watching sunrises and sunsets (not necessarily on the same day! 😉 )
I might add agree on how to raise children. As kids, my siblings and I knew how to play one against the other to get what we wanted. Though they had many other significant problems, I suspect it contributed to my parent’s eventual divorce. A similar disconnect in my own marriage contributed to my first marriage ending after 27 years, though that marriage, too, had significant other problems at that time.
That is such a great point! I don’t think you and your siblings’ behavior contributed to their divorce (kids always try to push boundaries; it’s what they do), but your parents lack of unity for sure probably did. I’m so sorry to hear about your first marriage, but it’s great that you were able to learn from the experience. Twenty seven years is a long time. That must have been very hard. I like to tell people that my husband and I keep our counselor on speed dial. We’re very (very, very) quick to get help from a nonbiased listener whenever we hit a snag or seem to be butting heads over an issue. The benefit is that the counselor helps us each express our sides in a calm and open manner and also hear what the other person is saying. The counselor also helps us grow in our conflict resolution skills.
Wise words, Scott. And I think summarizing it as a unity issue is correct. Whether it’s finances or child-rearing, both need to be on the same page, at least supporting the other even if they might disagree with a decision. It’s not easy creating that bond of one-ness in our individualistic society. I’m sorry you had to suffer the pain of that in both childhood and your own marriage of almost three decades. That must have been very painful. Thanks for your input!