It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that marriages are under constant threat of breakdown.
But, in case you need some evidence of this otherwise self-evident reality, according to Stats SA “four in ten divorces of the 25,326 [granted] in 2016 were marriages that lasted for less than 10 years”!
In a high-paced world of deadlines and other family commitments, it’s often the relationship of marriage that pays the price. Perhaps because we grow complacent and take it for granted, or maybe because we feel entitled to more effort from our spouse. Whatever the reason, the fact is we need to pay serious and careful attention to our marriages if we want them to remain fulfilling and meaningful.
Here are three “rules” for maintaining meaningful connections with our spouses.
1. Keep it simple
The most important thing to remember is that meaningful relationships (of any kind) are built on the steady foundation of constant acts and words that communicate to the other person that they matter to us. Marriage is no different. Meaningful connections with our spouses are cultivated in the fertile soil of daily acts of love.
Especially when things start to get a little rocky, or when we begin to notice signs of danger, we compensate by doing the elaborate – expensive romantic holidays, fancy date-nights, and lavish gifts. While these are all good things to do, it’s simply not sustainable and should be the reserve of special occasions rather than the attempted norm.
Say “please”, and “thank you”, and “I love you”, and “you’re awesome!”
Say it often and with thoughtfulness. Look your spouse in the eye, take their hand, and remind them why you think they’re perfect for you. Have coffee together in the mornings, even if you have to wake up 10 minutes earlier. Put your phone away and share a glass of wine at night.
In the long run, it’ll mean much more for the health of our marriages if we do the simple things well, and often.
2. Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, it’s Off to Work we Go
I’d like to take a moment to debunk a particularly insidious myth that is often purported in the romantic movies we watch and books we read – not to mention the carefully curated posts of “happy” couples we see celebrated on social media. The myth: that marriage for couples who love each other shouldn’t be, or isn’t hard work… BS!
Anything worthwhile and meaningful requires hard work and effort. Especially when it includes the bringing together of two unique and individual lives into a state of “happily ever after”. That doesn’t happen by itself or automatically.
Think of the effort it takes to acquire a new professional competency or a new skill in our chosen hobby. Think of the work that goes into carving out our careers, or the planning that is needed in setting up a home. Think of the constant demands in raising children to be healthy and well-adjusted adults. Anything worthwhile and meaningful requires hard work and effort.
If we want to maintain meaningful connections with our spouses, we have to recognise that it will take hard work and discipline. Doing the simple things well, and often, means that we will have to plan it, set goals, and make our marriages a priority.
3. Have your cake and eat it
In a world and time where there is ample reason to complain and bemoan the state of affairs, it is all the more important to find reasons to celebrate life. And marriage is the perfect place for this to happen. Don’t wait for big anniversaries and special birthdays – look for reasons to celebrate now!
Celebrate every promotion and career move, celebrate the children’s milestones, celebrate personal goals achieved, celebrate the little things and the big… celebrate! And, trust me, if we do the simple things well enough and often enough; in ways that are deliberate and intentional; we will find plenty of reasons to celebrate.
Some food for thought to conclude with… in an Ann Landers advice column it was reportedly once said: “Sensual pleasures have the fleeting brilliance of a comet; a happy marriage has the tranquillity of a lovely sunset.”
May you all bask in the glorious sunset of meaningful and beautiful marriages.
Previously published on Parenty