How often does “I do” turn into “I don’t?” I am afraid to say that the answer is, “Too often.” Divorce is frequent and can occur multiple times for one individual. I don’t think anybody needs my wise counsel about how to get divorced! So this is not a blog about ending your marriage, but rather about how to make and maintain a healthy, lifetime commitment.
I have studied and researched why so many of us cannot sustain a fulfilling and lasting relationship. The Gift of a Lifetime, Building a Marriage that Lasts was written just for that purpose, in the hope I could help people avoid the dissolution of their marriages.
Here is what I found: the FACTS that can provide a lasting, fulfilling marriage. Read on, please.
Forgiveness, Acceptance, Compassion, Trust, and Spirituality are the ingredients that help ward off divorce.
But having these qualities as aspects of your personality is not enough. You must show them by your behavior. Practicing these values and using them daily is the key.
It is easy. But it is only easy if two people believe in their marriage and are faithful to making it a priority.
Briefly, here are the main points of each of the FACTS.
How often does our spouse or significant other do something we don’t appreciate? I am afraid it is more common than we realize. If the behavior is simple like forgetting to put the trash out on trash pickup day, forgiveness is easy. But what if it is more serious, like a lie or forgetting to pay the electric bill and then the lights are turned off? Some things are harder than others to forgive. Forgiving is letting it go to move past the behavior instead of keeping it alive. Hopefully, an apology will be given for the hurtful behavior. We all make mistakes and can benefit from learning a better way. Forgiveness is a decision to accept the hurt but move on with a chance to see the imperfections of people and allow for the willingness to be a better spouse.
Acceptance is next in the formula. This requires seeing each other for who we are and noticing the differences in personalities and upbringing. Here we need to be able to honor what our spouse or significant other values. For example, if our spouse has a religious preference different from ours then he or she should be able to keep the traditions and follow the practices of that religion. It is important to see these differences as neutral or positive, not negative or wrong because they diverge from our beliefs. Loving each other means loving all aspects of our beloved while not necessarily supporting them as ours. Most often, it means a compromise in how we live as a couple.
Compassion is tenderness and concern allowing us to be present and see another’s feelings. It also carries the desire to alleviate their pain. While they may be different from our own, we still can support and comfort our partner. Being able to see their perspective on a triggering subject or a moment of grief is not always easy, but this level of empathy is certainly part of a loving relationship. Maybe just being there is all we need to do. It is always appreciated if we ask, ”Is there anything I can do now?” Getting information will be helpful if we have no idea how we need to respond.
Trust is a core element in keeping a marriage flourishing. If we cannot trust our spouse, the marriage is in jeopardy. Yes, it’s a heavy word, but so true. In fact, this one value may be the anchor point for this whole discussion. Without trust, how can we summon Forgiveness, Acceptance, and Compassion? Being honest and doing our best to keep our promises are huge factors when it comes to building trust. Having trust between two people creates a sense of comfort and peace assuring that no one will intentionally hurt the other. If by chance wrongdoing occurs by one partner it is not judged nor criticized but rather forgiven with apologies and the commitment to do better in the future.
The spirituality aspect of maintaining a happy, long-term relationship does not necessarily require membership in a church or even belief in a supreme deity. Spirituality means that each person develops to his or her soul. There is not just one way to pray, meditate, or experience a relationship with a higher being. It is having values that go beyond the monetary and material. Couples that have a spiritual base are more likely to succeed in their marriage. Frank conversations about mutual values are paramount as you go through the journey of life.
If having a gift of a lifetime marriage is one you pursue, keep these FACTS in the forefront. When you are feeling that things are out of kilter, get back to basics and practice, practice, practice these FACTS. Love, be loved, and thrive!