In my past 20 years of working with couples and families, I have not found anything new under the sun anymore. With regards to love and marriage, the issues faced by every couple are somewhat similar – it is the responses that are different.
While every couple desires a thriving relationship, we sometimes get to a point where dissolving the marriage seems to be the way to go.
How then can we establish a marriage that is built to thrive rather than just survive, especially in the early years of marriage?
REMEMBER WE ARE NOT OUR PARENTS
Coming from a background where my parents, uncles and aunties are divorced, my whole perception of marriage growing up was that it equalled eventual divorce. As a result, I feared being in any committed relationship because I was looking for a person who would complement me in such a perfect way that we would never have major differences nor arguments.
Needless to say, no such person exists. And even if they did, I would probably still find fault with them.
Much of my focus when it came to marriage was simply fearing becoming like my parents.
It was only later in life that I realised how tied my idea of marriage was to the way my parents had modelled marriage. Of course, I did not want my relationship to be like theirs, but it was still the only model I had. Much of my focus when it came to marriage was simply fearing becoming like them.
When we come from a family of divorce or a broken marriage, there is a high chance that separation and divorce are kept in the recesses of our minds as an escape door. But we need to remember we are not our parents.
If our parents were negative models for marriage, we can choose today not to focus on them but shift our eyes to those whom we know have reasonably healthy relationships. Develop new models. If our parents modelled well for us, thank God for the good foundations they have set – and if not, rework and renew the foundations!
What also helped were the words of my premarital counsellor, who encouraged my wife and me to erase the word “divorce” from our minds such that we will never resort to it. It wouldn’t even exist in our vocabulary. That advice framed my perception of marriage and helped me stick to my commitment even during the tough times of working things through between us.
KEEP THE FRIENDSHIP GOING
I believe what people call “falling out of love” is really falling out of friendship.
Earlier this year, my wife and I were feeling edgier with each other. Little things seemed to trigger us and our responses were often curt and snappy. The best part was we were supposed to go on a short holiday to celebrate our 20th anniversary. But instead of looking forward to a special time together, we were dreading more days of arguments.
It took our 14-year-old son to stop us in our tracks. He commented innocently one day: “You two have some marital issues. I am glad you are going for this break to spend time together again.” We knew we had to intentionally make changes to how we were responding to each other.
We spent the week away just talking and rekindling the friendship that had been neglected because of the business of life. As a result of that time together, the love and emotions returned.
We need to prioritise this friendship above all else. Take time out regularly to communicate and connect as best friends.
DREAM AS A TEAM
On top of a strong friendship, find ways to form a strong partnership. While we may have different personalities and ambitions, it is essential that we always make time to dream together and accomplish things as a couple, rather than keep these things separate.
One of the dreams that my wife and I share is to influence and impact families for good. We do a yearly evaluation of how we are doing in that area and whether there are changes or updates to be made to that dream.
Don’t stop dreaming as a team because it is such a powerful act to work on something together.
HAVE GOOD MARRIAGE MENTORS
We often seek mentors to help us advance in our careers, but we don’t always consider the same for something even more important: our marriages.
My wife and I have three different marriage mentors whom we confide in and share our challenges with, and whose opinions are valued. They are also objective and unafraid to give us tough but loving perspectives on issues or areas that require personal growth and change.
A healthy marriage is like heaven on earth. An unhealthy marriage is like hell on earth.
Marriage mentors are there not to control us but to help us find the freedom to thrive in our relationship. I cannot stress how valuable their feedback has been to us, especially when we found it so hard to resolve certain differences.
Seek such mentors for your marriage because they are essential. Consider them as people who have gone a little ahead of us and are thus a little wiser. We can either learn from the wisdom of others or from the consequences of life.
RETURN TO YOUR VOWS IN MARRIAGE
At the end of everything, always remember and stand by our marriage vows: “In sickness or in health, for good times or bad, for richer or poorer…”
It is always more rewarding to resolve our differences than to dissolve the relationship. May we choose the former and work hard on it. We will never regret doing so.
A healthy marriage is like heaven on earth. An unhealthy marriage is like hell on earth. When we commit to place our marriage first and be intentional in sowing life into it, we will inevitably reap a thriving relationship rather than one that is just surviving.
Gary regularly conducts motivational talks and training workshops on marriage, parenting, youth sexuality, leadership and character development. He believes in raising and releasing generation changers who will impact the world.
- What are your views on divorce? Where do they come from?
- Where are the grey areas in your understanding of divorce?
- Consider what makes a healthy and unhealthy marriage. How do each look?
- Think about the good marriages you know of – what has made them thrive?