How do you know if your marriage is in good health or not? This is a question which is certainly worth looking into, especially if you have been wondering along those lines. Just as it is good to go for a regular physical check-up with your doctor, so it is also good to have a relationship health check-up from time to time. You may be quite surprised or shocked when you hear what your blood pressure and cholesterol readings are, even though you had not suspected that anything was amiss. Similarly, when you take a closer look at your marriage health, you may be in for a few surprises.
The following six indicators will give you an idea as to whether or not your marriage is in good health:
1. Healthy self-acceptance
The first step towards being a good husband or wife is to accept yourself. Basically, you need to have a good relationship with yourself, before you can expect to have a good relationship with someone else. In fact this goes for all relationships, but especially in marriage. If you feel bad about yourself and you are expecting your spouse to meet all your emotional and self-esteem needs, this is putting an unreasonable and unrealistic burden on your spouse. Sooner or later you will be disappointed and then you will feel even worse. When you accept yourself as you are, as a work in progress, your motivation will be to give rather than receive, to love and help, rather than want and need. The amazing thing is that with such an attitude you usually end up being blessed in return, beyond your expectations.
2. Healthy emotions
Emotions play such a vital role in our lives every day. They add color to our relationships – both bright and sombre colors, positive and negative. The healthy way to experience emotions in marriage is when both partners take full responsibility for their own emotions, without blaming each other, and demanding that their partner meets their emotional needs. Blaming is a favourite tactic of abusers who often say “You made me do it…” It is dangerous to ignore feelings and stuff them down rather than facing them and dealing with them out in the open. Negative feelings that have been stuffed into the basement of our hearts do not magically disappear – they fester and can even result in “explosions” which cause misery and heartache, sometimes for years to come. People try all kinds of things to counteract their negative emotions, often leading to addictions and compulsions. In a healthy marriage, emotions are expressed openly and freely, as and when they occur.
3. Healthy boundaries
Having firm boundaries which are intact and well maintained is one indication of positive marriage fitness. The first step towards healthy boundaries is figuring out what exactly your boundaries are. This is different for each person and in a marriage each spouse needs to know their own personal boundaries, as well as their shared boundaries as a couple. This covers any and every area from money to personal space, diet or possessions. Boundaries also need to be communicated very clearly to the one concerned, and when violations occur, it is up to you to take appropriate action. For example if you lend money to someone, saying that you want it returned within a month, if that does not happen, you would know not to lend to that person again.
4. Healthy conflicts
Yes, it is possible to have healthy conflicts! If someone says, “we have no conflicts at all in our marriage,” that would be cause for serious concern and doubt as to the marriage mental health. In such a case, there is either total apathy, or one partner is totally compliant and submissive to the dominating one. Conflict is inevitable when two completely different and separate human beings decide to live their lives in close proximity and intimacy. Healthy conflict occurs when the issues are addressed, without attacking the person and character of your loved one. In healthy conflicts the focus is dealing with the issue and repairing the relationship. It’s not about winning the argument or scoring points. It’s about overcoming an obstacle so that you can grow even closer to one another than you were before.
5. Healthy fun
A marriage is healthy when you can have fun together and you look forward to being with your spouse and doing things you enjoy with each other. Sometimes married life can become so hectically busy and so full of stress and tension that the element of fun is lost. This is a tragic loss, and every effort should be made to regain some of the playfulness and light-hearted fun which you may have enjoyed at the beginning of your relationship. Sign up for a class together or go ice-skating, or watch a comedy together, and bring some healthy fun into your marriage.
6. Healthy support
Having a good support structure in your marriage is essential to a healthy relationship. When a husband and wife become insular and isolated to the extent that they have few outside relationships, it is an unhealthy sign. Abusive relationships are almost always characterised by isolation. The abuser isolates his spouse so that she feels she has “no one to go to”. In a healthy marriage, both partners enjoy many and varied friendships with others, whether it is family members, fellow church members or work colleagues and friends.
If you discover that these six indicators of a healthy marriage are not present to any great extent in your relationship, please don’t ignore the red flags that you see. If you are still not sure whether or not you need help, you might like to search the internet for a marriage health quiz which will give you further feedback. There is help available, and there is no need to settle for less when you can have the best.