If you were to go on a quest to find the ultimate secret to a healthy marriage, it is doubtful that you would come up with just one answer. In fact, were you to ask fifty healthy married couples for their secret, you may just end up with fifty different answers! Indeed, there are many factors involved in making a relationship last in a good and healthy way. Just like a large and valuable diamond which has many sparkling facets, so a healthy marriage is a multi-faceted jewel, with every facet adding to its value and enjoyment.
Some of these facets will be discussed below in the form of an acrostic using the letters of the words H-E-A-L-T-H-Y M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E.
H – History
They say if we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. Take a look at your own history and see what you can learn from your parents or other role models. Recognize some of the good points you can take into your marriage, as well as the negative lessons to avoid. By learning from other’s mistakes we can sometimes save ourselves a lot of time and heartache.
E – Emotions
After all, what is a marriage without emotions – especially LOVE! In a healthy marriage both spouses feel free to express their emotions openly – both positive and negative emotions. Emotional expressions can be nonverbal as well as verbal. Negative emotions such as anger, sadness and frustration need to be appropriately communicated without threatening or hurting your spouse.
A – Attitudes
A bad attitude is like a flat tyre – you can’t go anywhere until you change it! And it’s the same in marriage. If you want a successful long-term relationship or marriage, you need to have a positive and affirming attitude towards your spouse, where you are both actively seeking to build one another up. If you are critical, demeaning and negative, don’t expect to have a happy and healthy marriage.
L – Laughter
When you can laugh together everything seems easier and the world instantly becomes a better place. If you can find something to laugh about with your spouse every day, you will certainly have a healthier marriage. If you come across a little joke or saying that you know your spouse would enjoy, save it and share it when you are together – or send it on Whatsapp or facebook to brighten his or her day.
T – Talking
There are times when it is comfortable and appropriate just to be together without talking. But generally, when you run out of things to talk about, it is not a good sign in a marriage. Couples who are in a healthy relationship enjoy sharing their thoughts and feelings everyday with each other, and they explore new topics and interests together which give them endless fuel for conversation.
H – Hang-in-there
The sun doesn’t shine every day, and when the rainy, stormy days come you need to hang-in-there and let your commitment to one another see you through. Always remind yourself why you got married in the first place and remember how precious your relationship with your spouse is to you. Let the hard times draw you closer together. Springtime always comes after winter.
Y – Yesterday
Whatever happened yesterday is gone forever. Learn to forgive and ask forgiveness, put things behind you and move on, especially when it comes to disagreements and conflicts you may have had. Harbouring grudges and bringing up old gripes is a sure way to sour any relationship. One of the most profound secrets to a lasting relationship is forgiveness.
M – Manners
Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ goes a long way. If you can mind your manners in social or work settings, why not in your most cherished relationships with your spouse and children? You will find in countless ways how politeness always pays. Standing back for a lady, holding the door open or helping her into her seat are all signs of a true gentleman which need never go out of fashion.
A – Affection
Lots of loving affection keeps a marriage healthy and happy, just like water keeps a plant alive. Don’t say goodbye in the morning without a good hug and kiss, and again when you reunite at the end of the day. A gentle touch on the arm, stroking the hair, or a head resting gently on a shoulder speaks volumes without saying a word.
R – Reality
Sometimes we can be so anxious and determined to have a ‘dream-marriage’ that we end up living in denial when the relationship turns out less-than-perfect. This is when you need to firmly reconnect with reality and get the help you need. Some marriage problems do not resolve themselves, and some timely intervention from a qualified counselor can be highly effective in helping you work through your struggles to achieve a healthy marriage.
R – Reaching out
A wise person once said that true love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction. When you have a common goal which you are both striving towards, it will inevitably draw you closer to one another. Reaching out and helping those in need and being a blessing to others will result in your marriage being blessed in return.
I – Ideas
Creativity and new ideas help to keep a relationship fresh and exciting. Think of new things to do together, and try some spontaneous surprises from time to time, like leaving little notes where you spouse will find it at an unexpected moment. Take turns to plan something different to do on your date nights or anniversary celebrations.
A – Appreciation
Being thankful is definitely a good sign in a relationship. Expressing appreciation to your spouse for all that he or she is doing, immediately brightens the day and gives a sense of satisfaction. Take the time to notice the little and not-so-little things that make your life more enjoyable. Just a simple ‘thank you my sweetheart’ can make all the difference and brings greater motivation to keep on going.
G – Growth
Lifelong learning is what it’s all about and growing together keeps a marriage healthy. Encourage one another to pursue areas of interest and to expand your knowledge and skills, whether it’s a hobby or career avenue. Growth is important in all areas such as spiritually, mentally and emotionally as well as physically.
E – Experience
‘Put it down to experience’ is a good saying to remember as time goes by in your marriage. Everything you are going through together as a couple, whether good or bad, is gaining you valuable experience which will stand you in good stead for the years to come, not only in your own relationship, but also in order to help others, especially the next generation.
Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.