Plenty of people offer marriage. Your parents. Other married friends. Your aunt’s neighbors 40-something son who still lives in her basement and has been divorced three times. Everyone thinks they know the answer to a happy marriage. Then again, with the divorce rate in this country hovering right around 50%, only half the population has actually figured it out. And of that 50% how many couples are actually happily married? That’s the real question.
I’ve been married for nine years, together with my husband for over 12. We’ve had our amazing moments where I’ve looked at him and thought, “Damn, how did I get so lucky?” And then there’s been other times where I’ve thought, “What the F did I get myself into?” If anyone tells you marriage is easy, they’re lying. If someone tells you that they’re the same exact person they were when they first got married, they’re either lying or not very in tune with who they are. Marriage, like any relationship, takes work, compromise, sacrifice, patience, empathy, and forgiveness, just to name a few.
Compromise really is essential for marriage. No, everything isn’t going to go your way every time. You won’t win every argument and you certainly won’t always get your voice heard. Compromise goes in line with picking your battles. Look at each situation and ask yourself, is it worth the fight? Is the outcome worth the aggravation and heartache it’ll cause? If not, try to meet your partner in the middle.
Sacrifice goes hand in hand with compromise, especially once you bring kids into the mix. Sacrifice means putting another person’s needs before your own. Sometimes, you’ll need your partner’s support more than they’ll need yours and vise versa. Most spouses want to see their partner happy and if that means making a sacrifice to see that happen, most people would happily do so. The only thing to remember about sacrifice is that it’s a two-way street. If you are the only one making any sacrifice than your marriage lacks compromise. Over time, you’ll feel taken advantage of. You may start giving up on your own goals and dreams, which can lead to resentment against your partner. Resentment is an ugly, destructive emotion.
People say patience is a virtue and they’re right. Patience is sometimes hard to come by but having patience with your partner is like a key that unlocks the door of communication. It’s impossible to compromise or sacrifice if you can’t communicate. Patience allows you to actually hear and internalize what your partner is saying and feeling, without putting up walls. Patience also leads to empathy. By putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and being empathetic to their situation, you can show patience and sympathy, and more easily meet them halfway.
Forgiveness is a big part of marriage also. Nobody’s perfect. We all make mistakes and hopefully, learn from those mistakes. Not everyone has the same threshold for forgiveness. This means if one partner is unfaithful or does something deemed “unforgivable,” that may be the end of things. Whereas if the other party made the same mistake, their partner might be more equipped to forgive and move on.
An important thing to remember when it comes to forgiveness is that once you decide to do so, you must leave all other doubts and feelings behind you and only look ahead. This is no easy task. But you can’t forgive only halfway. It needs to be 100%. If not, you’ll constantly be looking in the past, blaming your partner for things, and resenting them for what they’ve done. Be honest with yourself and your partner. If you can’t forgive, then perhaps, it’s time to let go.
Unfortunately, there’s no right answer about what makes a perfect marriage. And there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage. There are relationships that work and those that don’t. Both parties need to want it enough to put in the time and effort.