June is one of the most popular months for weddings, which is why so many of my friends (and myself) are celebrating their anniversaries this month. It’s likely that you’re receiving or sending wedding invitations that talk about living happily ever after in wedded bliss.
It doesn’t take long before we realize wedded bliss is a thing of fairy tales. Marriage takes work; more than work, marriage requires daily practice of communicating effectively and going the extra mile to be kind, forgiving, and supportive despite your mood. Work pressures, children, social media, and the lack of time for yourself can create defeated expectations, resentment, and pressure. Unfortunately, couples often turn away from one another to escape reality instead of supporting each other. This creates a lack of intimacy and loneliness that can eventually leads to divorce.
One of the primary reasons couples split is because they weren’t aware of (or demonstrated by their own parents) the importance of practicing and building marital resilience. Here are a few resilience building skills to practice as a couple:
Notice each other and be supportive during transitions. When couples get busy, they often ignore each other. This forces each person to go it alone. Resilient couples pay attention to each other at transitional times. Whether your partner is waking up, going to work, or going to bed, your attention can be a simple kiss, hug, or touch.
Be there when things go right! The brain is hard-wired to remember unwelcome news. It’s so important for couples to celebrate each other’s good news! Stay away from making your partner’s good news about you. No matter how busy you are, be there to celebrate your partner.
It’s all about communication. To have a marriage that will withstand the ups and downs of life, you need to be able to express yourself in a clear and calm way. No one responds to angry, defensive, or belittling language. Learn to stop yourself and ask how your partner how they feel about what you said. Remember, the goal is to resolve the problem together.
Reframe challenging times. No matter who you marry, you will have tough times. Expect them. Remind yourself and each other that this tough time is not forever, and the two of you are bright enough to find a solution. Get help from a counselor if you need insights, but mostly commit to your marriage and rely on each other to help you find a new perspective. There is always a solution don’t give up on the two of you. One exception is abuse in the relationship; you must end the relationship. Abuse is a mental illness that resilience cannot fix.
Hope is a strong predictor of resilient couples. Take responsibility for what you have control over (getting a job) and brainstorm together for what you don’t. Hope cannot work if you refuse to forgive, act selfishly, or lack a sincere interest in your partner.
Happy marriages aren’t magical or fated - they are created. Practicing resilience in your marriage can help you through a challenging time and add strength to your relationship. When you talk to couples who are now celebrating their 25th or 50th anniversary, you’ll often times hear the results of their continual practice of resilience by what they say. They often say something along the lines of, “We just muddled through and held tightly to each other.” Hold on to your partner; the power of two is not to be taken lightly.