This article was originally published on FamilyShare.com and can be found here.
Do you have what it takes to make it for 365 days?
Let’s face it. Your chances of staying married aren’t good. Sorry for sounding bleak. First-time marriages have a 41 percent chance of ending end in divorce — and it only gets worse for second-time marriages (60 percent) and third-time marriages (73 percent). That’s one divorce every 36 seconds; 100 divorces every hour; 2,400 divorces per day; 16,800 divorces per week; 876,000 divorces per year … I told you this was going to sound bleak.
For many couples, the first year is their “make or break” year. So how can you make your marriage last one year and beyond?
The reason my marriage made it to one year is because I learned:
Being Right isn’t Always the Answer
I can argue my point ’til I’m blue in the face, but if I’m mean and cruel, what have I really won? If winning an argument comes at the cost of demoralizing your spouse, is it worth it? By winning the battle, you may inadvertently lose the war.
Listen to Understand — Not to Build Counterarguments
I’ve recently started the habit of asking myself this very important question: “Am I listening to my wife in order to understand her, or am I just building ammunition for my own argument?” Ask yourself this question, and come back to reality. Nothing ever gets resolved if either party isn’t listening in a meaningful attempt to understand the other person’s perspective.
Choose your Battles!
This one sounds tired and overused — but oh man, will it save your bacon! Simply put, some battles don’t need to be fought. When you’re not sure what to do, ask yourself two questions: “Am I more invested in the object of this battle than my spouse is? And if I’m not, can I simply just trust my spouse with this issue?” Learn to trust your spouse’s judgement, whether you totally agree or not.
Make Apologies — without Qualifications
I learned this the hard way. When I used to apologize to my wife for mistakes I’d made, I would often couch my apologies in all the reasons why I did what I did. Don’t apologize while simultaneously trying to justify your actions. This is not a true, authentic apology. When apologizing, remove the word “but” from your vocabulary.
Take Ownership for your Actions
This may come as a surprise, but you are not perfect! You have no one to blame for your actions but yourself. You control you. Regardless of how your spouse acts, you are ultimately responsible for how you behave. Stop blaming your spouse for your actions and reactions. Take ownership.
Replace Judgements with Feedback on Behavior
When giving feedback to your spouse, some of the worst things you can say are, “You liar!” or “You’re irrational, selfish, irresponsible…” We all want to say these things, but it never ends well. Why? Because these things are labels — judgements of one’s character. They are meant to damage, not clarify or help. Instead, give your spouse feedback on his or her behavior and how that behavior affected you.
If you didn’t want to change, you shouldn’t have gotten married! Marriage is the laboratory of life. It is the place where you try new things, make mistakes and learn valuable lessons. You can’t not be changed by it. So, let marriage do its work. If you won’t change for your spouse, who would you change for? Who better to change for than your spouse?
Assume the Best
I’ve made the mistake of holding on to my wife’s past mistakes. Each time a new issue arises, all past mistakes come flooding to my mind, giving an added intensity to every fight. I jump to conclusions, thinking she’s “messed up again.” Such behavior simply isn’t fair, and it predisposes a couple to look only for the negative. Assuming the best of your spouse sets you up for success and helps you see all the positives.
There are no surefire ways of avoiding divorce. Nothing can provide that assurance. But these lessons will help you enjoy your marriage through the first year — and beyond.