The greatest joy and success in life comes from a happy marriage where two equal partners love each other in thought and action, unselfishly put their partner’s concerns over their own, and stays committed no matter the challenges and trials that life inevitably throws at us all. Unfortunately, our society writes songs, makes movies, and ingrains into our minds that when two people fall in love and get married, it will of course be ‘happily ever after.’ And yet, the divorce courts are overflowing because ‘happily ever after’ is not achieved because both partners fail to put forth the necessary effort and work, the change and patience, and the love and commitment to make a successful marriage work.
Understandably, no person or marriage is perfect, and some marriages fail and must end for obvious and necessary reasons; however, the overwhelming majority of marriages (and families for that matter) could be saved if both partners put forth more effort to implement these few foundational principles that are at the heart of any happy and successful marriage:
1) Absolutely No Pornography: This unfortunately must be at the top of my list because it is unquestionably the leading contributor to unhappy and unsuccessful marriages in our current day. While women can (and increasingly are) victims as well, the majority of perpetrators are of course men. Commit now to never look or get involved. Realize that each of us are daily tempted (commercials, TV shows, advertisements, websites, etc) – so develop the habit today to just ‘turn away immediately.’ If already addicted, get help now! Looking at this filth will lead to impure thoughts, which lead to actions, which lead to habits, which result in marriages failing and families being torn apart.
2) Date Nights: Men, when was the last time you took your wife out on a date? Do you make time and actually schedule in regular date nights? And perhaps more importantly, while on a date, do you participate in entertainment that contributes to building and strengthening your relationship, or entertainment that promotes infidelity, selfishness, and lust? Make time for each other – just be together, talk, listen, laugh, express affection and appreciation, and do it consistently.
3) Enjoy & Make the Most of Today: We need to stop waiting for future events to come and heal our present day problems; for when those events come, they become the present problems, and we go on waiting for future remedies. Are you waiting for that next pay raise, promotion, or bigger house to actually be happy? Never fall victim to the false securities of materialism. My promise to you is that none of those things will lead to a happy and successful marriage. Enjoy now, and make time now for what and who matter most!
4) Financial Trust, Openness, and Honesty: We each have heard many times that finances are one of the leading causes of divorce today. While that is true, the reality is that the finances are not the problem – it is selfishness, integrity, and lack of communication that is the problem. Every couple needs to budget, be extremely open with and communicate about finances, and be honest with each other. More importantly however, couples need to live within their means and rid from their minds the cultural pressure of ‘keeping up with the Jones.’ Women would do well to decipher between ‘wants’ and ‘needs,’ and focus less on how much her man makes and more on how well he manages that money. Men would do well to be equal and open with their partner about their finances, and live and teach his family more about saving and how it is actually good to occasionally go without.
5) Men – You Can Do More: Every man reading this should ask themselves these questions: when was the last time I helped with the dishes, the laundry, or the house cleaning? Are changing diapers, giving the kids a bath, and cooking meals a woman’s responsibility? And – is my responsibility around the house limited to only yard work? Let me be clear in suggesting to (and telling) men that if they want a happy and successful marriage, they had better help more with the dishes, house cleaning, changing diapers, reading stories at bedtime, and cooking a meal for their wife – all this in addition to the yard work responsibilities.
6) We are Different: It is a common story to hear how happy and compatible a couple was during courtship, and yet not too long after the wedding it seems that there were characteristics, habits, and weaknesses that somehow were not revealed during the time they were dating. For every couple that has ever been married – we collectively say: ‘Welcome to Marriage.’ The greatest challenge in any marriage is not in finding the right person, but in becoming the right person. We each need to spend less time trying to change our partner into who we want or expect them to be and more time appreciating their differences and strengths, helping them with their weaknesses, and realizing that the person looking at you in the mirror is probably just as much (if not more) guilty of possessing these challenging characteristic traits we all seem to have. Look for and dwell on the good … and remember it was Benjamin Franklin who said: “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half-shut afterwards.”
7) Love is an Action: Love may start as a thought, an attraction, kind words, and romantic feelings – but true love and lasting love requires effort, patience, understanding, unselfishness, and daily action. In fact, there are few people that can justifiably say that they ‘fell out of love’ because the majority of people who ‘fall out of love’ actually failed to continue to put forth effort, and focused more on their own needs rather than the best interest of their spouse and children. Marriage requires us to fall in love many times – with the same person! And never forget the wisdom expressed in this quote: “newlyweds become oldyweds, and oldyweds are the reason that families work.”
8) Hold Your Tongue: – Kindness in Word: Speak kind words. Compliment more. Uplift always. Thank daily. And learn to hold your tongue. There should never be any verbal abuse in any marriage (or emotional and physical abuse as well, of course). Men – you must treat, think of, and speak to your partner as an equal. And, if either one of you ever become frustrated, irritated, or angry – learn to allow TIME to be a friend by ‘cooling off’ and reacting maturely, kindly, and appropriately after you have regained composure and can act/speak kindly.
9) Commitment in Thoughts & Action: It is not enough to be committed and true to your spouse in word and deed only. Much more difficult and important it is to be committed and true in thought! Impure thoughts lead to impure actions, which all too often unfortunately result in fornication and yet another marriage and family being torn apart. Keep your thoughts clean and true to your spouse. Ensure all your conversations and actions foster love and trust for the one you love and need to be committed to. In addition, both partners need also to do their part to stay attractive to each other (trying to impress and look good for your partner shouldn’t stop after you say “I Do”). Lastly, don’t ever let those who are ‘younger’ or ‘more beautiful’ distract you from the true beauty of your spouse that increases with age, effort, and time. The reward for commitment is not self-denial, but true happiness. Contrastingly, covetousness results in guilt, misery, mental anguish, family destruction, marital unhappiness, and often financial ruin.
10) You Must Have God in Your Relationship: I certainly recognize and respect the fact that not everyone reading this article shares the same beliefs that I do; however, that does not discount the fact that having God in my own marriage has without question been the most important foundational reason why my relationship with my wife has been happy and successful thus far.
Successful and happy marriages require sacrifice, effort, and patience. Love is an action, not simply a feeling! And yet, despite the work and change required, marriage can also produce the greatest joy, satisfaction, and accomplishment life has to offer. As evidenced in the 10 tips above, there is no hidden secret or formula – it simply requires both partners to make time for each other, take action, change, and become unselfish and faithful in thought and action. Is it difficult? Of course! Is it worth it? Absolutely!