What is the secret of a happy and lasting marriage?
Marriage is often considered one of the most important commitments we make in our lives. It is the promise to stay together for better or worse, to share all the joys and sorrows of life. But how do we achieve this long-term satisfaction and stability in marriage?
What makes a good marriage?
That was the question I asked at a dinner party recently. As I looked around, two couples had just gotten engaged, two had passed the 30-year mark, and the rest were somewhere in between, I wondered what people would answer.
“You have to look for ways to help each other,” said one husband, “by putting each other's needs before your own.”
“It helps to remember that you are on the same team,” added a young wife. “You don't want to ‘win' an argument because it means your spouse has to lose.”
“Share each other's passions,” tossed in a third couple. “If you don't like something the other person likes, learn more about it. You may find that you do like it after all.”
Their simple answers spoke volumes and reinforced something I had read about satisfaction in marriage: that kindness strengthens couples.
Kindness is the key to satisfaction in marriage
Studies have shown that kindness is the key to satisfaction in marriage. While many factors can play a role in a successful marriage, kindness is the cornerstone of all of them.
It's not just about bringing your spouse a cup of coffee in the morning, but recognizing your spouse's intentions and showing appreciation.
Being nice to your spouse may seem simple, but it can be harder to practice than it sounds. Conflicts can arise for a variety of reasons, and it is easy to fall into criticism and judgment.
Yet, if we can adopt a generous attitude toward our spouse and seek to appreciate his or her intentions, it can make a big difference in long-term marriage satisfaction and stability.
And it's not just about bringing your spouse a cup of coffee in the morning.
From studies show that having a generous mindset appreciating your spouse's intentions is the key.
Your husband, for example, may not have been “deliberately” trying to annoy you when he left the toilet seat up, he may have just been distracted. Your wife may not have been late for dinner on purpose. Maybe she just had to stop by the store to pick up your gift.
Kindness is not something we have or don't have. It is a quality we can cultivate with intention. Instead of being on the lookout for our spouse's mistakes, we can look for things to appreciate and say “thank you.”
We can be intentional in showing respect to our spouse.
The Bible teaches that kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
This means that we can all have this quality. If we can cultivate this quality in our lives, it can not only improve our marriage, but it can also help us be better people in general.
According to a Wall Street Journal article from a few months ago, prayer can also play an important role in maintaining a happy and stable marriage. Prayer can strengthen our spiritual muscle over time.
“When people pray for their spouse's well-being when they experience a negative emotion in the marriage, both partners, the one praying and the one being prayed for, report greater satisfaction in the relationship.“