I am a reader and spend much time inching my way thought the shelves of my local bookstore and library. The endless supply of self help books never ceases to amaze me. Especially, the ones on love, marriage and building healthy relationships. Where were these books when I was a new bride struggling to find my way, at a time when such things were not talked about openly and a girl had to look to the older women of the family for advice. Many of whom could only say things like "such is the lot of women" or " it will improve with time".
Well, several days ago I found a small little book entitled "20 Surprisingly simple rules and tools for a Great Marriage." and just had to check it out. I was curious to learn what I did wrong and might have done differently over the 37 years of my marriage, that might have changed the course of our relationship. Well, the book is great and I wish it had been tucked into one of my shower boxes as a new bride (and that is what I will do with this copy) it would have saved me a lot of hard work and heartache. But, there was nothing new in the book that I had not learned over time learn from the school of hard knocks and trial and error. But, many of the wisdom's of this little book can also be applied in revised fashion to our everyday relationships with the people we are meeting, dating, or hoping to make a long term commitment too.
The 20 rules for a great Marriage.
1. Make your spouse (date, friend, partner) a priority
Bottom line is if you partner does not feel thy are special to you, sooner or later they will be tempted to find someone who does make them feel special.
2. Accept differences
If two people were completely alike, their relationship would be boring and out of balance. Be thankful for those differences and make an effort to understand and appreciate them.
3. Listen carefully.
We all hear but we so seldom take the time to listen. Listening means to take the time to look at the person and truly listen to each word. Really listening is a intimate activity. The more you listen, the more your partner will open their heart to you. Over time listening builds closeness that makes you emotionally one. Healthy relationships thieve and being emotionally one.
4. Compliment daily
compliments show appreciation, when you feel appreciated, you tend to feel loved. Without appreciation you get discouraged. So complimenting possessions, appearance, behavior and character will encourage your partner, make them smile and draw them closer to you.
5. work together as a team
Couples need to embrace the concept of being intimate allies. Allies communicate and defend each other. They coordinate their efforts and help each other out. Marriage is like a 3 legged race: try to push ahead without your partners cooperation, and you will both fall. Work together and you will win.
6. Mind your manners
Good manners are of way of showing your love. When you truly love someone you want to act in a certain way. Being polite is simply an effort to be kind, show respect and treat your partner as you would want to be treated. Were there is true love there are manners. Where there are good manners, there is the potential for a great relationship.
7. Watch less TV
Television isn't bad but it can do bad things to a relationship. It can pull you apart and steal precious moments, filling them with irrelevant and sometimes highly questionable material. Television is consuming and if not controlled it will control you, it draws you in, demands attention and resents competition. More relationships are ignored and die because of television then any other single factor.
8. Find time for fun
The coupe that plays together, stay together. Playfulness helps you relax, and when you relax, you'll find that you're able to relate to one another in a more positive manner. Having fun relieves stress and builds great memories.
9. Do the little things
One of the mistakes we often make is thinking "the bigger the better". Big plans can be nice, but more often, it's the little things that count the most. It is the little movements toward our partners that increase our contentment with each other. The more little things you do the more little things come back to you. As little things add up so does love and appreciation grow and grow.
10. Celebrate the "Top Five"
Which are Christmas, Valentines Day, wedding anniversary, spouse's birthday, Mother/Fathers day. Never miss giving a gift on the top five. Chances to be generous and giving are extra special ways of say you care in unique ways and letting your partner know that they are special to you are you are thankful for having them in your life. But, don't be limited by only five days each year when you have 360 chances to show your love.
11. Think positive
Negative words or actions can leave deep scars. Research shows that it takes eight positives to make up for a single negative. People who face to many negative responses simply give up trying. Nothing will kill a relationship faster then negative behavior. A few examples are being critical, bitter, ignoring, defensive, argumentative, grumpy, sarcastic, short-tempered, passive-aggressive, unresponsive, impatient, cynical, complaining, unhappy, resistant, sharp, nagging, or frustrated. Work on expressing more positive behaviors. "You can either complain that rose bushes have thorns------------or you can rejoice that the thorn bushes have roses."
12. Fight fair
Every couple fights. Every couple have different styles of fighting, Some fight frequently; others only disagree once in a while. Some battle with silence; others get very loud. Some explode and it's over; others pick and complain for years. Whatever your style it's important that you learn how to fight fair. if you don't you will leave a trail of hurt, anger, disrespect, fear, disappointment, and unresolved conflict behind you. When you fight fair you will learn to understand each other better and grow closer rather then more distant.
Since none of us are perfect we're bound to find ourselves in plenty of situations that require forgiveness. Take responsibility for your actions and seek forgiveness with each offense. By doing so you open the door to healing and togetherness. Refusing to seek forgiveness slams the door on your partners feelings and blocks your relationship from growing, Flip side is granting forgiveness. refusing to forgive traps pain and keeps us from healing. Without forgiveness, trust can't be regained and the relationship begins to die.
14. Welcome each other home
What happens in the first fifteen minutes of arriving home often sets the mood for the rest of the evening. If you arrive home to someone that is glad to see you, you are happy to be there. If you are ignored or met with a list of everything that went wrong while you were gone, you begin to wish you were somewhere else. Welcoming each other home is something that can transform your relationship, if every person welcomed their spouse home with loving enthusiasm you would be surprised at the positive impact it would have on the relationship.
15. Go to bed at the same time
To many couples live parallel lives, They spend much of their time doing different jobs, enjoying different hobbies and talking with different friends. If a couple is not careful, this creates a distant marriage. When you go to bed at the same time, you create a perfect opportunity to reconnect and rebuild your togetherness. To end the day together is a reminder that the two of you are one. Set aside some quality time just before you go to sleep. Make this a special time, shutting out all the busyness, stress, and distractions of the world. The last thing on your mind as you go to sleep is processed by your brain all night long, Going to bed with a positive attitude toward each other assures that you will awake still feeling great about your mate.
16 Develop mutual friends
Every couple needs good mutual friends. In this age of being a very mobile, independent, busy and disconnected from family and community mutual friends are more important then ever before in helping a relationship to succeed. Friends help you through the rough times and enrich the positive times in your relationship. Friends can make a good marriage better, supporting and protecting all that is important.
17. never stop dating
Couple don't usually decide to stop dating8ing; it just happens. Responsibilities and the hectic pace of living get in the way. Make time to schedule dates and romance into your schedules. Dating brought you together and it will keep you together. Dating pulls you above the ordinary, allowing you special time to communicate and connect. Enjoying some type of date on a weekly basis will improve your relationship and help you to appreciate each other even more.
18. make love
Men and women are wired differently; this is especially true in the sexual area. Because of these differences sexual communication is very important. Sexually involves "the 3 G's" 1. sex is Good. God created sex, and when it is expressed unselfishly within the boundaries of marriage, it is a mutual blessing. 2. Sex is Glue. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." Sexuality protects a couple from outside temptations and bonds them closer together than any other relationship can. 3. Sex is a gift. "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. IN the same way, the husbands body does not belong to him alone but also to the wife" (1 Corinthians) Freely giving yourself to your spouse with no expectations in return is true romance.
19. Pray for and with your spouse
Ultimately, prayer is your best protection. Going through marriage without prayer is like walking a high wire without a safety net. Don't be foolish. Always remember that prayer succeeds when all else fails. Make time to pray together. And pray for each other, your marriage, your health, safety; temptations; work, fears, dreams, and mostly your shared faith.
20 Treasure your spouse.
Often it takes a crisis to realize what is of true value in our lives. Your partner is a unique and special person with strengths and talents and potential. 'Too often, we take them for granted. Too often we don't treasure a person until after they are gone. Then we finally realize how much they meant to us and how empty life will be without them.
Take it from this widow, now is the time to treasure those loved ones in your life. And if the Lord blesses me with a second chance at marriage, I hope I will do a better job, from the start of putting these 20 rules into practice. Some of them it took me decades to learn the last time and some of them I never did. Hopefully, next time I will be smarter from day one.