5 Keys to Success in Marriage

There exists an age old question regarding which type of relationship style provides the best potential for a happy marriage.  What is the ideal blend of personalities, interests, backgrounds, experiences, and other characteristics that results in marital bliss?  There is not a single correct answer.  Couples manage to find success in marriage in all sorts of circumstances -and virtually anywhere on the relationship style spectrum.  However, marriage experts have identified a few key factors that serve to predict happy and lasting unions.  The most important of these characteristics are discussed, below.

     1.  Common Spiritual Foundation

One virtually essential component to long-term mutual fulfillment in marriage is a common spiritual foundation.  When a man and woman have significantly different spiritual and religious goals, viewpoints, beliefs, experiences, or practices it eventually serves to put significant strain on the relationship.  The more central the role that spirituality plays is in a person’s life the more important it is for relational symmetry in this area.  But it has also been found that even many couples who do not view themselves as particularly religious early in their relationship later regret minimizing their initial indifference of this factor.

This comes as no surprise to Christians familiar with the Bible.  The Word of God instructs us: “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).  One must not keep company with or be attached to others when there exists a significant difference in spiritual belief and understanding.  It is simply a recipe for disappointment and trouble.  While this principle applies to all sorts of relationships - marriage is certainly included.  Even when both a man and woman are technically both “believers” - having some form of Christian background or experience - problems can and will arise when there is not significant spiritual uniformity.  As the prophet noted, “Can two walk together, except they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).  Spiritual differences that seem somewhat insignificant early in a relationship will very often become extremely pronounced at later phases of life.

     2.  Realistic Expectations

Everyone has expectations about the manner in which they believe a marriage should work.  These expectations will influence a marriage in many ways - both positive and negative.  The unfortunate reality is that many individuals have formed very unrealistic expectations.  They expect an idealized married life based on imaginary concepts of soul-mates, destiny or fate.  According to such views, bliss should be perpetual, disagreements should be virtually non-existent, finances should be continuously stable, and so forth.  If not, they believe, something is not right.  Therefore, when natural and predictable challenges of long-term relationships begin to occur and circumstances become less than ideal people with unrealistic expectations begin to panic, experience frustration, and become disillusioned.

However, people with more practictical, realistic expectations of marriage are happier, fight less, and are more likely to stay together.  They don’t expect a fairy-tale existence.  They are not surprised or confused when they encounter difficult phases of life.  They don’t believe that their spouse is solely responsible for their personal happiness.  They understand that disagreements and conflict are a part of every relationship.  They accept that mature relationships require personal investment, compromise, and sacrifice.  They understand that the long-term success of marriage relies on mutual effort and dedication.

     3.  Mature Concept of Love

Most relationships start with with a dynamic that is basically tantamount to mutual infatuation.  This pattern generally carries over into fledgling marriages.  Many couples literally want to spend every waking moment with one another.  Romance, passion, and intimacy are at an all time high.  Feelings of closeness, bondedness and connection are also peaked.  They are deeply in love!

The problem is that it is literally impossible to maintain this same level of emotion in the long term.  At some point relatively early in the marriage these emotional experiences begin to decline rapidly and, later, ebb and flow throughout the course of the relationship.  Unfortunately, many partners mistake this normal and predictable phenomenon as a serious dilemma.  All too often these couples are misled into believing that their love has grown cold and that the relationship is in jeopardy.

But couples who have a more mature concept of love recognize that there is much more to love than these emotional experiences.  They understand that lasting love is built upon commitment, fidelity, and loyalty.  Mature love is living out the pledge of unity regardless of any and all changes that life brings.  Genuine love goes far beyond emotion and entails disciplines of the character.  Love is a decision and a promise - not merely an emotional state.

     4.  Ability to Work Together

In marriages that thrive spouses figure out how to work together as a team.  They learn how to be mutually accountable, jointly make decisions, communicate effectively, and so forth.  This learning process seems to come much easier for some than it does to others.  This is true for a variety of different reasons such as: external positive examples, similar personality styles, exposure to relationship education, and others.  However, for a great many married couples working together effectively does not come naturally or instinctively.

A critical fact to understand is that working together to achieve a successful marriage requires the acquisition of relationship skills.  Time and patience alone without an effort to learn will not result in acquiring these skills.  A strong commitment to one another is essential to a life-long marriage.  But, this commitment in and of itself with a lack of relationship skills can result in being committed but miserable.  Couples who are not able to adequately learn these skills together on their own greatly benefit from accessing resources such as: pastoral assistance, marriage education, mentoring, counseling, and so forth.

     5.  Positive Outlook on Life

In general, people who have a positive attitude and outlook on life fare much better in marriages than those who do not.  Several factors may explain this.  For example, contentment, compassion, and seeing the best in others are internal characteristics that strengthen relationships.  Indeed, people who strive to always make the best of their current circumstances always seem to find a way to persevere - and marriage is no exception.

With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Christians who strive to incorporate biblical principles into their daily lives make the best spouses and have the most successful marriages.  To give but one example, the Word of God admonishes us to exemplify qualities such as: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:23).  The presence of these characteristics is the evidence of the abiding presence of God’s Spirit in our lives.  With these biblical attributes working in them, impacting their attitude, and informing their outlook on life Christian couples are at a great advantage concerning success in marriage.
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