How to Have a Near-Perfect Marriage Or Not.
“The happiest marriages are 75% right selection and 25% effort; choosing the right person and devoting the rest of the time being the right person.” ~The author, with the right person, being the right person.
Let me begin by saying there is no such thing as a perfect marriage. That ideal myth only exists in our imagination. First of all, marriages involve people and people are very imperfect. And secondly, when any marriage approaches “perfect” status, one or both people will likely find a way to stir the pot to avoid the inevitable boredom that results from anything being too perfect (The Garden of Eden was perfect and just look what we did there!).
From my own personal life and counseling experiences, and confirmed by those fortunate couples having achieved near-perfect marriages, these seven factors appear to be solid predictors of such success:
1. Start right.
2. Build a foundation.
3. Talk through the tough stuff.
4. Give to get.
5. Allow space.
6. Celebrate special occasions.
7. Be appreciative.
Current statistics suggest that as many as three out of four marriages end in divorce. The suggested reasons for this high failure rate show up in a variety of symptoms, but they all point towards the same thing—most marriages start out wrong and what starts out wrong isn’t likely to finish right.
The object is to select the right person to work with in having a near-perfect marriage, starting with these critical commonalities:
- Having a common purpose for being together—to get further with more happiness and living as a couple rather than alone.
- Being reasonably compatible on the basics—fundamental attitude towards life, core values, important needs, interests, characteristics and habits.
- Agreeing on ways to effectively deal with the bothersome incompatibilities or annoying differences that will eventually surface.
- Accepting and liking each other for who you are and not disliking the other person for who he or she isn’t.
- Committing to each other completely; this builds the necessary trust, security, and freedom for each person to grow into his or her best self and couple.
- Exposing important deal-breakers and legitimate expectations early on before too much emotional investment has been made.
BUILD A FOUNDATION
Having a near-perfect marriage doesn’t happen by chance, and just like house construction, the blueprint for success has to be followed by pouring a solid foundation to build upon. Such a solid foundation necessary to support a near-perfect marriage involves a few critical factors:
- Becoming ‘one of the family’ with each others extended families.
- Communicating openly and non-defensively about the things that bother you to keep them from festering and growing out of proportion.
- Learning more about the person you are with.
- Controlling your own negative behavior and words that hinder growing together.
- Building an abundance of positive experiences to counteract the inevitable rainy days that will eventually occur.
- Finding a way to connect your souls, religiously or spiritually, so that unconditional loving comes more naturally.
- Working on your employment skills to improve your long-term vocational marketability and financial stability.
TALK THROUGH THE TOUGH STUFF
The willingness and ability to talk openly about the delicate matters like sex, family, finances, housing, habits and goals, has to be present from the start in order to apply it when it counts most—during a serious crisis or conflict. Of course this initial openness of communication can easily close up later on, when you are tempted to make assumptions about the other person which may need to be checked out and verified. Plus people do change in a marriage and we all know the seas won’t stay calm long for smooth sailing, no matter how well-built the boat is or how good our sailing skills are.
GIVE TO GET
To get on the right path to having a near-perfect marriage, you must give the other person what it is you want to get, first. If you want more physical affection, more patience, more conversation, more ambition, or more anything from your partner, you have to take the first step and give these things to him or her, rather than asking for them or worse yet, complaining about the other person’s “deficiencies.” The unbreakable law to learn here is that life’s bank requires deposits before withdrawals are made. Besides this is the only way you can be assured of getting the right, positive “tat” in the game of “tit for tat.” Too many wrong, negative “tats” = divorce.
Our human nature dictates that we all have to enjoy enough freedom to be dependent, independent and inter-dependent. A near-perfect marriage affords many opportunities for both people to be all three, especially in not sacrificing the “me” for the “us,” in providing adequate space to preserve enough independence to be able to be dependent and inter-dependent when appropriate. Balancing three different things like these is not easy, but just being aware that all three needs are valid, is the key. But here again, if one or both people go into the marriage without having enough experience (or in some cases, too much) at being independent, then that need may be easily misperceived when it demands to be met later on, causing all sorts of unhappiness.
CELEBRATE SPECIAL OCCASIONS
A near-perfect marriage that has started out right with all these other elements can still go South without perpetual nurturing. The best way to nurture a near-perfect marriage is to make big deals out of important occasions like birthdays, anniversaries and special holidays. I once went on a church men’s group retreat and bunked with an elderly English gentleman whose wife of 50+ years always wrote him a little love note each night and placed it on his pillow. I am not sure how she managed it, but one showed up every night of the retreat. Knowing the particular love language with which your partner prefers to hear and see is a good way to package these special occasions.
Life gives us all plenty of good things to appreciate, often in regards to our marriage partners or those who we are considering marrying. But like anything else in life, when we take something for granted and stop appreciating it, we end up wondering why we aren’t as happy as we think we should be. This is because good things in life want to be appreciated and not taken for granted—especially the important people in our lives. Simply stated: The best way to increase your happiness and supply of things to be happy about, is to be appreciative of what you have right before you, most certainly your partner. When you don’t do this enough, the few things that can make you unhappy will multiply and intensify in your mind.
If all these things are there in your current marriage to any degree, you can have a near-perfect marriage with mutual effort. But, if these things aren’t there and you both still want to have a near-perfect marriage, it just means you have to be willing to make some major changes, in doing anything it may take to succeed against all odds. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will undoubtedly demonstrate such an “impossible” athletic reality for us to learn from. The bottom line to all this, is that every major improvement and successful outcome starts by taking notice of the opportunity that comes with each new moment, such as choosing how to act or not act in these seven important aspects of having a near-perfect marriage.
William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, and Reality Repair Rx coming shortly. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or bcottringer.pssp.net