14 Ways to Create a Lasting Marriage.
I never thought I’d be married, or have children, and sometimes it still surprises me.
But we just celebrated our twelfth anniversary, 16 years as a couple, and are happier and stronger than ever. I feel incredibly lucky that we met. With that initial luck, conscious creation, and an absolute refusal of complacency, or anything less than a fabulous life, I’d say that we’re doing alright.
It’s good to start strong if you can, with two strong people. But if you’re not strong yet, don’t worry. You can become very strong indeed. If you have the will, it’s in your power.
If you feel you’re missing something, you can’t expect to find it in marriage, in a partner, in children, or in a life that looks good from the outside. You’re the only person who can save you, who can satisfy you. If you know that going in, then that’s a good starting point.
I think it’s also good to really love life, because it makes everything more precious. To know that this person you are journeying with deserves the best life that is possible. And so do you.
Then you would never do anything purposefully to cause that person unhappiness or prevent their growing. As a couple of creative, aware, unique beings, you can invest as much of these qualities as you like. Then what’s to stop you from making a fantastic life?
It’s hard to maintain a self, never mind a marriage, in the face of everyday life and everything it asks of you. Even more if you have children. That’s what the fight so often is or should be, not against each other but against tiredness, the mundane, the endless demands, boredom, and complacency.
Every bit of post and paper, every dish and pile of laundry, is like the drip, drip of water, wearing, endless. Hostility creeps in, and the anger is blurted or buried. And if that continues, growth stops. That’s what you’re up against, you have to arm yourself. But how to do that?
Here’s my blueprint for a marriage… it’s something we try for, and often miss. But it’s good to have something to aim for.
- At the top of my list is choose someone who doesn’t need you to be less than you are so they can feel more. Someone strong enough to let you grow, and grow with you.
- Adult life is boring and family life is messy, stressful, and chaotic. First, accept it. I spent too long fighting it. Then help it by agreeing to keep a sense of humor, and apologizing easily and often. To your partner, to your kids, and to yourself. And by cultivating something just for you — a hobby, a craft, a skill. We’re given the wrong idea that peak existence is the whole marriage/house/kids thing. It’s not. At the end of all that is still you: an individual, who needs to keep growing through life.
- Make your own vow. For example, to treat each other ridiculously well. According to how the other person would like to be treated. Then actively look for opportunities to do just that. And remake the promise often.
- Talking is so important, be open, that’s essential, and just say the things straight out. Forgive quickly if the thing is forgivable. Start observing your own thoughts and feelings. Challenge the negative ones and replace with more positive ones. At least be a good listener, a noticer, an encourager.
- We are the designers, the creators of our lives whether we realize it or not. As a writer, I’m very into world-building, and not just in fiction. I like to consciously create my life and world. With full awareness and intent. To ask What’s working? What isn’t working? And what can I/we do about it? There’s always something we can do about it. Don’t like your creation so far? Feeling stuck or bored? Or maybe you’re just in a slump? Make changes. Anything that will change the flow of energy around you.
- Take the time to notice all the good things in your life, and be grateful. Some of us are better at that than others, so maybe one of you can help the other. It’s harder than it sounds, because we get tired and stressed and end up focusing more on all our problems and irritations instead. We have to do it consciously.
- We have a duty of care and freedom to each other, but not ownership, and not a cage. You have to let people follow their own path, and not do anything that might hold them back or prevent them from doing that, but support and encourage them instead.
- It helps to have an acute sense of how short life is. There are distractions that keep us from having to think about it. Unless you’re an artist/writer/poet, of course, or unless you have already experienced terrible loss. But the reality is that life is short, and hard enough. So what a terrible thing it is then to limit anyone, to hold them back for the sake of ego, appearances, insecurities you haven’t dealt with, societal expectations, or a role.
- Make your own rules, do it your way. Society has very set ideas about relationships and what they should look like. These ideas can do more harm than good, create false hopes and unrealistic expectations about how things should look, and set us up to fail. Feel free to throw those ideas out the window. Feel free to thrown mine out too. Individuals create their own worlds. They’re on a different path. Hallmark doesn’t have a card for that.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff and choose your battles. We have our disagreements but we don’t fight. I could never be in a relationship for long where I had to fight with someone. When something is wrong, talk about it. If both of you go into it with the right spirit, everything will be fine. And why not go into it with the right spirit? You’re not in competition with your partner, are you? Afraid of losing face? Or ego won’t let you? We should be willing to be vulnerable, foolish, and even laugh at ourselves with this person.
- Let’s support each other’s best life. We all have our hurts and flaws, we’re human, we’re complex. But we don’t have to act from that. We can do better than that. We can say, in the face of everything, and against all the odds, let’s be each other’s champion, let’s be for each other’s dreams.
- Be an energy gatekeeper. Take responsibility for everything in your life, how you feel, and the way things are. We’re all responsible for the energy we bring in the house. If mine is bad, I will say it, I will call it out. You can do that for your partner too. It’s the modern-day equivalent of saying, Wipe your muddy boots before you come in the house, only I say that one too.
- Practice radical presence, that is high awareness/gratitude/attention. Even if one person does it, both will be benefit, unless they’re an energy vampire. And down with that sort of thing.
- Actively care about each other’s happiness. Check in regularly. How are things going here? Is everyone happy? How can we do better? Have high standards for the things that make people feel good. That’s your power.
When it comes right down to it, I think you can condense my blueprint into these four words: awareness, freedom, growth, and attention. Personal power is usually stronger than we know, and what I love in life is multiplied in marriage — it’s the power to make someone’s life better, every day.
I don’t believe in fate, so I just think we were lucky to meet at all. After 16 years together, we’ve been through a lot. We’ve had our children, and this feels like a really good time for us. We’re grateful, we’re happy.
Jane Gilheaney Barry is an author, art therapist, and creative enabler. She lives with her husband and children in rural Ireland. Her first novel, Cailleach~Witch, a modern gothic mystery, is available on Amazon. Her next book ‘That Curious Love of Green: Micro-Memoirs From a Writer’s Life’, will be published on August 1st . You can follow Jane on Instagram or Facebook.