Marion Pellicano Ambrose
All little girls want to believe in “A perfect marriage” and “happily ever after” . Luckily, there is no such thing. I say luckily because, how boring would that be? Picture you and your spouse being compatible in every way and never disagreeing on any point. What fun you would miss! (Not only in the challenge of disagreeing but in the passion of making up!)
A good marriage takes a lot of effort and hard work on the part of both partners. There will always be difficulties, points of disagreement, and differences of opinion. The real question is, how will you handle them?
My personal feeling is that the most important thing is that the couple cling first to each other. Each must put the other first in their lives. This means not involving friends or family members in the problems or personal situations that might be causing discord. These people cannot be impartial and often side with one of the other rather than helping to find a solution. One of the biggest mistakes one can make is to tell a friend or family member every little fight, unkind word or hurt within a marriage. The spouse feels betrayed and belittled and the friend or family member holds it against the spouse even after the couple resolves the issue between themselves.
I find it hard to verbalize it when I feel hurt, neglected or wronged, yet I know how important it is for the health of my marriage to communicate. I wait until I’m no longer angry or overly upset and I sit down and write a long letter to my spouse. He reads it, takes some time to process, and he’ll talk to me. (Writing isn’t his thing, but he verbalizes well). This has worked well for us over the years.
We have found that there are several “Must Haves” in our marriage. Remembering to foster each one keeps us close and better to handle life’s ups and downs together. Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments like every other couple on the planet, but we let the anger fade before we deal with the problem and then we work together to find a solution.
Here are our “Marriage Must Haves”
1. Respect: Recognizing your spouse as an individual with his or her own feelings, intelligence, opinions, experiences, beliefs, fears, strengths and weaknesses and allowing them these things without ridicule, judgement, or belittling them in any way.
2. Loyalty: Being true not only in the flesh, but emotionally and spiritually. This means standing up for, standing behind, standing with your spouse before all others. When the kids come along, let them know that you are a united front. If mom says no, don’t even think of asking dad. Make decisions, family policies, traditions and everything else as a team, just the 2 of you.
3. Communication: One of the most important features of a good marriage. It requires openness, honesty and clarity. Each partner must find the best way to keep those lines of communication open. Love, fear, anxiety, lonliness, frustration, joy, anticipation, excitement…. Write it, sing it, speak it, paint it, act it out if you must, but communicate it to your spouse.
4. Trust: Your spouse should feel confident that you would never do anything to hurt, embarrass, belittle, or betray him or her. He or she must feel that you will indeed put him or her above all others.
5. Tolerance: Allow your partner his or her “idiosyncricies” and expect him or her to allow you yours. If you feel there are things you need to change in a person once you are married, forget it! If you can’t live with it, don’t marry that person. There is no place for intolerance in a marriage.
6. Living in the Real World: Don’t try to make your life and your marriage a “fairy tale” one. Don’t put undue stress and unrealistic expectations on a marriage. There is tragedy and sadness in the real world, but there is also great hope and joy. Grab it with both hands and LIVE.
7. A Separate Peace: There should be a great deal of togetherness in a good marriage, but there must also be alone time for each partner. Each spouse must honor the individuality and separateness of the other, giving time or space when needed. Pursuing interests together is wonderful but you must also pursue individual interests as well. If you don’t, one might begin to feel stifled, trapped, even resentful. Let him play softball or hit a few golf balls with the guys, let her take a class or go to a chick flick with the girls. If there is trust and communication, you should be able to have the freedom to pursue some of your own interests and allow him the same.
8. Compromise: One must consider the opinion, feelings, needs and wishes of the other and be willing to bend to different degrees. It may not always be meeting “in the middle” but it should be each giving as well as getting in a way that eventually pleases both. There will be times when you bend completely, giving in fully to the wants or desires of the other because that’s what they need at the time. But it must not always be the same partner making the sacrifice. Marriage is give and take, but mostly give.
9. Forgive and Forget: I know, easier said than done. We usually find it fairly easy to forgive, especially small hurts, but it’s quite another thing to be able to forget. One should never refer to past events when arguing with a spouse. Once a wrong is committed and forgiven, it should not rear its ugly head again. If it does, it was never really forgiven. I know how hard this is. Some hurts seem unforgivable, adultery, lying, keeping secrets, all these things can hurt deeply, but we must learn that if our spouse is truly sorry and repentant, we must not only forgive, but we must be willing to forget and never bring it up again.
10. A Sense of Humor: Life can be a real bummer at times, but it can also be filled with love, joy and laughter. Couples must try to find the rainbow in the storm, the silver lining of each dark cloud, and a reason to laugh and smile each and every day. There’s something about laughing with another that brings you closer and makes life brighter.
Let me emphatically state that I am not a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor, therapist or even a Psych major. I’m just a lucky woman who married my best friend and lived happily and unhappily, through good times and bad, ever after.