It is often said that marriage is a balancing act. It requires weighing the needs of the individual against the needs of the partnership. It necessitates compromise and constant communication. And a good marriage also needs to find the equilibrium with the following contradictory qualities:
A good marriage is adaptable; it grows and molds itself to the environment and current needs. It changes as the partners do, shifting over time and over life transitions. It acts like the flexible caulk used to secure two surfaces together while allowing each to move independently of the other. A good marriage possesses a growth mindset, where both partners are motivated to learn and believe that they can improve with effort. Growth ensures that a marriage remains relevant and useful.
Adaptability extends to the individuals. It accepts that people change over time and with experience. In an adaptable marriage, each partner remains curious about the other and limits assumptions and premature conclusions.
And although a marriage needs to be adjustable, it also requires…
A sense of security and support is critical in marriage. Both partners need to have a sense that their spouse has their back. Each needs to feel safe, both physically and emotionally, so that the critical component of vulnerability can be revealed.
And much of this peace of mind comes from stability. Consistency. You want to know what you’re returning home to each night. You want to have a sense of what your partner likes and how he or she will react. Consistency encourages confidence and trust, both critical for a marriage to thrive.
3) Personal Responsibility
In a good marriage, both people are looking for a partner to complement them, not complete them. Each person accepts responsibility for his or her baggage, actions and emotions. Nobody is held accountable for the other person’s happiness and nobody is expected to be a white knight to the rescue. Blame is withheld and instead of expecting the other person to change, each partner modified his or her response to a situation. A healthy marriage begins with two healthy people and that requires taking responsibility for yourself.
However, there are times when you can’t do it yourself, and in a good marriage, you also need to be able to…
4) Ask For and Receive Assistance
Being able to ask for help is a sign of both humility and strength. Being able and willing to provide help is a sign of empathy and compassion. Part of a good marriage is being willing to quiet the ego and admit when you lack knowledge or ability. In turn, a strong partnership calls for a partner who is responsive to their spouse’s needs and refrains from making him or her feel inferior when assistance is required. Marriage is about partnership. And a good marriage is about helping your partner when he or she cannot help themselves.
5) Withhold Judgment
In a good marriage, the word “should” is banned from the table. Assumptions and projections are limited as each person is accepted for who he or she is. In conversations, the partners listen to understand rather than listen to respond. Instead of leading with judgment, the spouses lead with curiosity. Criticism kills a marriage. Appreciation nourishes it.
Yet even though a good marriage is free from judgment, it also requires that the partners are not afraid to…
6) Call Each Other Out
Presumably, nobody knows you better than your spouse. And that puts them in a unique position to see and perceive the lies and limitations you place upon yourself. In a good marriage, partners will call each other out on their s**t. Not to shame or bully, but to help the other become better. A marriage thrives when rather than quietly accepting the excuse of “I can’t,” a spouse helps to show their partner that indeed, they can.
7) Overlapping Worlds
A good marriage exists in the intersection of two lives. There are shared experiences. Shared friends. Shared passions. And shared dreams. There is a merging of two lives. “Me” is replaced with “we” and “mine” with “ours.” Each person plays an active and visible role in their spouse’s life. Compromises are made and the marriage is prioritized.
Although a good marriage requires sharing many aspects of life, it also needs…
Each person should always know where they end and their partner begins. A marriage is not one and one make one; it’s two individuals choosing to share their lives. And they need to maintain their individuality. A good marriage allows each person to explore his or her own interests. It provides freedom and encouragement to explore individuality while maintaining the bond of the shared life.
9) Enjoyment of Each Other
A good marriage has at its heart two people that enjoy each other. Partners that greet the other with a smile and look forward to time together. Spouses that are both friends and lovers, providing comfort and excitement with their touch and their presence. Marriage is about the shared and realized dreams. The laughter over a joke nobody else understands. The knowing glance that contains a year’s worth of information with no words exchanged.
Even though the partners in a good marriage enjoy each other, they may not always like each other and so they also…
10) Accept the Bad Days
Even in the best of marriage, there will be bad days. And in the best of marriages, these days are not perceived as the beginning of the end nor do they signal a need for panic. Rather, it is accepted that some days will be bad, that marriages have an ebb and a flow. That there will be times that one person withdraws, and that withdrawal is usually temporary.
Bad days can be an opportunity to learn and grow. Or simply a sign that it’s time to rest a bit and wait for the storm to pass. Just as a bad day does not mean a bad life, a bad day does not signal a bad marriage. The spouses trust that the tide always turns and they’re waiting for each other when it does.