What are the core truths about marriage that couples should know before they even commit and keep in mind throughout their relationship?
“The essence of marriage is companionship, and the woman you face across the coffee urn every morning for ninety-nine years must be both able to appreciate your jokes and to sympathize with your aspirations.” – Elbert Hubbard
I was recently asked what the core principles are for building a strong marriage. It’s an interesting question. Trying to identify the “core” or “basic” foundations of something requires drilling down below the froth and discovering those things that cannot, or should not, be ignored.
After having listened to the life stories of so many people over the past three decades, I found it pretty easy to come up with a shortlist of core truths every couple should keep in mind. (But there’s also a long list!)
To be thoroughly candid, my list is not solely informed by my experience as a therapist. Each of the foundations I list below is also supported by research. But, as is often the case with psychology, research simply confirms what your grandparents already knew and took for granted.
So, here are five truths about marriage that every couple should keep in mind.
5 Core Truths about Relationships That All Married Couples Need to Understand
1. Your spouse is not perfect.
So what? Great marriages are not made by having a perfect spouse. If that were the case, there would be no great marriages.
Instead, great marriages are made when two people are reasonably compatible when each looks for the good in the other, and when there is mutual support, forgiveness, and respect.
No one finds the perfect spouse. We all have our shortcomings. Dwelling on the imperfections of your spouse poisons the relationship. Learn to let the little things go. If you must focus on something, choose to focus on the good qualities of your partner.
2. Your spouse cannot make your life complete.
Many young couples have the unrealistic expectation that the marital relationship will act to “fill in” or “mend” the broken parts of their life. To some extent, this does occur, but it is not complete.
If you enter marriage believing that this wonderful person you have married will be your best friend, counselor, motivational coach, substitute father/mother figure, etc., you will be disappointed. Resentment will eventually take root. When it does, great unhappiness is not far behind.
Instead of insisting that your spouse fill all of these functions, rely on friends, family, and yourself. By reaching out in this way, you live a fuller life and will have a happier marriage.
After all, is it truly realistic to think that your spouse can meet all of your needs? Of course not. No one would even voice such an expectation. But many people unintentionally and subconsciously fall into the trap of having this mindset. Sadly, they may not come to realize this until after the pressure such demands create has resulted in a divorce.
Each of us (no matter the relationship—spouse, parent, child, friend) needs to take a sober look at our expectations. When they turn out to be unrealistic, let them go. You and your spouse will be happier, and paradoxically, your relationship will grow closer.
3. As is true in life more generally, you get out of your marriage what you put into it.
If you invest time, thought, and energy into growing a stronger and healthier connection, you are likely to be rewarded with a terrific relationship. That is not a guarantee, but a principle (just the same as if you exercise and eat right, you are likely to be healthier and live longer than if you never exercise or eat properly).
“A great marriage isn’t something that just happens; it’s something that must be created.” – Fawn Weaver