In the rough times, healthy communication between partners breaks down, and once-ready-to-forgive attitudes become so much more difficult to maintain.
That’s why we say that every happily married person can answer this ONE question:
Will I stick through the rough times?
There is a time that comes in every romantic relationship when a decision is made, a decision that is made only once...and then reaffirmed daily.
When it comes to a long-term relationship that progresses to marriage, you will either decide you are going to be there for this person for the rest of his or her life… Or not.
It’s not popular or politically correct to say so in a world where so many marriages end in a divorce. But we don’t apologize for our company belief that a marriage should be a lifetime contract.
There’s just no in-between with the kind of commitment it takes to create and sustain a happy long-lasting marriage...and we believe it’s that very commitment that helps each partner in a couple make the best of everything good, bad, and ugly in between the really good times we remember most.
This is one of the most important decisions we make in our lives — or, as it unfortunately too often turns out, one of the most important questions unhappily married and heading-for-divorce couples fail to answer decisively.
Has your lover made the decision that leaving is off the table as an option?
Have you committed to stay firmly in your relationship during the rough times?
Life is so filled with uncertainties.
Whether your marriage is going to last shouldn't be one of them.
That’s why we compiled this list of what it means to say “I do”.
NOTE: EVERY TIME WE PUBLISH THIS LIST, WE ADD A BIT TO IT AND THAT ADVICE COMES FROM EMAILS AND COMMENTS FROM READERS JUST LIKE YOU!
The good times in a marriage are a piece of cake, just as they are in marriage’s larger reflection of life itself. When things are going well, she’d feel silly to get too angry about his socks left on the bathroom counter, his beard stubble in the sink, or accidentally touching her tush to the cold porcelain in the middle of the night because he left the toilet seat up again.In good times, happy couples laugh these trivial issues off (though of course not without you giving a stern warning to your partner!).
Ahh…but the tough times, when family, fitness, career, finances and health all struggle at once, when trust is difficult to come by, stress is high, and faith is stretched to the limit... those unfortunately inevitable really rough periods will destroy your relationship if you allow it.
During those trying times, her comment about which way to drive and get there faster is perceived as a personal attack, her wet towel on the carpet might cause him to yell with frustration, and her every failing will be magnified a hundredfold.
During those trying times, petty annoyances like him/her trying to “reorganize” your stuff without permission, or analyze everything you say for hidden meaning about ‘what’s wrong with you’ become relationship-defining ultimatums.
We made and maintain this for those yet to get married, and maybe are on our email list because they first came to CubicZirconia.com seeking an engagement ring. If that’s you, LUCKY YOU! You and he/she have an opportunity some unfortunately unhappily married couples would kill for!
But we also have this list as a reminder for those of us who already are married (hopefully not taken as a high-handed lecture, but a gift of crowd wisdom provided with love and the hope of your happy, successful, lasting relationship).
“Will I stick through the rough times?”
Answering that question ‘YES’ means:
⚤ I will love him/her unconditionally
Unmarried people often think the strength of love is the secret to a successful marriage, and to a certain extent they’re right...and to a certain extent they’re wrong. Maybe in truth it’s only half-right.Happily married people realize the secret is to choose to keep loving the man/woman you once fell in love with and married no matter what.
“Unconditional love”: That sure is easy to say in theory, isn’t it?
For those of our email newsletter subscribers that have been together in a relationship and/or married many years… well, you could probably teach a seminar on the topic of how difficult this little commitment can be in real life!
Loving someone unconditionally takes faith and courage by the truckload.
And no matter how long you’re in a relationship or married, it’s not a completely vulnerable feeling many people will ever like-- even when someone is determined to do it and have never been let down with missing reciprocal feelings (and actions!) from their partner.After all, say you’re giving ALL of yourself and loving unconditionally and he/she’s NOT giving and doing that back? It surely doesn’t motivate one partner to ‘keep on keeping on’ very well, does it? Which brings us to the next point...
⚤ I will honor the marriage contract with my partner, no matter what
Yes, when we call marriage a ‘contract’, there're definitely some people who don’t like that word. Some are folks that just don’t like the idea of thinking of marriage so transactionally, like a business deal. Others are those who-- perhaps through little to no fault of their own, and there’s NO JUDGMENT here-- suffered in a bad marriage they barely got out of alive and with their sanity intact.
Yet, the scholarly evidence on relationships for many years has suggested that there are some very good reasons to get clear with your partner way before you ever get married on what each party promises in that marriage. This means to get clear on what you want and don't want, clear on what you'll do and won't do, and clear on each of your expectations for your partner, the relationship itself, and the life you hope to lead together. THAT, to speak plainly, IS a contract.
So much relationship trouble in marriages could have been avoided had couples gotten clear on their contractual promises to one another before they said “I do” and agreed to a life of unconditionally loving one another. And it just so happens, that taking the time and energy to do this fundamental pre-marriage prep step will teach someone so much about his/her partner, it just might help avoid the mistake of marrying someone unsuitable in the first place.
Note: Of course, that’s not to say it’s too late for a married couple who didn’t make a pre marriage contract (only more complicated, because expectations are key, and expectations are best managed before any contract is made). Whether already married or just thinking of getting engaged, we think this is so important that we'll do a future newsletter just on this topic. Stay tuned!
⚤ I will accept that some of my wife’s / husband’s DECISIONS may never change
Pretty self-explanatory, huh? Yet many relationships have unhealthy tension because he never accepts that her decision not to want “X” in her life was and is a final decision.
⚤ I will accept that some of my husband’s / wife’s ACTIONS may never change
Pretty self-explanatory, huh? Yet many relationships have toxic levels of tension because she never accepts that the man she married may change some behavior or behaviors she knew of but didn’t approve of before the wedding...and he may not.
⚤ I will choose “US” first as often as needed to maintain a healthy relationship
This means you are committed to putting him/her and your marriage ahead of 92.7+% of everything and everyone else at any given time. Yes, we estimated that percentage but if you ask around I think you’ll find it’s pretty accurate.Sure, if you're spiritual you may have learned to put your Maker first.
And at times there are circumstances where you probably should at least consider putting another loved one first for a period of time, or a child or friend who really needs you right then.
Not to mention that at times you are allowed to be a bit selfish and put yourself first for a period of time, and no one should blame you for being human.
And if you are or were a United States Marine, then you live by the "Unit, Corps, God, Country" philosophy. While that philosophy puts a spouse maybe at best number 5, it's a great wife who wouldn't have a problem with that so long as she knew the score going into the marriage.
And being clear going in is key because what matters most is the expectation.
If you go into a marriage expecting you and the relationship to be #1 in his/her life, and demonstrate that it IS #1 in your own life, then it’s not fair to you if he/she treats you as an afterthought. Seriously, we can't have it all. Life is too short and our options are just too varied. Make this DUAL commitment early, hold each other accountable to it, and your marriage will blossom for it!
⚤ I will commit to never being petty, hurtful or mean (even when I disagree with my partner).
You're not always going to agree with a partner, but putting down or belittling a partner's thoughts, feelings, actions or character is never a solution to any problem-- or, for that matter, a worthwhile way to change any unwanted behavior in your partner.
Such actions and words will always contribute to greater problems, make conflicts bigger and enlarge the distance between two people.
If you want a marriage where two people grow increasingly closer over time, a commitment to argue only from a place of empathy and respect-- using logic and never spite-- will be a great help in your goal.
⚤ I will accept the responsibility to support my partner when needed: mentally, emotionally, physically, financially.
Sometimes shit happens: the unexpected life smackdown that leaves you weak, exhausted, demoralized and reeling in confusion. Will your partner let you lean on her when you can't stand tall? Will he carry you when you can't walk?
A happily married couple is made up of two people jointly accepting the responsibility to sink or swim together “for better or worse”. Until you can stand on your own again beside them, knowing that freely given support is there is one of life’s great comforts...and it is (or ought to be) part of the price paid to enjoy the many benefits of marriage over a simple relationship or even cohabiting as a couple.
Life is so often filled with difficulties and challenges. Whether your partner will stick by your side and lend you his/her strength when needed shouldn’t be a worry. Imagine what strength you’ll have to face the day when you don’t just hope but know you can count on them in good times and bad, in sickness just as in health.
⚤ I will choose being happy over being ‘right’ when necessary.
‘You can be happy or you can be right’, goes the old saying which you, too, may have heard. I first heard it a few years before I became engaged to my future wife (now affectionately nicknamed “Mrs. Cubic Zirconia” of course!). And because the guy telling me seemed to have a happy marriage I listened. I’m glad I did. [Thanks Coach Pat Martin! All the best to you and Doreen]
Choosing to be happy is worthy of a newsletter and blog post in and of itself, since many people wrongly think ‘to be happy’ is something that happens to them rather than something you do yourself. Those people think-- falsely and quite sadly-- that being happy is somehow dependent on external circumstances when it’s always, ALWAYS a personal choice.
But as a general life philosophy, talking about that is for another day.
In the context of a long-term relationship or marriage, choosing happy over right means:
- picking your battles, because you decide not to let your marriage be defined by petty point-scoring of deductions for wet towels on the carpet, unwanted side-seat driving advice, socks on the bathroom counter, beard stubble in the sink, toilet seats left up, or any other petty annoyances.
- being willing to lose some battles in order to keep the peace.
- taming your ego, because a high percentage of disagreements aren't arguments over fact, but rather over opinions which are less conclusively right or wrong in any universal sense.
By all means, fight for the important stuff. After all, relationships are made stronger by healthy conflict. We’re just saying it’s healthier to not allow your marriage to become about small battles.
You only have so much physical energy and emotional strength.
Tackling something small and tackling something big, or at least making progress on it, often take the same amount of energy.
When you let small things stay small things as individuals rather than wasting limited resources fighting incessantly over petty stuff, it frees your limited energy up to FIGHT TOGETHER as a couple for the big things you both want and deserve.
⚤ I will not allow any tragedy, other relationship, or outside force to affect my commitment.
If you decide you're going to stick with this person, then you can't allow any tragedy or outside force to sway that definite decision. And, life being what it is, your commitment will be tested. And on a regular basis. If you’ve made a firm decision to stick...the big decision is made no matter what else happens, and even in times of tragedy you can focus on making the best of every day together.
One important concern with today’s relationship landscape that wasn’t a worry decades ago is that you must decide that you can sympathize with friends and family who talk about getting a divorce, but must never empathize with them. There’s no need to judge anyone! Just a quiet, self-reflection that a choice they allow themselves to consider is not what you want, and is incompatible with how you see the commitment of marriage. For those needing a refresher on Freshman HS English, make sure you understand the difference between "sympathy" and "empathy” (linked to definitions according to Dictionary.com).
⚤ I will give him/her some slack
Everyone messes up, says things they wish they could take back, makes mistakes (especially with parenting!), and forgets something they were supposed to do or promised to buy at the store.
When you give your partner some “slack”, you’re committing to a forgiveness-first mentality. You see a marriage relationship as a growing thing, made up of two growing individuals who give each other the benefit of the doubt rather than harping on every small thing that’s an acknowledged mistake on the part of their spouse.
That’s exactly the kind of attitude that can contribute to a “Better Every Day” marriage...even when sometimes you may say to your partner over a meal “I love you more today than yesterday...because yesterday you really ticked me off!”
Give him/her more slack and you’ll receive more in a healthy marriage.
⚤ I will give him/her some space
I'm convinced that at times proximity and doing everything together causes serious problems in a lot of long-term partner relationships.
When you choose to spend your life with someone, it doesn't mean you have to (or should) give up the entire life of who you were before that.
And it doesn’t mean you have to want to do everything together, either!
Maybe you love playing poker and having an occasional Scotch and cigar with a guy friend. Maybe you get your kicks drinking wine after work or playing BUNCO dice games with a bunch of raucous ladies who'd maybe embarrass you in public, but their antics and semi-ashamedly-you-admit-quite-hilarious potty mouths make you laugh your ass off when the group gets together in the privacy of one of your homes (when there are no kids or men around).
Whatever, just don't feel pressured by him or her (or anyone) to give up the parts of you that made you who you are in the first place. After all, you're who your spouse fell in love with and decided to marry. And some of what makes you unique are your hobbies.
And if your partner doesn’t like to do everything you like to do...that isn’t a bad thing, and can provide a much-needed release from day-to-day constant proximity in a marriage. Note: This is doubly true for those partners that are not only romantic but also have a business or work together!
⚤ I will keep the romantic spark alive
The first time I met my future wife’s great-grandmother, this stubborn, opinionated old woman and I sat alone in her living room while her great-granddaughter went to get her “Nanny Gans” a refresher on her drink from the kitchen.
Once we were alone, she didn’t waste any time at all giving it to me straight. And at her advanced age, there surely is no time to waste! I think she was 94 years old at the time, when she leaned in and said to me “Wipe that grin off your face! Don’t get too comfortable, young man. You haven’t won her yet.”
Since she said that to me the first time I met her and the last time I was ever alone with her, I guess I’ll never really know exactly WHAT she meant by that. It could be that “Nanny Gans” was certain I wasn’t good enough for her family, and supremely sure her very smart great-granddaughter would eventually figure that out and kick me to the curb.
Or she could have meant it how I chose to interpret what she said: don’t get too comfortable as a man in a relationship, and never stop trying to win your woman’s heart.
I’ve poured out my heart in the pages of our blogs and email newsletters…and it’s clear to our long-time customers and subscribers that I’m no perfect husband. But if you, too, hope to become and remain happily married, I hope you, too, agree that you must accept the responsibility to continue complimenting him/her, letting him/her know how attractive he/she is to you, and to keep the romantic spark alive with a commitment continue dating him/her even after you've won him/her.
Continuing to date him/her after marriage is a must.
Abundance of work shouldn’t be an excuse.
Lack of money shouldn’t be an excuse.
Responsibilities to care for children shouldn’t be either.
Don’t fall victim to the danger of “I already won him/her”!
So, dear reader…
Are these 12 commitments of what it means to say “I do” things you agree with?
And you personally…
Will YOU (continue to) stick through the rough times?
We’d like to leave off this post with the same sentiment with which we started it.
There is a time that comes in every romantic relationship when a decision is made, a decision that is made only once...and then reaffirmed DAILY.
For our already married friends, customers and subscribers, I really hope today your reaffirmation was a little easier because of what you read.
For those who are yet to be married, and maybe came to CubicZirconia.com first looking for an engagement ring...I hope you’ll share something from this article you may have learned-- or that resonated with you -- with your significant other, and talk with him/her about making a marriage contract together before you get married.
- Mr. Cubic Zirconia