What does it take for one person to feel safe enough to share their life, their thoughts, their dreams, their body and their emotions? To do all this takes an immense amount of time and energy–aka, it takes some serious work. You need to feel you can trust each other, which includes believing your partner has your best interest at the heart of their soul. You will need to be vulnerable and offer totally transparent communication so your partner can truly hear what you are saying. Not many couples get to this point of intimacy. What’s more, all these factors can change unexpectedly and cause that closeness and intimacy to disappear even if you do get there!
One of our friends who recently went through a divorce shared with us her insightful perspective. To have a healthy relationship, she said, each person in the marriage needs to take care of three specific areas of their lives:
1) Take care of yourself. Don’t rely on your partner for your physical, spiritual, emotional and mental well being. You certainly can and should pursue those things together, but you must take personal responsibility for your own health. Don’t lay blame on them for your failure to get something done when you actually had control to accomplish the task.
2) Care for your spouse. Love and Respect them unconditionally. Let them know you have their back and their best interest in everything you do. You’re a team. This area again takes time and energy. You must learn how your partner processes and communicates information so that Love and Respect can be received.
3) Make your marriage a priority by working on it. We so often think we know it all and have too much pride to ask for advice or help. Most people think counseling, classes, and relationship work is for couples who have “problems.” The truth is those things can do the most good as preparation rather than as a cure; once the problems come, you’ll be glad you put the work in ahead of time. I think this is why we (Eric and Sabrina) have made it through all the situations we have faced in our marriage. We have always gone to marriage seminars or workshops–we’re always on the lookout for one more idea to better our relationship, one more tool to add to our tool belt as a couple. It’s not that we feel our marriage is doing poorly, or that we are in a crisis, even though we have been in crises before and needed counseling. It is because we desire to have the best marriage possible. Our marriage is one of our greatest priorities. We want it to be a legacy for our kids and our grandkids. We want to create a culture in our family of prioritizing marriage.
To get to the place where a couple can grow and mature their relationship, both need to feel safe and secure in the acceptance their partner has for them. Take a moment to assess how you’re doing in these three areas. Are you taking good care of yourself? Are you caring in a loving and respectful way for your spouse? Is your marriage a priority?
This is not a one time assessment. It is daily. It is a constant check-and-balance. That is what successful marriages are all about.