Seven Secrets for a Successful Marriage

O

ne couple I read about wanted a quiet wedding, so they requested that the ceremony be held in the parsonage instead of the church. The minister's wife made everything spotless for the occasion.

One matter, however, was overlooked. At the precise moment the minister said to the bride, "Do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband?" the cuckoo clock above them squawked, "Cuckoo, Cuckoo!"—no less than seven times! During the rest of the ceremony the bride never did regain her composure.

Unfortunately, too many couples come to the altar with starry eyes, but too soon they become disillusioned and lose their composure and, sadly, never regain it.

In fact, the chances today of having a successful marriage are not encouraging. In North America, for every two marriages there is one divorce. But in one of the richest and most advances places on earth, Orange County in the Greater Los Angeles area, there are three divorces for every four marriages.

According to insurance statistics, married people of all ages have a greater life expectancy than single people. This being so, and if marriage is vital for the emotional development of our children and so deeply embedded in the fabric of human society after thousands of years of experience, why is it that so many marriages fail—especially in our highly enlightened age?

One reason is that we often overlook the fact that successful marriages don't happen by chance. They happen only through constant effort—by persistently practicing basic principles such as the following eight S-E-C-R-E-T-S.

Married people have a greater life
expectancy than single people.

S = Sort out roles. Times have changed dramatically. Among other things, modern conveniences and birth control have revolutionized married life. Wives and mothers are free to pursue careers. In many areas, two out of every three are employed. In North America, only 12 percent of families live in a "traditional" household where the husband is the bread winner and the wife stays home to care for the children.

Radical changes have brought a mass confusion of roles, which has helped contribute to the skyrocketing divorce rate. This is notably so among young couples under thirty who are four times more likely to get divorced than their parents.

For a successful marriage, both partners need to spell out and agree on their individual roles and responsibilities. If both are working (especially full time), both need to share home duties (inside and out), and help care for the children.

E = Expectations that are real. Based on our backgrounds we all come into marriage with preconceived ideas of what it should be like. Our expectations, however, are often unreal. For instance, if you had a parent who was a perfectionist and you felt you could never quite please him or her, chances are you may be a perfectionist too. If so, no matter what your spouse does, he or she will never be able fully to please you. Life can be difficult living with a perfectionist.

Or if you never felt adequately loved by a parent, chances are you may unconsciously try to get your partner to be a substitute mother or father. This obviously can never work.

These are only two examples of a myriad of ways unreal expectations develop—not to mention Hollywood's unrealistic influence. Whatever the reason, for a healthy relationship, marriage partners need to develop realistic expectations.

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