How to Build a Healthy and Happy Marriage

Congratulations on making it through the dating process and arriving at wedded bliss! You may have started to wonder just how long this bliss will last. As we explore together some of the principles behind having a healthy and happy marriage, we need to start with a conversation and a reminder that your marriage will not look like the fairytale that you’ve been promised by every romcom and princess movie ever made. Now more than ever, marriages take commitment and work because we live in a disposable and upgradable world of consumerism. This culture has crept into how we feel about people in our lives. When things get old, tired, or in need of repair, it’s easier to just trade-in. How often have you heard or said “it shouldn’t be this hard?” The good new is that when we are willing to face the truth, our eyes begin to see the choices that we’re making which either lead us down the path to a lasting marriage, or to trade in. So, let’s lay a foundation that can be built upon.

When troubles come, the parties to a contractual marriage seek happiness by walking away. They marry to obtain benefits and will stay only as long as they’re receiving what they bargained for. But when troubles come to a covenant marriage, the husband and wife work them through. They marry to give and to grow, bound by covenants to each other, to the community, and to God. Contract companions each give 50 percent. But covenant companions each give 100 percent. Enough and to spare. Each gives enough to cover any shortfall by the other.

Bruce C Hafen

The first step toward a healthy and happy marriage is to understand that you have both come together with different stories you’ve written about how marriage works, how money is to be spent, how you show love to each other, how problems are solved, how holidays are celebrated, how much time to spend with extended family, etc… There’s not a person alive who doesn’t have a story. These stories could also be defined as rules or expectations. When two people come together, they each bring their own stories and they often will not match each other. This misalignment of stories will end up causing a lot of contention without really knowing why if you don’t know it’s the root of your problems. This happens because we falsely assume that everyone thinks exactly the way we do. It’s not true and the world would be pretty boring if that were the case. So, how do we overcome this problem? Start by understanding your own stories which were created by our experiences with people, places, and events. This may be a hard concept to understand, so I’ll explain 2 scenarios from my own life.

The first one is about money- which is the root problem of most marriages. My childhood experiences led me to formulate a story about money. To me it equalled freedom. I gave me the power to do things that I wanted, no matter the circumstances that I was in. This led me to a belief that having things was proof of my freedom and it made me a bit irresponsible with money. My husband on the other hand saved nearly everything he earned. He had a belief that money was the root of all evil so in order to avoid that he needed to save money to avoid being prideful. Now imagine what happens when those 2 people get together. It took us a long time to understand each other and where we were coming from. This was very hard on me in the early years of our marriage because I suddenly didn’t have my own income and I was feeling the loss of my freedom. There have been many different solutions that we came up with through the years to these conflicting beliefs. The important thing to get good at is communication. It’s crucial if you are going to be able to come together and dissect your own stories and build a new one together.

The second story I will share is about unmet expectations. We all have them. The way you can begin to identify them is when you feel triggered. That trigger is an opportunity to discover an expectation you have that you may not be conscious of. You identify it by asking yourself what happened to cause the emotion- why am I bothered right now? Then wait for the answer to come. This happened to me a month ago. I was very hungry and told my husband that I was going to go and make my lunch. He decided that he was hungry too even though he had eaten breakfast more recently than me. He beat me to the kitchen he kept bumping into me and getting in my way. I was triggered and hangry. I didn’t want to be triggered so I asked myself why I was so bothered. The answer I got was that I had an expectation that he would know I was more hungry than him and not be so selfish by getting in my way. Sounds silly, but marriage is full of silly reasons we get mad at each other. Now that I was faced with the truth I had a choice. Do I want to feel this way? Could something else be true? I decided I didn’t want to feel that way and the truth was that my husband loves spending time with me and he didn’t see it as being in my way but rather spending time together.

These unresolved expectations and conflicting stories will slowly chip away at your marriage. If you understand that your emotions are an opportunity for a conversation, and not something that needs to distance you farther from your spouse, you’ll be on your way to a loving, happy, and healthy marriage.

An eternal bond doesn’t just happen as a result of sealing covenants we make in the temple. How we conduct ourselves in this life will determine what we will be in all the eternities to come. To receive the blessings of the sealing that our Heavenly Father has given to us, we have to keep the commandments and conduct ourselves in such a way that our families will want to live with us in the eternities.

Robert D Hales

Let’s talk briefly about traditions. You are both coming from different backgrounds and family dynamics. You will both have family traditions that are important to you and that you want to bring to the marriage. You have to decide as a couple which ones to bring and which ones to create new together. It’s important that this conversation comes from a place of mutual respect.

What you may not have considered are other types of traditions like: how often to communicate during work hours, do you kiss first thing when one comes home, do you have a regular date night, when do you go to the temple, do you resolve problems before sleeping, when someone is mad does the other person make them laugh, does the husband open doors….The list goes on and on. The best thing to do is sit down together and talk about what kind of traditions make you feel loved and connected to your spouse and then decide what things will become your traditions. There is an app called Love Nudge that will help you identify your love language which is then sent to your spouse’s app. You are able to build reminders of the traditions you create so that you remember to do them. It’s pretty fun.

The next area of potential misery is found when couples don’t express how they define equality in a marriage. Does equality mean that you both have jobs, that one has a job and the other doesn’t, that the chores are divided evenly or according to skill, does the person who works still have chores, do you consider some chores “male” and others “female” etc…? This is another area of assumptions or stories that we come to marriage with, but may not have communicated. There is no one right way to define equality in a marriage except that equal does not mean the same. It is referring to your role in the partnership.

You must understand what the Lord meant when Adam was told he was to have a helpmeet. A helpmeet is a companion suited to our equal to us. We walk side by side with a helpmeet, not one before or behind the other. A helpmeet results in an absolute equal partnership between a husband and a wife. Eve was to be equal to Adam as a husband and wife are to be equal to each other.

Earl C Tingey

An equal partnership is about helping each other and making sacrifices for each other. There will be times when one spouse is doing more than the other because of illness or because of education or demanding jobs. Each spouse’s contributions to the running of the household needs to be recognized and appreciated. The important thing is to understand what it takes to keep your house in order and then discuss who is doing what. It’s something that you decide instead of just taking over and then resenting the other because you’re doing a chore or making a decision instead of them. Be on the look out for signs that you are off balance like: someone in the relationship dominates conversations and decisions, diminishes the other’s opinions, makes decisions about money alone, doesn’t view the relationship in terms of a team effort. If you notice any of these creeping into your relationship it’s time to adjust.

An equal partnership includes making decisions together. Deciding together what your budget is, when it’s time to buy a new car- I’ve never understood a spouse surprising the other with a new vehicle or decide they want a new vehicle and just buying it without discussing first with their spouse. That’s not a partnership. You can, however, decide how much money you each can spend without consulting the other. Equality in marriage is about being equally yoked in the decisions and responsibilities.

Just like dating, it’s important to communicate. You will save yourself years of contention and heartache if you can learn early in your marriage to communicate well and without contention your expectations about marriage. While it won’t look like a fairytale, it will be something much richer and deeper than you could have ever imagined.

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