Unfortunately, I know a thing or two about divorce. My parents divorced when I was in my twenties, and my first marriage ended in divorce after 13 years. Even my closest friends all have parents who are divorced.
So when my marriage ended, I thought that having a successful marriage wasn't in the cards for me. But as luck would have it, I ended up meeting and marrying a man who is not just an amazing person, but a top-notch husband. My second marriage has been my version of Happily Ever After.
What I've learned from my experiences of divorce and remarriage, and from observing other couples, is that every couple has the ability to have a successful marriage. Marital success has nothing to do with education, economics or social status. In fact, if ever there was an even playing field, it is in this area.
Having a successful marriage is all about the choices we make every minute of every day. Marriages fail when spouses make poor choices as to how they are going to treat each other. It isn't more complicated than that. So here are some of my insights about marriage (some learned the hard way) and how you can make good choices and have your own happily ever after...
Lesson #1: Remember that it isn't your job to make your spouse happy. Your job is to help create an environment in which your spouse can be happy. That means get your act together and be a dependable partner. That means don't create unnecessary stress or conflict in your marriage. That means genuinely love and encourage your spouse. After that, whether or not they are happy is up to them.
Lesson #2: It helps immensely if you and your spouse have a spiritual practice. Your choice of religion doesn't really matter. Simply following any spiritual teaching that reinforces the importance of love, compassion and forgiveness, will inspire both of you to treat each other far better than you would otherwise.
Lesson #3: If you are married, that fact should be part of your public persona. Wear your wedding ring. Talk about your spouse in glowing terms to your colleagues and friends. Being married should be part of who you are.
Lesson #4: You can always find someone smarter, more attractive or more successful than your spouse. Remember: your spouse can do the same. "Affair proof" your marriage by telling your spouse regularly how highly you think of them. A daily dose of positive reinforcement goes a long way.
Lesson #5: Frequent physical intimacy is necessary for a happy marriage. Don't make it complicated. You don't need outfits, pornography, role playing, threesomes, spouse swapping, BDSM or anything else. You only need to give your spouse your undivided attention, caring and acceptance. It requires nothing more and nothing less.
Lesson #6: If your daily communications with your spouse are limited to the Costco list and your children's soccer practice schedules, then you both are going to be looking elsewhere for a romantic charge. Flirt with your spouse, not your co-workers or the Starbucks barista.
Lesson #7: Dating does not end on your wedding day. When you go out with your spouse, act like it is your first date. Put on a great outfit, hold hands and make interesting conversation. Don't save your best self for others. Give your best self to your spouse.
Lesson #8: If you are married, you have an obligation to take care of your appearance. You are the person who is most closely associated with your spouse, and you shouldn't be an embarrassment to them. You don't have to look like Kate Upton or Will Smith. You just have to look your best.
Lesson #9: There is no glory in remaining in a bad marriage. No one is going to give you a gold sticker or saint you. Worse yet, your kids ultimately may not thank you for it. So choose how and with whom you spend your time on this earth wisely.
Lesson #10: People stay in marriages for many reasons. For their children. For money. For convenience. For ambition, political or otherwise. But you will find no greater joy than being married solely for love.
Over the years, I've learned that marriage is not for the faint of heart. It requires a level of maturity and selflessness that most people don't possess when they first say, "I do." However, if you are patient and work hard at it, the rewards of a happy marriage are immeasurable.