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Building a Marriage
Pledging our Love, Now and Forever!
      
by Maria Lanides 

  


The following 22 topics (chapters) deal with various ways to identify and avoid problems in your marriage as well as to improve your marriage.  By reading this article - you are already taking a step towards understanding what makes a happy marriage and what is necessary to building a marriage.

Most important each spouse must give unselfishly to the other.  Best to make your spouse always feel like you are on your honeymoon.   It is always give and take.  Discussions/discussions and agreements.  Don't go off and do things on your own or for sure......you will hurt your spouses feelings.  

You can start building memories today or tomorrow.  But do start!  Shared Memories keep you together!

Start each day with a smile and you'll light up every room you go in to  throughout the day.   Kick "moodiness" out the window.  No room for moodiness in a marriage.  We can't read each other's minds so say what is on your mind and try to work through problems so there won't be any need to be moody.

Often the writer tends to be very serious but I also feel it is important to have fun "building a marriage" together.  Everyone is entitled to express their viewpoints and sharing them is what it's all about.    If you don't share feelings, events, activities with your spouse....one day you'll wake up and realize you are alone.   Don't let it happen.  

If one day you find yourself not reacting the way you used to -  think about why?   Have you become a loner in your thoughts?   Do you communicate with your spouse  - if not - start right now!   Your marriage is worth working on.

Most often finances cause the most arguments in a marriage.  So - what's new?  That sort of argument has happened to loads of couples.   But how are you going to handle the problem?   If you can work it out together you are both well ahead of the game.    Don't lose the investment you've got in each other.    Lose the chips that have grown on your shoulder!   Work on the problem together.  Lose the "you did that attitude" and start today.   Speak your thoughts and
admit budgeting is the pits right now.  Did you join the ranks of couples where one of the spouses had to get a 2nd or 3rd job to help get the family out of a huge financial mess?   So - what's new?   You aren't the first couple to find yourselves in a huge financial mess.   Yes it will be difficult for a long time before you can see possibility of digging out of the problem.

Most important is start communicating again and let each other know if we work together through this - we can keep our family together and make our relationship better than it ever was.    It is easier to keep your mouth shut and not talk on how you feel to your spouse.......and yes, that is the easy and sometimes cowardly way out.   But it doesn't mean it is the best way to get out of a huge financial mess.   Start to lean on each other again.   Support the other.  Recognize and say the effects of the financial mess has and will continue to effect both spouses.   However, it can be easier to get through if you talk and support each other.    Surprise your spouse and take the first step.   Admit it is going to be tough but we can do it if we try and as long as we stay together.

If you have young children.........there's even more reason to work hard getting through the financial mess.  It does get better if you try!  Ten years from now both of you can look back and say, "I can't believe we made it though".
 Spouses - both mother and father have told me they wished someone had just sat on them and told them to work on their problem because leaving the family absolutely is not the answer. 

Others have shared this statement with me many, many times.   It absolutely sucks not having my spouse and children sleeping under the same roof.   They say children adapt to divorce.   Not so....I feel divorce will always effect the children to a certain extent.   Do all you can to avoid divorce.   

Still others have shared their feelings with me and have tearfully told me:  "It seemed to happen so fast I don't know how my spouse and I  got to this point. But If I could I'd change it back in a heartbeat!"    "I don't know if it is too late!"   I really wish I could get another chance and I'd find some way to  make my marriage work.   I'd be more patient.  I wouldn't be as critical.  I wouldn't be so tough on the kids.    I would say "I Love You" more often.  I'd make a sincere effort to go to church with my wife and  kids at least once a month so she  doesn't always have to go alone."

I cried with one young man who told me:  "If I could go back home - if only I could.  I 'd hug my spouse and children more often.   I'd even watch programs I don't like on TV once a week with the children and once a week with my wife.  I'd come up to bed earlier and not always fall asleep on the couch in front of the TV. That's all she used to ask and now I'm alone.  All our problems went too far and I just yelled at her all the time.   I don't know if she'll let me come home and give me another chance."  

Lots of spouses need advice on what to do to keep their marriage healthy.   So if reader has   quotes  they'd like to share - send them to me and I will group under one topic.  (please include author or your name when possible).  

 Suggestions on  "Ways to Impress".

 WAYS TO IMPRESS - Author Unknown

To impress a woman:
Wine her. Dine her. Call her. Hold her. Surprise her.
Compliment her. Smile at her. Listen to her. Laugh with her. Cry with her.
Romance her. Encourage her. Believe in her.
Pray with her. Pray for her. Cuddle with her.
Shop with her. Give her jewelry. Buy her flowers.
Hold her hand. Write love letters to her.
 
  To impress a man:
 On game day, bring chicken wings and don't block the TV.

In the writer's opinion, it is most important for one spouse to take the first step and make the other  feel special.   When this happens......for - sure the partner  will do the same and more!

  

1.  Definitions of Marriage
Marriage is a Pact.
13. Start a Tradition 
2.  Preparation for Marriage 14. Family
3.  Vows -  Both Partners need to constantly work at their vows 15. Growing Apart
4.  Commitment 16. Worship Services
5.  Signals 17. Staying Together - John Travolta's Quote - regarding past relationships!   Oprah's ability to show us her guests real personalities.
6.  Use of Fowl Language 18. You Make the Difference
7.  Marriage Counseling 19. Goals
8.  Start a Group Meeting 20. The Right Job
9.  Sharing Time Together 21. Detours
10. Attention 22. Just so many Summers
11. Communication
 Note on Shouting & Health
. and noted columnist Abigail Van Buren's response re harboring resentment.  
 
12. Gestures of Love  

                                         

Introduction:

In the spring of 2003, as I was looking through the Albany, NY Times Union, my local newspaper,  I noticed an article stating that as of the year 2002, approximately 56% of all marriages end in divorce.  I read the article over and over again. Throughout the next few days, I kept thinking about the 56% figure. It was as if there was a television set in front of my eyes.  These figures would not escape from my thoughts.  My own divorce after 28 years of marriage troubled me - and now all I could see was 56% of all marriages end in divorce. 

Certain opinions, that I have read, also state that the divorce rate is higher for children of divorced parents.  I don't know if there are statistics that indicate a level of truth to the previous statement. I believe that each of us has a certain degree of control of our own destiny in relation to succeeding in marriage. I believe there is less of a chance for one to succeed in marriage when the individual lacks knowledge on what will make a happy marriage.  I believe children who have seen their parents in an unhappy marriage (whether the parents divorce or not) will try harder to make their own marriage happy!

I'm sure many young people, especially children of divorced parents, question - if they get married -  will their marriage also end in divorce.  I do not believe their marriage will end in divorce just because their parents divorced.  There have to be other strong reasons for divorce.  I firmly believe there isn't enough discussion, books or classes on how to stay fulfilled within a marriage to avoid divorce.  Young people want to avoid divorce.

Hopefully, the topics that I have chosen will add some insight on how to stay married.  If you look hard enough - you'll find  countless recipes  for a happy marriage.  Make it your business to find as many valuable recipes as you can!   Study them and learn from them.  Even after you get married  continue to look for any recipe that boasts of a happy marriage.  When you hold value in every ingredient for a happy marriage - chances are excellent that you will beat the odds and avoid the pitfalls of the recipe that leads to divorce! 

Before marriage - after the wedding -  -anytime - whenever either of  you have problem issues:

Don't try to resolve problem issue in an hour's  argument/screaming match.    Design a "Problem Issues" box.   Whenever either partner feels a problem that needs to be discussed - write problem down.   
(Ladies use one color paper and gentlemen use another color paper.)   After you write problem....also write what you feel would resolve the problem and even include what you think might at least make it better or bearable.   Pick a time when you are both in a loving good mood and take turns selecting an   issue  to be discussed on a particular day.    

Limit discussion time to  15-20 minutes.  Treat the time as you would if trying to resolve a problem at work.     Be honest to yourself and to your partner.   Try to figure out cause of problem.  Is problem caused by something in your past.....that you can't let go of?   Is problem something you are building up and being unreasonable about?  Is it something you have to work on or is it something partner effects.  No screaming - no yelling - no swearing! 

It is sometimes difficult to resolve problems by yourself or with your partner.   If you talk with your partner about what bothers you...  early on......you both are well ahead of the game.   If there are problems - often -  it is best to talk to a professional.....whether it be a priest, rabbi  or doctor.   Talk to someone by yourself ......and if professional suggests.....talk with both partners present.

 

     1. Definitions of Marriage:  
Marriage is a pact - a pact that shouldn't be broken.   Marriage is a relationship which grows and grows.    Marriage is a union of hearts and a pledge of love.   Marriage is experiencing life's pleasures  and problems together .   Marriage is a lifetime commitment of  being a friend to one another.  Marriage is also a commitment to extend respect and gentleness to one another.   Marriage is full of compromises...more compromises...and more compromises.    Each partner must make sacrifices for the other partner.

Couples need to discuss their pact of marriage......and what it means to each of them today and in the future.    Promise yourselves that when either of you gets even a little discouraged.......that you will discuss what is bothering you.........   There will always be ups and downs in a marriage........and when you really try..........there will be more ups than downs.   Remember - after the rain......comes the sun.

Ask couples who have been married a long time - What's your secret?  What has made your marriage - a happy one?  Write down their educational, delightful and humorous responses. Visit an antique shop and  purchase a decorative container to save all your notes.  Every so often open the container and read a few of the notes your have collected.  Reading the notes will serve as reminders on "What makes a good marriage."  

Just as there are many recipes for apple pie....there are many recipes for a happy marriage.   In years to come you will be able to contribute a few of your own ingredients for your own recipe.  We use reminder notes every day at home and at work.  It is essential to remind ourselves what we need to do to keep our marriage happy and healthy.

    2. Preparation for Marriage:  
I very much doubt if there is a  town or city in the United States that requires any type of reading or classes prior to issuing a marriage license.  A few religions require one to seven short classes prior  to marriage.  Very few high schools and colleges offer courses dealing with various aspects of  Marriage.  
 
    There are requirements for keeping and renewing all sorts of city and state issued licenses.  There are no meaningful requirements issued by municipalities prior to marriage but there are many lengthy procedures/requirements dealing with separation and/or divorce.  Possibly the requirement of reading and coursework prior to marriage - on understanding what marriage vows really mean - might lower the divorce rate.  

    Whether or not there are mandated courses/readings or not...there are steps that can help  individuals prepare for marriage.  Be accountable to yourself and spend time before you get married.....reading as many books as you can.....on preparing for marriage. 

    It is important to recognize that  happiness   can be experienced in a good marriage every day, week, month and year is more rewarding than any honor received in business.  In years to come, the quiet reward of contentment is realized as the "extra bonus" that comes from having a happy marriage.  

    3. Vows -  Both Partners need to constantly work at their vows:  
Most individuals work harder at their job than at building a marriage.
  Quite often individuals voluntarily spend hours after work studying old and new procedures for their job.  Individuals study whatever they can to learn more about their jobs... mostly to reap  the monetary rewards of success.  Most individuals know that extra studying will make them more proficient in their work - which means added respect and higher earnings with bonuses. These same individuals also recognize that along with  respect and bonuses comes an assurance that they will move up the corporate ladder. 

     The words used in wedding ceremonies vary.  Quite often the word "cherish" is used during a wedding ceremony.    Webster's Dictionary states the meaning of cherish is  "to protect and treat with affection: to entertain in the mind, hold in the heart".     In today's society as well as in past years, the husband is looked at as the provider and "the protector".  If a man truly cherishes the woman he marries....he will provide for her and protect her.   Of course this doesn't mean only the man needs to work .      Just as the word cherish has many meanings, the words "provide for" can have many meanings.  Of course the main meaning to these  words in this issue means the husband will work and bring monetary income in to the marriage.  The husband can provide many things other than monetary income.  He can provide a secure and safe environment. He can provide an environment where the norm is pleasant talk.  He can provide an environment of thoughtful behavior, etc.. 

     Today, we also have many men who stay home and take care of the children while the woman works out of the home and provides the monetary income.  In this type of situation, the man is also providing a secure and safe environment for the children.  There are many ways each couple can provide for each other.

    It is not an easy job  learning "how to make a marriage work".   However, if you do so.....you receive  a great sense of  pride and  satisfaction that is on a much different level than work pride.   This type of pride is warm and loving.     The reward of a good marriage comes from taking your marriage vows seriously... today, every day...and...in to the future!

    4. Commitment: 
If you view marriage as more important than your job, you will be successful at your job and in your marriage. 
If you are happy in your marriage - you can cope with most problems at work.  Each partner has to continuously work at building a marriage.  A good marriage  doesn't just happen.  Marriage is a lot of fun but it also involves a lot of  hard work! 

    A good marriage needs a solid foundation and many, many reinforcements. 

Reinforcements are mutual memories of shared experiences  from day one!     don't underestimate the importance of building memories.   You can't build many memories if after work all you do is spend most of your time laying down in front of the television.

You need a commitment to your vows to make a good marriage.  Understanding the full meaning of your vows is probably the most important step you can take to build a good foundation for  your marriage.  A promise to yourself and to each other..... to do all you can each and every day...... to keep your  marriage healthy and strong.  This promise means you will continuously find ways to improve and build on your foundation. This promise...this pact...... - is your commitment to work at your marriage.

    5. Signals:
It is important to learn and  recognize the signals your partner gives you when attention is needed.  Don't be selfish and above all else, never take each other for granted.  It is important to always remember how you feel on your wedding day and  if you value, respect and cherish these feelings every day - your marriage will be the best!  It's great to make each other feel like you are always on your "honeymoon". 

     Be patient with one another and treat your partner as you would treat your best friend.  Always extend respect, compassion, consideration and understanding to each other every day. Be a good listener and if you aren't sure how to be a good listener -  then find articles or books on the subject....and start studying!!   

    As the years go by and you raise your family......your children will see and understand more than you realize.  Some children see love in a family...even during an argument. Other children see a build up of arguing and yelling week after week and year after year.   Don't let your relationship with your partner get to that point - work on your marriage every  single day - right from the beginning.  Cherish and treasure the love you have for each other. 

Hug and kiss each other often.   If your children don't see you giving affection to your spouse - they won't give affection to their spouse.   Constant affection helps keep couples together.

    When an individual gets a new job....they usually try from day one to do their best.  Very rarely do workers display the attitude of - I got the job - so now I can relax and do nothing and I'll still get my salary! There are individuals that once they are married....don't even know what it means to work at their marriage.  These same individuals don't see or understand the necessity of going beyond the call of duty in their marriage.

    We need to educate young couples to recognize that a good marriage doesn't just happen!  We need to get them to understand that when you enter in to a marriage.....it is important to do your part to the best of your ability each and every day right from the beginning..... 

    6. Use of Foul Language:  Starting in the 1970's, it seems to me, more and more young  people began to use an assortment of foul language as part of their everyday vocabulary.  "It's  habit - don't worry, my friends don't take offense" - or so they said - when parents tried to correct  their child's usage of certain words!  After these young people got married, it became a very different situation when the same assortment of foul words were used during an argument.  These same words - which previously no one took offense to - now inflict much hurt and pain! 

    It is emotional abuse when a spouse feels justified in using foul language towards the other spouse or towards their children.  It doesn't matter if the language is used when angry, correcting or criticizing the other - it is abuse!    In just a very short time - after listening to one of their parents abuse the other - children learn  how to emotionally abuse someone else.  You can't teach respect by constantly putting someone else down.  You teach respect to your children by caring and talking pleasantly to your children and to your spouse.  You teach respect to your children by honoring your spouse.  You teach  respect to your children by holding every member of the family in high esteem.

    Parents correct their children and tell them not to use foul language and yet these same parents use foul language themselves.  Children learn by example.   Be sure to remind yourself to use age appropriate discipline.   Try to remember how you might have felt at 3, 4, 5 or 6  years old.    A parent who displays too little patience  disciplining a child can cause lasting problems for the child.   Parents who use scare tactics to influence a child  will also cause deep problems for the child which can  last a lifetime.     When disciplining a child - take a deep breath - be patient and think about what you are doing!   The old saying "spare the rod and spoil the child" was never a truthful saying.  It is never appropriate to hit a child!

    7. Marriage Counseling:  If you have many disagreements with your partner.....get some help right away.  If there was a problem at work - you would immediately go to your  supervisor to discuss.   Do the same with your marriage.  Don't wait!  It's OK to go for help!  When there is a problem that you can not resolve....don't pack it away in your mind. Talk to your Rabbi, Minister or Priest.  These individuals will encourage and help you to work through  your problems.  These individuals may also recommend another counselor. 

     Do not consider it an embarrassment to get help for your marriage.  If you had a toothache, you would go right away to a dentist.  Use the same logic for problems (or hurts) within your marriage.  Get help early -  before problems mount and multiply and it becomes too late to save your relationship.

    I can not stress enough the importance of resolving problems as they arise. Don't take for granted that the problem will just go away!  If your spouse makes fun of you in front of family and friends...tell your spouse to stop! Remind him that the word cherish means "to treat with affection" and making fun of you isn't treating you with affection.  If the spouse doesn't stop....then go for help from your Rabbi, Minister or Priest.  It is important that you don't hold your hurt inside.  Don't let it get to the point of resentment.

    At work, when you have a problem - you go to a supervisor. Sometimes problems are hard to fix and sometimes problems easy to fix.  At work, if you let the problems mount...the result can be an absolute mess...to say the least.  The same is true with problems in a marriage. Go right away for help - if you can't reach a compromise or resolve. 

    How does drifting apart happen? When does it happen? Drifting apart can happen when one partner keeps "nit picking" or gives too much criticism to the other.  Drifting apart can happen when you avoid confronting a problem.  Drifting apart can happen when minor problems go unresolved and mount on other unresolved problems. Avoid drifting apart by discussing your problems with each other.   If that doesn't work...then seek help!    When you seek help....both partners need to go and talk!

    We all have disagreements.  Talk out your problems.  Select a quiet time with your spouse so  that you can discuss what is bothering you.  Disagreements do not mean you have a bad marriage.  Addressing problems is healthy.  Addressing problems very early on - is most healthy !  Avoiding discussion of problems is unhealthy. 

    8. Start a Group Meeting:   Religious organizations need to get young couples to attend services together with the same excitement and effort that is put forth when either of them start a job that they feel is important.  If one of the individuals in a marriage does not come from the same religion they will not have the same sense of belonging that their spouse already has experienced.  Having a sense of belonging is important to all of us. A sense of belonging comes about over a period of time. If one doesn't participate... then one can't get a feeling of belonging.

Start a custom in our place of worship to start honoring couples once or twice a year.   After services are over - begin by asking couples that have been married for one year to stand up and the congregation can clap for them.    Then go to those married for 2 years, then 3 years etc. - then recognize 5 year, 10 year, 15 year etc. marriages.   The young couples can get the ball rolling to start keeping track of who has been married for how long!   Possibly a dinner once a year...........and recognize the 5 year, 10 year, 15 year etc milestones.   The wisdom behind recognizing these important milestones  is to help couples take more pride in their marriage!

Start a group where you worship - that would meet once or twice a month to discuss various topics dealing with "Building a Marriage".  Establish programs that are fun and that would encourage young couples to attend. Establish programs that give reasons why it is important and vital for young couples to attend services together.  At each meeting - congratulate anniversaries. Honor those couples with long term marriages. Ask each anniversary couple to state how they cope with every day problems.  Arrange for a facilitator to keep discussions smooth and easy - just as you would if you were arranging a monthly business meeting.  Keep it fun!

It should be pointed out to young couples that resentments grow  when a husband or wife has to go to services all alone.     It should be pointed out to young couples that resentments grow when the couple always does just what the husband thinks is important.     It should be pointed out to young couples that resentments grow when the couple always does just what the wife thinks is important.   Group discussions on all these things can be started at your place of worship.

    Examples of topics for discussion: 
 
  a.   How women look at issues differently than men. 
    b.   The importance of attending Worship Services Together.
    c.   Rewards of a good marriage.
    d.   The meaning of.... to love, to honor and to cherish. 
    e.   The art of compromising - give and take.
    f.    Children and effect on relationship
          Recognizing the difficult years.  How to be patient.
          Reminders on how quickly difficult years go by.
          Before you know it, the children have gone off to
          college - and once again it's just you and your spouse.

    g.  Giving each other space. Encouraging/accepting, without
         jealousy, individual growth and accomplishments.

    h.   Anger -saying I'm sorry - apology and forgiveness.
          If you've had a bad day at work - take a walk around the
          block before you go home - so you don't bring anger home!. 

    i.   The art of talking in a sweet and caring manner
          to each other, to your children and to family and friends.
         Develop a quiet manner of talking.   Be patient with loved ones!

    j.    Sharing thoughts with one another -listening and hearing!
    k.   Recognizing/understanding physical and emotional abuse.
          Raising your voice during discussions doesn't help.

    l.    Address problem without being overly critical.
    m.  Future Plans - Budgeting and major purchase agreements.
    n.   DETOURS - Meaning/prevention....and how detours can
          quickly destroy a marriage.


    9. Sharing Time Together Share with each other your fears, your dreams and what makes you happy...so that you build a communion of mind and spirit.  Yes, everyone needs time to themselves.  It is important to give each other space, however, it is also important to remember that you must not be selfish.  Do you spend too much time with your friends rather than with your spouse and children?  No one expects to do everything together but it is important that you plan and do some activities together.  

    If you identify a problem, take a moment and evaluate your behavior with your spouse.  Try to recognize what might have caused the problem and talk about how you feel.  Going to the gym to work out or lunch with the guys or gals is necessary and important. Spending more time at the gym than with your spouse and children is not good.  It is not good to be too possessive, but if your spouse spends more time away from you than you want....talk about it.  It is difficult to balance time...but keep trying!   

Those memories you are trying to build will be non-existent if you don't share experiences together.

    10. Attention:  Attention can be when spouses are just sitting next to one another.  It can be an embrace or it can be a gesture of an arm placed gently on your shoulder.  Attention can be time spent with one another.  Attention can be giving up watching a sporting event on TV just to go shopping with spouse! Attention can be shown in words.  Attention can be playing your spouse's favorite disc or DVD.  Attention can be caring  and doing for one another. 

    It is important for a spouse to recognize that certain activities are no longer appropriate after marriage.  Example:  A bachelor/bachelorette party at a gambling casino for 4-5 days is fine prior to marriage.  However, if one has a spouse and child - spending 4-5 days at a gambling casino without your family going along is not the best/smartest thing to do. Avoid situations that might build resentments by your spouse.   

    Many times the spouse doesn't realize they aren't giving you enough attention by spending  more time with you.  Men more often than women usually are the ones that don't realize they aren't giving their spouse enough attention.  Each partner must take the responsibility  to talk to their spouse regarding this problem.  Lack of time spent with one another is a big problem and can grow in to a worse problem.  Spouses need to discuss that they are lonely and do not like spending so much time alone.  It is OK for the man or woman to say "I'm lonely - I miss you and want you to spend more time with me."   Your spouse can not read your mind! If you don't talk about the problem - you can not resolve the problem.  It is crucial that you share your thoughts with your spouse.  Develop a pattern of talking and explaining how you feel during your first years of marriage so that you don't hide your feelings.

    Spouses must also recognize when a spouse is trying to share a problem.    It is hard for all of us - at one time or another - to explain our feelings.   Sometime spouses ignore the importance of each other's feelings.  Listen, listen and listen some more...and then talk, talk and talk to each other some more!    If everyone fully took those words more seriously.......most problems in a marriage would disappear.  Are you hearing what is being said.....or are you hearing what you want to hear?  

Each spouse should make it a point to do a little self analysis.....and admit the truth to themselves that they could listen and hear much more often.   It's OK to recognize you haven't heard what your spouse has been trying to tell you.   It OK to admit it and  talk about it.  

Show compassion and don't minimize the importance of your spouse's thoughts.  Just because something isn't important to you - it doesn't mean it isn't important to your spouse. 

    11. Communication:  In business, clear communication is essential to success.    Communication is also essential  between two partners that have shared the vows of  marriage.  Neither of you can read each other's mind but you both have mouths which enable you to communicate your thoughts.   Habits start early in your relationship.  Try to recognize different patterns.  

     Misunderstandings - Many marriages have grown apart due to misunderstandings.  Don't let little irritations grow so large that you become irritated over something insignificant! Talk about the irritation before it grows!  Don't hold on to your resentments.     If your spouse gets toothpaste on the bathroom mirror all the time and it gets to bother you- don't let this little irritation grow in to a mountain.  Open up your mouth and state your feelings!    

     In Abigail Van Buren's column of July 29, 2006 - that appeared in the Albany, NY Times Union Newspaper an informative response (re harboring resentment) appeared:    

         In summary - The DEAR ABBY QUESTION described a couple that always shared expenses and household responsibilities.  The 28 year old wife, left her job of  6 years - went back to college full time and is now doing all the household chores.  The wife thinks about discussing  sharing duties with husband but reminds herself how generous he is and begins feeling guilty  because the husband is paying all the bills.  The wife's last sentence - "Yet  I am starting to resent being the maid.  What do you think? - Lisa in Ithaca

         Abigail Van Buren's response  -  DEAR LISA: The problem with harboring resentment is that it builds until the dam bursts, and then it is usually expressed inappropriately.   In a sense, you and your husband are both "working."  Therefore, I strongly recommend that you and he have an adult conversation about the household chores, and what a fair division of labor would be.  He sounds like a doll, and I'm sure you can reach a fair agreement.

Abigail Van Buren's response re harboring resentment.  

      When minor  issues bother you  (such as: toothpaste at the bottom of the mirror and towels always left on the floor examples)  pick a time to discuss and to resolve.   Inform your spouse that there is a cloth under the sink and suggest they give a quick wipe to surfaces after showers  and hang up the towels after use.  These quick gestures make the bathroom look nicer.   If you don't discuss - your spouse won't know what you are thinking about and you will start building minor resentments that can grow and grow..

    Another example of a minor issue that might be  an irritant for arguments that builds and builds....is the "ring around the bathtub or shower" problem.  Pick a quiet time to discuss and share "quick clean up hints"  with each other.  Rinsing the tub or shower after each use is a good habit to develop right away!  

    When the writer volunteered  4-5 hours daily at Hackett Middle School on a regular basis for four years......she always wondered why teachers would make such a big thing of "chewing gum".    When the writer presented the question to The Principal,   David McGuire, and Vice Principal Kevin Justice  - they both responded with:  "Because if you take care of the little problems the big ones will take care of themselves!"   It stands to reason if you resolve the small issues in your relationship - the big issues will take care of themselves.

    Many heavy arguments start with a small, unimportant issue such as the "toothpaste on the mirror" or  "ring around the shower" examples mentioned previously.  Always talk to each other about what bothers you.  Don't just  point out that a certain situation bothers you, explain/show/discuss with your spouse how to easily and quickly  turn that irritating situation into something that doesn't bother you. 

      After listening to many complaints/questions/situations, the writer's father often  responded with the following:   "you can catch more bees with honey".    So, again, it would stand to reason not to  nag, scream  ...or belittle your spouse.  If you want something accomplished......screaming and yelling is just not going to make it happen!   Most of the time.... it is how, when and where we verbally communicate our feelings... that makes a difference.  By talking politely in a relationship, you show your love for your partner.  

     Couples need to develop a pattern on how to communicate needs and express differences so that both partners learn how to resolve problems.    Again, it is important to develop these patterns early in your marriage.    Set a weekly time period where you can just talk for 5-10 minutes on feelings you experienced during the week that maybe you should have talked about to one another!    It is essential that you learn to verbalize your thoughts and feelings.   As it is very important to discuss what you like and what you don't like during sex .......it is also very important to discuss daily issues that effect both of you. 

     Don't be afraid to say  "I'm sorry or I forgive you".  These words can go a long way!    "I feel terrible and if I feel bad, I can just imagine how horrible you must feel!".    These words imply honesty.    Tell each other your feelings...no matter how bad the situation...if you talk about it together...the problem can be resolved.   If you learn to communicate feelings well ....as a couple you are on your way .....to a communion of minds that will bring you happiness and contentment as the years go by.

   When a spouse has been yelled and screamed at........this spouse is not going to want to get in to bed and make love with the abuser.    Come on - let's be truthful.   While you were dating......if your partner screamed and yelled at you......would you want to jump in to bed and have sex with that person?    No way!   When the abuse continues....little by little.. the marriage deteriorates.   When a spouse gives an excuse of "I have a headache"..........maybe you are the "headache"!  

    Recognize that you might be an abuser in the way you express your anger.     If that is what is happening...........  get some help!       Just as businesses teach  communication skills  to increase sales.......an abusive spouse needs to find ways to  improve communication skills  - so that the spouse can reap the true rewards of a healthy marriage..    

    Playful teasing is not the same as making fun of the other spouse.  Sometimes the tone of voice turns a criticism in to an abusive remark (See Topic 17 "habit of speaking")The first time a critical and crude remark is given to you....you must set aside a time, in private, to state that this type of remark is abusive and has no place in your relationship.  Discuss why the partner felt the need to give the remark. 
Shouting and health:   Young people are very conscious of living a healthy lifestyle such as daily exercise and supplementing their diets with organic foods and soy products.   

The following statement of interest appeared 7/20/06 in the Albany, NY  Times Union Newspaper (McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Self, staff reports).   "Shouting insults at your spouse during an argument not only causes hurt feelings, but it also can also increase the risk of damage to your arteries, according to experts at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.   The likelihood of damage increases if your spouse behaves the same way toward you."

If you are a screamer......the previous statement is enough reason to start learning some good communication habits without screaming and yelling. 

    12. Gestures of love:    It is important to offer "gestures of love" for each other as well as  to help each other.  The act of setting the table - when it is not necessary - is a gesture of love.  Not complaining after waiting outside the mall thirty (30) minutes while your spouse runs in to a store for five (5) minutes is a gesture of love.  Recognizing when your wife is exhausted and  offering to watch your month old child while the "new mom" takes a nap - even though  you are also exhausted......... is truly a ..."gesture of love". 

      Patience goes hand in hand with love and marriage.   It is essential that you plan certain activities together.  Go to your place of worship together on a regular basis.  It is a gesture of love, and a sign of commitment to a marriage, when a spouse suggests that we should go more often to worship services.  When you both go to worship services on a regular basis, you will also meet other couples that share your interests and new relationships will develop.

     Visit family and friends together. 
It's the memories over the years that are shared - that make a happy marriage. It can be a happy, difficult or sad memory you share - that brings you   both closer to one another.  The important part in creating memories in a marriage - is the  sharing - and in this way you are "building a marriage".   Keep reminding yourself that "pledging our love, now and forever" is an every day joint commitment to each other.  

    13. Start  Traditions:   Taking turns cooking becomes a habit and builds cherished, fun memories.  Cooking together, even if food is burned, also helps build  happy experiences that are a very  important part of building a marriage.  Make it a priority to remember important dates is sometimes difficult but should be a goal. Many wonderful memories are built when a spouse arranges am intimate surprise on a birthday  or anniversary.  Considerate gestures - even when it is not a birthday or  anniversary is  a way of saying "I love you".  

    Designate one day a week where you both chip in together with all the cleaning chores.  By the time children come along....you will both be used to cleaning together and will give  a good example to your children.  Cleaning and laundry chores go by much quicker when  partners help each other. Give encouragement and praise to each other when the laundry smells fresh and is folded just right.   Don't be overly critical if the sheets or shirts aren't folded just right.  Unless you speak up, your spouse doesn't know how you like the sheets and shirts folded.  Share your knowledge on how you like them folded! 

    Once children come along ...work together as a family on your designated "cleaning day".  Be fair in designating chores.  Give encouragement, praise and your approval when your child picks up their toys and when they try something new.  Show your child how to do  chores by example.  If you grumble and avoid chores certainly you child will do the same!  If your attitude is singing and whistling while you work....your  children will also sing and whistle while they work!  

    After you have children, it is also important to keep up a tradition of going out on a date together!  Plan a date for just the two of you at least once every couple of weeks.  Have  fun getting ready and make it more interesting by pretending it's your first date!  Take  turns selecting the location of where you are going as a surprise to your spouse.  Dating is very important to young parents.  Even if your "date" lasts only an hour or two - while your when your children are very young - it is crucial to get out of the house together.  Your date can be a quiet walk, a movie or going to dinner.  When you want extra company, invite your friends  to come along. 

    Children add a certain amount of stress and change your life.   After you bring your newborn baby home from the hospital.......you realize.......this child......this baby....is here ...24 hours a day........and isn't leaving. The  stress and change in lifestyle lasts from the time your first child comes home from the hospital to the time all your children are away at college and longer.  Young couples do not realize ahead of time how demanding it can be during the first 3 months after a child is born.  Young couples also do not realize that the difficult times during the first few months will pass very quickly.  Couples need to realize that once children are out of the house and away at college (or have moved to their own apartment)....your life slowly will get back to centering around each other.    So do all you can to keep that pact going!

    As your children get older, you'll feel more comfortable staying out for a whole evening!   A fun evening can also be when you invite a few friends over "just for dessert".  Don't be a grouch about going out or inviting friends over to your home once a  week
or once every two weeks.  You need to socialize with other couples - so - do it!   Yes, socializing  with other couples can be a good thing!

    14. Family:    Recognize that family is the most important part of your life!      In the early 1900's newly married couples often lived with their family for a few  years and shared expenses.   It wasn't unusual for newlyweds to live with parents or  grand parents.    Often when a parent observed their son or daughter reacting in a less than appropriate manner - they'd point out to their adult child  what they did or said that was wrong- so they can change their behavior.    Now days - with  newlyweds living away from the parents.......individuals must be more aware of what is appropriate behaviour and what isn't!

    Newlyweds saved money when they lived with family.    In addition to saving money by living with family,  the big bonus was that there was a  tremendous amount of help as each new baby was born.  Grandparents were always around  to influence and to teach good values to the children.  Today, most newlyweds move in to  their own apartment or home before they have children.  Not too long after children are born, usually before they can even walk, the children are dropped off at  child care centers. Both parents have to (or want to) work to pay for the large house, two cars, all the name brand clothing and summer camp - all summer long for the children.   

     Years ago, even after a young couple moved in to their own home - it seems as if entire families went together to worship services and everyone had Sunday dinner together.  Mid-week family dinners as well were not uncommon.  Grandchildren enjoyed and loved the extra attention. Mom and Dad appreciated the breather of a more relaxing dinner.  Problems were discussed and solutions were offered by everyone.  When a relative came in to town to visit, or came back from a long trip,  it was an occasion that the whole family shared, grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts and all the children.  Again problems were discussed  and solutions were offered by everyone. 

     Today it is very difficult to get the whole family together.  Everyone has too many things to do at too many different locations.  Not enough family members want to make the effort and there just isn't enough time anymore to have regular mid-week or regular Sunday dinners to keep the sense of entire family alive. 

 Today, the feeling of family must exist and stay alive with once a week visits/get-togethers. It seems that there were fewer divorces years ago and families seemed to be much closer.   Possibly divorce was almost unheard of because families did so much together.  Families helped one another more and, to a higher degree, their sense of family influenced everyone - including the children.

     As you get older the importance of your family will grow.  Don't let the years go by and wish you had given more attention to a family member.  The years go by and are gone....before you realize that many years have passed.  If a spouse tries to suggest that you call a parent or some one else in your family - make the call!  Start a new pattern of communicating with your family and you will set a good example for your children to follow. 

     Make an effort to open communication between both the bride's and groom's families so you don't have to fight over "who" has "who" over for dinner on holidays.  Try to arrange for everyone to celebrate most holidays together.  If that isn't possible, on  holidays try to  suggest dinner schedules so that the young couple can have lunch at the groom's house and dinner at the bride's parents house (or vice versa every year).  These established and fair holiday traditions will be even more important in years to come so that children can visit all grandparents on all holidays.

    15. Growing Apart:  If you don't want to grow apart.......... then make it a priority to treat each other special every single day.    Show your spouse that you feel blessed that you have them! 

Growing apart seems to happen over night.  In reality - growing apart takes time and is a result of a series of day by day situations that accumulate over time.  Most situations that influence growing apart in a marriage - stem from a lack of thoughtfulness, consideration, involvement or participation by either one or both spouses.  It often seems as if all of a sudden ....one day, the husband/wife  wakes up and can not figure out why the spouse isn't attentive anymore or has decided to leave the marriage.  Here are a few examples of what can be termed as the beginning of growing apart:

    a. Possibly the beginning of growing apart happened when the wife turned away from the husband after he forced her to have sex when she kept saying no....no....no....and he didn't think of her feelings.   The wife felt deeply violated because she was raped and couldn't talk to anyone about the horrible incident.   Little by little her anger towards her husband grew and grew.     The husband didn't even have a clue that he did anything wrong and never noticed the wife was withdrawn. 

    b. Possibly the beginning of growing apart happened when the husband/wife got tired of receiving rude and crude remarks in front of their children, family and friends. 

    c. Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when a husband/wife stopped giving suggestions on what to do or where to go because they always received a "no" and realized their suggestion or opinion did not matter.

    d. Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when a spouse realized they were doing too many activities alone and over the years the resentments grew. 

    e. Possibly the beginning of growing apart happened when the spouse just got tired of listening to the never ending nagging.

    f.  Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when the husband/wife never really listened to what the spouse was saying and little by little this spouse felt empty and couldn't find a purpose in life.  

    g. Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when a spouse didn't want to hear the constant criticism.

    h. Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when the husband/wife stopped attending worship services with the spouse and children.  Possibly the beginning of growing apart was because the husband/wife hardly ever attended worship services with their spouse and children in the first place. Maybe the spouse that  took the children to worship service got tired of going alone and felt more alone watching all the other couples with their children attending services together. Even though people were all around....this same spouse felt very much alone.

    i. Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when there was an argument over a purchase or pending purchase..     One spouse sarcastically stated they bring in the money... so they  have a right to make the purchase without discussing the purchase with the spouse.    If your intent is to bring down your partners self esteem...a big notch or two....here is a situation where sarcasm at its best can accomplish your goal!

    j. Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when the husband/wife was continuously selfish and the spouse started to build up resentments.

    k.  Possibly the beginning of growing apart happened when the husband/wife realized their spouse doesn't show interest in attending their children's school functions and this spouse always had to also attend these functions alone.

    l. Possibly the beginning of growing apart was when the husband/wife realized their spouse was selfish and really didn't show interest in anything they liked.

    m.  Possibly the beginning of growing apart happened when a spouse decided they didn't want to be yelled at anymore.

    n.  Possibly the beginning of growing apart happened when the husband/wife was tired of all the threats for this and for that.

    o.   Possibly the beginning of growing apart happened when the husband/wife realized they felt alone even though the spouse was home in the same house.

    How do couples go from always holding hands and walking with their arms wrapped around each other - to getting up in the morning and not talking all day to one another?  I'm sure the reader can think of many reasons that could be the beginning of growing apart.   You've seen it with your friends and family.   
It can happen very quickly because couples do not know they need to work at developing good habits right at the beginning ....even from before the day they take their vows and before. 

    Show respect for one another and work at your marriage every day - or one morning you could wake up and be alone! 

   Think back and remember the different words that were spoken in your marriage vows.  Love, honor and cherish aren't very big words but their meanings are enormous.  Are you living up to the meanings of your vows? 

By reading this article - you are taking a giant step towards understanding what makes a happy marriage and what is necessary to get busy rebuilding your marriage.    It can be done!   Communicate to your spouse you want to make your marriage better.   Don't be embarrassed to put your feelings in to words.

    16.  Worship Services:  When a husband/wife wants to go to worship services they need to speak up and invite their spouse to go along!  If you ask each week....eventually your spouse  will go with you.  Don't ever stop asking! 

     Doing laundry, cleaning a closet, playing golf, repairing the garage door, cutting the lawn, the desire to sleep just one hour more or going out for brunch can always be done "after attending worship services together"!  

     Sometimes a parent arranges a brunch or party at the same time your worship services are held.  Speak up and politely ask that the event be held after worship services are over.  Avoid situations that keep you from attending worship services together as a family. 

    Attending worship services together is one of the few "life preservers" available for helping to keep a marriage together.   When you have to go alone all the time - resentments grow very fast  and fester even
quicker!

   
Going to worship services together is a time and place where you  can ask for help and for the strength to keep your marriage strong.  It is a time and place  where you can reflect and look back over the previous week and think about what you did.  It is a time and place to rest.  It is a time and place to refresh  yourself so that you try to do better during the coming week.   It is a time and place to realize - you are not alone.   Attending worship services together is a time and place to give thanks to God.  Every time you attend services together - it can be a rebirth to your marriage!

    As the years go by, many spouses become lazy and rarely attend worship services together or with their family.  This same husband/wife has come to the point of rarely visiting family and friends together and tells the spouse to go alone.  This spouse takes marriage for granted.

    A
spouse thinks nothing of spending an hour or more listening to the other spouse practice a speech or presentation for work.  Often a spouse helps the other spouse learn those presentations or speeches.  Yet, many couples feel funny reading the Bible to each other.  Try to read the Bible together- even if it is only once in awhile.  The reward may be a lifetime of happiness.

    Most of us spend more time watching television or working out in a gym - than in our place of worship.  When you think about it, a few hours a week is not too much time to give to one's God - especially when attending services as a family  - will help keep your marriage together!  

Take a look at other happy couples and families.... do they go to worship services together?   Most likely the greater majority of all happily married couples attend worship services together.    Attending worship services together is almost a guarantee that your marriage will not end up in divorce court.

    Very early on in life, we learned the importance of perfect attendance.  We didn't want to miss a day of grammar school so that we could be proud as we received our "perfect attendance award". In high school and college we understood that if we missed a class we might lose out on important information and possibly end up failing a class or two!  We spend big money for season tickets to sport and theatre events.  We need to put the same importance on attending worship services as we do on sport and theatre events.

   
In this world of violence and terrorism, we must set priorities for our life.  It's crucial to cherish your life as well as your spouse's life.   Treat your spouse after the wedding with as much respect and consideration as you did - prior to saying "I do"!  


    17. Staying Together:  Your marriage is a partnership - an equal partnership. Always be caring to one another.  Don't sit around and always let the other be responsible for getting things done. Don't let yourselves grow apart.  Be patient and don't take each other for granted.  Don't be selfish and demand from one another, instead - always do what you can for one another!
 
    You were friends prior to marriage....so keep that friendship golden!  Don't expect everything to go your way all the time.  Be respectful of  each other.  Be polite and keep saying thank you...just like you did when you were engaged! Keep communications open so that you can resolve disagreements.  No one  has to be a winner in a disagreement.  Work things out.  Don't say something on purpose to hurt the other. 

    Every couple has arguments and disagreements.  Learn to forgive.  Learn the advantage of compromise.  The important thing to remember is whenever possible try to resolve the argument or disagreement.  Learn together and as you grow - you will have a better chance of enjoying the benefits of growing old together.

   John Travolta has been a guest on the Oprah show.   One of Oprah's many talents is that she knows how to read people and during her guest interviews is able to show us their real personality.  Oprah is so real and today - she is probably the most admired woman on our planet!  When she interviews John Travolta - she absolutely outdoes herself.  I'm sure you agree that during Oprah's show, John Travolta comes across as regular as you and I.   He is a devout family man and is openly thankful for the career success he has enjoyed.    

     The writer found a most interesting quote from John Travolta in the February 2005 Issue of Readers Digest in an Article entitled "Night Moves- Face-to-Face with John Travolta" . Author Meg Grant quotes John Travolta as saying - "Our marriage has been a really interesting, fulfilling experience.  Most of our growing pains were resolving past relationships that didn't quite work out, realizing we weren't those people."

    Your anger, fears and doubts from a previous relationship can effect how you react in your present relationship.  The writer has  talked to many young people who carried their previous relationship problems in to the next relationship.  Open your minds and examine your thoughts to see how you are reacting in your present relationship.    John Travolta's statement might help you realize that past relationships are just that....and you need to react to your present partner based on present information - not what an other person did or said to you in the past.  

    Always talk out your feelings and problems.  Don't hold things to yourself.  Share your happiness and share disappointments with one another.  Be nice to one another and don't make fun of one another's feelings.  Be sweet and talk sweet to one another.  Talking in a gruff manner gets you nowhere very fast!

    It is a good idea for you to tape yourself a number of times when you are talking around the house/apartment with your spouse.  Possibly turn the tape on before dinner and let it run! (Most likely you will forget the tape is on and that's when the taping is most beneficial!) Have you developed a habit of speaking in a soft spoken voice or are your responses to people spoken with a harsh and gruff tone of voice?  You can't tell unless you hear yourself.  Discuss with your spouse and set up a tape recorder and listen!  One can always improve their tone and manner of speaking to their spouse, family and friends.  

   
Have you ever noticed how slowly, soft and sweet.... people talk to newborns and very young children?    Have you ever noticed how we tend to also talk slowly, soft and sweet to those who are quite elderly?    I realize this is a dream thought....but what a wonderful world if everyone talked in a loving manner to one another.    In reality and everyday living - of course - we can't always talk in a sweet manner......but we can and most importantly.........we certainly should try!

     All these suggestions may sound like a difficult balance to accomplish - but making the effort to be nice to one another isn't hard to do.  The result of finding ways to keep your marriage healthy is worth the effort.  It's not always fun and easy working at building a marriage....but a sincere effort in building a marriage has many rewards and certainly....is a lot easier than going through a divorce and living alone!

    Couples slowly grow apart...and neither spouse realizes what is happening until it is  too late.  Celebrate each and every anniversary.  Make each anniversary as special as it should be!  Every so often celebrate a monthly anniversary!  Each of you can make the other feel like you are always on your honeymoon when you are unselfish and show thoughtfulness, appreciation and love.     Show appreciation to each other.   You must never stop making your spouse feel special.


    18.  You Make the Difference: 
Often women must teach the man "how to do this and how to do that" in a marriage.  It is not only the man that must constantly find ways to please the woman.

    A man will surely please his wife if he tries to be a gentleman. What is a gentleman?  Webster's Dictionary states a gentleman is a man of refined manners; a man of good feeling and instincts, courteous and honorable.  What woman wouldn't be pleased and proud if she were with a man who displayed fine manners and was also courteous and honorable.

    I question why some men feel that it isn't necessary to continuously try to please a woman after they are married.      I don't understand how partners can even think of taking the other for granted.  I believe men must never stop opening doors for women.  For that matter - Let's step in to the 21st century and state -  men and women must never stop
opening doors for their partner!

    When couples start dating - good manners are most often displayed and couples take turns opening doors for each other.   One young woman mentioned to the writer that she still feels good when her husband opens a door for her. The problem is he doesn't open the door nearly as often as he did before we were married.  Opening a door is only one example of good manners.  Good manners is also talking nicely to your spouse.  Good manners is being willing to quietly discuss a problem that causes an argument. Good manners is also saying thank you and offering to be helpful.  Good manners is talking nicely to your partner when you get home from work ....even though you might have had a terrible day. 

     When a man talks bad to his partner and uses the excuse that he had a rough day at work.. - most likely it is because this  man probably has an abusive personality and certainly isn't a gentleman! A gentleman is a man who comes home from work after a real tough day...gives his partner a kiss and hug...and then states, "I had a real rough day at work and need to be by myself for a little while...do you mind?"  This man has displayed good feeling and instincts....and is truly a gentleman... as previously stated in the definition of the word gentleman. 

       A man who at least tries to be a gentleman.... will please his wife and will make the difference in his marriage!

     Lots of touching and holding is what everyone needs! Newborn babies thrive when touched and held.  Most all newlyweds are always holding hands and walk with their arms wrapped around each other.  Don't let "the desire" to touch and hold on to one another leave your relationship.  Cherish the feeling of touching and holding on to one another.  Make the feeling everlasting and you will make a difference in your marriage!

    Following are a few ideas on how you can make a difference in your marriage. Most of the ideas stated are centered around the husband but there is no reason why the wife can't instigate all or most of the following suggestions!   All marriages are partnerships and each partner must take an active role.

    a. Once in awhile, light a few candles around the house, open a bottle of wine and offer a body massage to your partner! 

    b. Often, while your partner is cooking or folding laundry, massage your partner's shoulders. 

    c. Give   a lingering hug or a fun and very gentle pinch somewhere to make your partner smile - even when your partner is cooking or doing  laundry. 


    d. Every so often, ask grandparents to take the children on an overnight to their house.  Once in a while make the arrangements with grandparents as a surprise for your spouse.  Go out to dinner or to a movie...or do both!  You may want to just go to a movie and later surprise your spouse with light munchies at home, complete with a colorful table cloth, wine, cheese, a few grapes and crackers. (Of course, you prepared the light munchies earlier.)  Light an assortment of candles and place them on tables nearby. (Of course, you had all the  candles ready in a box in a corner or under the coffee table.) After you have completely set the mood!  Close all lights and enjoy a romantic evening!   Have your favorite music playing -  better yet, have "her" favorite music playing.  Relax, and just talk.  Open the curtains so you can see the stars, whisper in her ear and ask your partner if she'd like to dance! 
 
    e  On your way home from work purchase a box of fresh strawberries, and a tall can of "whipped cream".  After you both finish dinner and clean up the kitchen, ask your spouse/partner to go relax....maybe have a soothing oil bath ready for your spouse.  Tell your spouse you need 15 minutes because you have some surprises in mind.  (Don't give in....keep what's coming a surprise.)  Place the strawberries on a tray and pour some chocolate syrup over the strawberries! Prance out in front of your spouse/partner in a fun, flirtatious sort of manner. Of course, your spouse will ask, "what in the world are you doing?"  Your response should be a fun statement - but in no way a complete answer.  Tease  a little and  your spouse/partner a  chocolate covered delicacy for a start!  The rest is up to you.....
      
     The above examples are just a few ideas. Spouses need to arrange similar types of fun surprises - continuously throughout their marriage.  Your creativity can bring rewards to both of you!   Keep coming up with little fun surprises and you will always keep the sparkle in your  eyes for each other.  Lean on one another and give strength to one another.  Be caring and romantic towards your spouse and you will surely make a difference in your marriage. 

     Often, "private fun occasions" need to be planned.  Most other times, be spontaneous, fun, thoughtful and creative outside of the bedroom as well as inside of the bedroom.  If you've never tried any of the above surprises....
now is the time to start and by doing so....you will make a difference in your marriage!

     19. Goals:    Get it in your mind that a happy marriage is your lifetime goal as well as a lifetime commitment!    A happy marriage doesn't happen all at once.....it grows little by little - day by day.    It continuously grows with each tender moment you share...

     You both are in this relationship because at some marvelous time in your lives - you fell in love with each other.   You heard all the bells ring and all the birds sing!    When you are upset over something your spouse did/said/didn't do, - keep a good and patient sense of humor and do a far off comparison by looking at the situation like this............
 IT'S LIKE A GOOD USED CAR DEAL
-  you bought it....problems and all - because you liked the car!   If you want to make a repair to the car, you openly discuss - without hesitation - what to do about the problem..... and then you took action to repair the problem.  

Keep in mind  you might expect to make a few minor improvements on your car but you need to always  remember the car was "that way" when you bought it!   So - also remember this....basically, both of you were also "that way" for 25 plus or minus years before you fell in love with each other and neither of you are going to be able to change too many things about each other!   A few improvements for the better are always welcome - especially when you know the change will please your partner.   When there is a problem....openly discuss it with your spouse and get it fixed!  If you don't recognize the problem....it can't be fixed!   Discuss and discuss problems - so you can make "that improvement".   Doing something to please your spouse always puts you in a win-win situation! 

    We all establish patterns that become habits.  Right from day one - it is important  to establish a pattern of discussing and planning goals together.  Sharing thoughts and goals is of the utmost importance.   Spouses also need to learn how to identify problem areas early enough so that patterns can be changed.   In business, one talks openly of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly   and yearly goals.  We take courses and listen to tapes on how to utilize various business tools that will help us reach our goals.  We spend hours, weeks and months learning how to reach these business goals.  We learn how to identify what areas to develop and what areas to avoid.  We use colored charts of economic models to evaluate how to approach and how to avoid  problems.

     It is most important that couples also discuss "what can we do to keep our marriage strong?   How can we stay fulfilled?  Are we sharing our thoughts enough?  Are we listening to what our  spouse is trying to tell us?  Or...do we hear what we want to hear?  These are issues that couples need to learn how to identify before they become a problem and it is too late.  Once an issue becomes a problem and the problem becomes too complex, quite often there can be no resolve. 

     In business, discussing goals is ongoing. It is very rare that a husband or a wife will say,  "our goal is that we will stay together through good times and bad times so that we can experience life and grow old together".  Your wedding vows pretty much mean you have set a goal that through good times and bad times you will stick together - so that you can experience life and grow old together!  Your vows, your goals for your marriage and what they mean - should be discussed!  Reminders are absolutely necessary....just like weekly sales meetings are important to motivate workers.
        
     When do you want to start owning your own home?  Will you start with a two-family home where your tenant helps you pay the mortgage?  Do you want to live in an apartment and later move in  to a one family home?  What do each of you have to do to reach these goals?  Discussing these  issues bring you closer because you are sharing your thoughts and opinions.  Show tolerance to each  other while learning and sticking to a budget.  Work out misunderstandings with discussion to resolve.   No one has to be the winner and no one is always right or wrong.   Never ridicule your spouse -  just help and teach each other.  

    Plan on major purchases together.  Study your spending habits to see where and if expenses can be reduced.  Always save "a little  something"  for a rainy day in addition to saving for vacation, holiday and birthday presents, a  new car or home.  Saving just $30 per week for 50 weeks can give you $1,500 for holiday gift  giving or give you enough for a vacation.  Don't worry about keeping up with anyone else.  If you spend more than you bring in - you'll never have enough money for any of your goals.  From the very beginning, be extremely cautious with use of credit cards.  

     20. The right job:  A spouse feels they are in a job that is too demanding.  When this type  of situation occurs, talk together on what changes might be necessary.  Possibly a career  change is the answer.  Possibly going back to school is the answer.  Recognize that happiness within your marriage is much more important than staying in a job that is too demanding  on yourself and your family.  If this career change results in less income.... recognize the situation will be temporary and together you can work through all problems. 

    Are you in a position that you really like?  Is your job keeping you away from your spouse and children?  Are you putting in more than 45-50 hours every week.  Remember.....your spouse and children are far more important than any job!   Most of us need a job to pay our bills  but life is too short to work at a job that hurts a marriage.  When you work too many hours  at the expense of enjoying your spouse and children - something has to give - and it is usually your marriage and/or your health. 

    Possibly your employer doesn't realize that you have to work 50 or more hours every week  to get the job done!  Possibly you need to explore a career change.  Possibly you need to go back to school.  You won't be the first and you won't be the last individual to change jobs  because too many hours are required.  You won't be the first or last to go back for some type of higher education. 

     Throughout life - doors will close and others will open.  Life is too short to always work your life away - especially when you have other choices.  Yes, going back to  school may require some temporary sacrifices.  Keep in mind 2 or 3 years is a short period of  time.  In the long run....changing careers may save and/or improve your marriage and will  make "you" much happier!

     21. Detours:  I consider this section most important.    Both spouses need to learn how to identify issues or situations that can cause either of you to take detours that can lead you away from your marriage vows

When a spouse experiences too many detours in their marriage.....it becomes very difficult to save the marriage.  This means - resolve issues right away - don't let them grow.    How many detours does it take to ruin a marriage....???  It is impossible to say because each situation is different.  Examine whether or not your actions merit a detour in your marriage and learn how to avoid a reason for a detour!

     a. Are we taking a detour from our vows of "to love and to honor" when we swear at each other during an argument? 
Yes, swearing will definitely start a detour in the wrong direction.
Too many can cause an explosion.
 
     b. What about a situation where one spouse feels they always have to do what the other spouse wants......or when their opinion isn't  important? 
Each time one of these situations occurs..... and the spouse feels unimportant, it's like another detour sign comes up and soon the hurt spouse has taken too many detours that lead away from the vow "to love and to honor".

     c. What about going to worship services alone? 
Sometimes a spouse can not go to worship services because of work.  However, a very large detour will pop up every time a spouse goes alone to worship services when the other partner doesn't go to services because of mowing the lawn, painting the pantry, raking the leaves, going to the market, going to a party, or going to a game etc., etc.. 

      As mentioned previously in Topic 16, going to worship services together is one of the few "life preservers" available for helping to keep a marriage together.  When a spouse knows attending worship services together helps a marriage....and this same spouse doesn't try to go with the partner to worship services when ever possible ....that partner is practically begging for a big long detour!

     d.  What about when a spouse makes fun of the other in front of family and friends?  When you give crude or critical type remarks to your spouse - yes, a detour pops up.
When you continue giving these types of abusive remarks to your spouse - detours are enough to set off an explosion in your marriage - that sometimes can not be repaired!

     e. What about letting the wife go alone to PTA meetings? 

If the husband is working...and can't attend once in awhile...not attending doesn't become a problem.  However, a detour pops up each and every time a partner doesn't go to a PTA meeting just because they don't feel like it...or feels my wife/husband can go...so it's not necessary for me to go.

     f. What about when a spouse doesn't recognize they have neglected their partner? 
Each and every time a spouse neglects their partner a detour pops up.  Human nature allows us to make mistakes with no detours to our vows.  However, when we continue neglecting a partner time and time again...most likely we are too selfish and absolutely deserve it - when that detour pops up!

     f. What about when a spouse doesn't want to do a chore and decides to take a nap....or goes out for awhile because that spouse knows if they don't do it...they know their partner will do the chore?  Once in awhile we all get lazy and don't want to do those awful chores.  However, when we constantly avoid doing a chore because we know our partner will do the chore....well, this is clearly a "taking the partner for granted" situation and definitely merits a large detour!

      g.  What about the wife going out with the girls or the husband going out with the guys?  When someone decides to lose weight and they constantly eat too much....that is no good!  If a wife goes out with the girls for a birthday party or other occasion,  it doesn't mean a detour will pop up.  If the wife/husband goes out too often with the girls/guys....and the partner doesn't like being alone that often, yes, a detour can pop up! 

     In many situations partners must speak up and say...."I don't like being alone so much"...or "I feel we aren't spending enough time together"
.  A question that must also be asked is - "Why are you choosing to spend so much time away from me?" Has there been an argument that hasn't been resolved?  Has the spouse been left alone too many times and now feels is is ok to go out with friends? If a partner speaks up and lets the spouse know how they feel and the partner continues to spend too much time away....that big old detour that is lurking behind each corner....is sure to sneak up! These questions should be asked when both partners are relaxed and have time for discussion.

     
 h.  What about when a husband spends a lot of time working out at a gym and as a result is too tired to help the wife with the children?  Of course no detour will pop up when a spouse is too tired!  But, here comes the however again.....if "being too tired to help" because the husband worked out too long is a constant statement- this means the husband is selfish, neglectful and takes the wife for granted.  When this situation occurs, the husband might as well hang a sign out in front of your apartment/house asking for one of those extra large detours to stop by!

    The above examples are only a few of the types of detours that can build up and can take you many miles away from your vows.   Couples who have been married a long time can share with other couples at Group Meetings (see Topic 8) on how to avoid detours - that can lead away from honoring marriage vows. 

    22. Just so many summers:  Try to always remember how you felt on your   wedding day and make a decision to make your marriage work for a lifetime!   Be aware that  time goes by very quickly - so treat each other every day as if you are still on your honeymoon!  One of my favorite phrases is "there are just so many summers".  Make the most of every minute together with your spouse. 

 Raising children brings many extra stressful situations for a couple.   Be patient and be there for your children.   Correct and guide with gentleness.  Remember your children are little people and be patient with them.    Blink your eyes and your children are off to college or living on their own.    Now couples realize they once again have time for one another and are further joined together because they went through so many varied experiences together.   Before you know it - 10 to 20 and 30 years will have gone by.  

    Take time for vacations!  Many of us don't take time off even though we should.  Taking time off is something you need to learn to do.  Vacations can be at home or away on some distant island.  A vacation is a time when you can give more attention to your spouse and children.  A vacation from work can be a long weekend, a week or any length of time available.  A long  weekend vacation can be refreshing and can rekindle a feeling of "oneness" in any relationship and family!

    Be spontaneous with a smile and try to keep a positive point of view.  Keep reminding yourself  that you cherish the love from your spouse.  Don't ever hold anger.  Don't ever embarrass your spouse in public or in private.  Always talk highly of one another and give each other the respect you both deserve.  You need to realize you are a 2-person "team".  Talk in a loving manner and show respect to each other every day.  Keep the words "I love you", "please"  and "thank you" as part of your every day vocabulary.   if you are not easy going......then try to take on a more easy going attitude.   Always share "smiles" with one another.

    Most jobs have a certain amount of stress... so.... before you go home, take a walk  around the block and you will interact with your spouse in a much calmer manner.   Hold hands. 
Hug each other every day!  Lean on each other and touch one another emotionally as well as physically.   

 Most important is to laugh with one another.  

    Make it a priority to clean, cook, cry, love, pray and have fun together.  Good habits and traditions will  keep you together as a happily married couple and...if you have children....good habits will also keep you together as a loving family.   Hopefully, the above articles gave you a better understanding of what you need to do in order to build a happy marriage.

A couple that cooks, cleans, shares, talks, listens, cries, laughs, loves, plays and prays together - will surely "keep the pact" and enjoy a lifetime of happiness.



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