Spouses join lives together

One of the challenges of marriage is balancing individuality with togetherness. Spouses in a healthy marriage don’t give up their own personality, interests, and opinions when they say “I do.” But joining your lives together means compromise. You can’t always get your own way
Lifelong partners need to:

1. Blend personalities
The goal of marriage is not to become clones of each other but to:
• recognize your similarities and celebrate them
• recognize your differences
• negotiate the troublesome ones
• learn to live with the minor ones
• celebrate the ones that bring variety to your relationship
Check out how your differences blend and where they create tension. Sometimes, you can be too much alike. For example, what if both of you are procrastinators or spendthrifts?

2. Understand how your Family of Origin influences
Each of you brought into your marriage different childhood experiences and different models of marriage. Couples generally have many similarities and some differences in their backgrounds. Sometimes it takes years to understand each other’s values and habits.

3. Nurture your commitment
Commitment is not a “sexy” word or concept but it probably has more to do with making marriages work than anything except common values. It’s not just about reciting marriage vows or having a piece of paper that says “marriage license.” Commitment is important because we act differently when we know that our futures are tied together. You may avoid a prickly conversation if you know the other person will not be around forever. You may move on to another love if your current one has a debilitating accident or simply starts to rub you the wrong way. Commitment means you’ve promised to stay and work it through, not just today but forever.

4. Build on common values
If you are not together on basic values like wanting children, honesty, fidelity to your spouse, and putting family before work, then no amount of learning or effort can resolve the conflict. If one spouse believes that having children is important and the other does not, no amount of talking and waiting will help.

5. Enhance communication skills
You’ve probably heard that good communication makes for a good marriage. How to negotiate conflict, how to be a good listener, how to share openly- these are all topics frequently covered in magazines, on web sites, and in programs that prepare couples for marriage. You never know what issues will come up in marriage. Being able to discuss them is crucial. This requires preparation, maybe even some rules between the two of you.

6. Learn to negotiate conflicts
Conflict resolution is really a subset of communication but for most couples communication does not become problematic until there is a disagreement. Even though conflict may be rooted in poor listening skills, lack of affirmation, or clumsy expression of feelings, it deserves special attention because this is where couples most hurt.

7. Draw upon your faith and spirituality
Many people think of spirituality as something connected to organized religion. Certainly that is one path to spirituality. Some people also consider being spiritual to be the opposite of being physical. If it has to do with the body it doesn’t have to do with spirituality. Actually, spirituality touches the lives of those who go to religious services and those who don’t. It touches our physical selves as well as our souls.

For more information go to foryourmarriage.org.
For information about Marriage Encounter, go to the Family Life office at cdowk.org