By: Sabrina Peters
A happy marriage requires grace, forgiveness and the constant pursuit of inner peace and contentment.
“Happily ever after” doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a CHOICE. Life is actually a series of continual choices. Some have small repercussions, invisible to the eye, while others are more defined and evident to those around us. Either way, every choice has a consequence, like a pebble in a pond. Each word has a ripple effect that builds others up or tears them down. Each action has an aftermath that draws us closer to our spouse, or creates a chasm that divides.
Ultimately we are ALL given the ability to CHOOSE. To choose our attitude, to choose our spouse, to choose happiness in life. Sadly, we often forget this truth and allow our emotions to dictate the climate of our lives.
Well today I’d love to remind you (and me) that the ball is in your court and the state of your marriage is not up to fate; it’s what you make it, friend. What happens on the inside of you (in your heart, your thoughts and your emotions) has far more influence on the outcome of your life than circumstances ever will. So how can you foster marital satisfaction and contentment? These three simple principles are a good place to start.
1. Have an attitude of gratitude, a heart that forgives and a spirit that pursues joy at all times
Appreciation in a relationship is absolutely vital in nurturing feelings of connectedness and intimacy. It seems like a no-brainer, but couples often forget to vocalise their appreciation. I know I have (many, many times). It’s not deliberate or out of spite. I simply forget that being thankful and expressing thankfulness are two very different things.
There are times in my own marriage where my husband has done something nice, like taken the kids for a few hours while I got my hair done or put away a pile of laundry (without being asked) and I’d think to myself, “Oh, that’s nice, what a good guy,” but I wouldn’t articulate my thoughts, and expected him to read my mind. Well feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. As much as I was grateful for his gesture, it didn’t create closeness and intimacy unless I verbalised my gratefulness.
2. Say thank you more often
Saying “thank you” is superglue in a marriage. I noticed when I would tell my husband I was grateful for his help; he would contribute more around the house. So go ahead and vocalise your gratitude. Be specific. Do it often and cultivate an environment of appreciation. Relationship experts have found that in everyday life, happy couples have 20 positive comments to every negative one. Simple things like a compliment, a thank you, or an affectionate touch will keep the fire alive and burning bright.
3. Forgive over and over again
Another active decision that leads to a happy and healthy marriage is learning how to forgive. My husband and I love each other very much, but no-one has made me cry more than my Mr Right, and vice versa. When you give someone access to all areas of your heart, their words and actions have the potential to pierce its very depths.
At times, marriage will hurt. But with every wound there is an opportunity to restore, to forgive, to show and receive grace. With the inevitability of being disappointed and hurt in marriage comes the reality that you need to learn how to forgive, continually.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean what the other person did is OK; it doesn’t mean condoning or excusing hurtful behaviour. Forgiveness is “the wilful giving up of resentment in the face of another’s considerable injustice”. Forgiveness means letting your partner off the hook so you don’t end up bitter and broken.
They say resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Wow. Hit the nail on the head. The sooner we learn to let go and forgive in marriage, the healthier we will be; mind, body and soul. Forgiveness isn’t a feeling; it’s a conscious decision. Forgiveness isn’t a one-off act; it’s a continual attitude of grace and compassion. Marriage can be a roller-coaster of emotions, but teaches true faithfulness. Feelings are fickle—they come and they go.
Some days you may look at your spouse with a nostalgic twinkle in your eye like you’re 18 again, other days you may look at your partner and think, “Gee, this person is seriously annoying right now.”
It’s OK. Because love is not just a FEELING, it’s a choice—one that needs to be made often. Don’t trust your emotions because they can go up and down like a roller-coaster.
Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean that you don’t have struggles in your marriage…
Stay committed. The true test of whether you really love someone is how you treat them when you don’t necessarily feel “in love” with them. Marriage is consistency. Consistency is not sexy but it is necessary!
Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean that you don’t have struggles in your marriage; it means that you are not going to allow those struggles to destroy your marriage. At the end of the day you can’t control what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond to it and your response literally has the power to change the situation itself.
Happily ever after is not a fairytale. It can be real life if we are willing to live gratefully, forgive freely and pursue inner peace and contentment despite what life (or marriage) throws at us.
Article supplied with thanks to Sabrina Peters.
About the Author: Sabrina is a new generation speaker and author and former youth pastor of nine years. Her passion is Jesus, relationships and sexuality.