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In the history of mankind, there has been only one perfect marriage and that was between Adam and Eve. Eve didn’t have to constantly hear from Adam how great a cook his Mom was, and Adam didn’t have to constantly hear from Eve who else she could have married.
On June 10 this year, my wife and I celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary. Having been married for so long and having observed closely how other married couples treat each other, I have learned a lot about the secrets of a good marriage. I am sharing them with couples young and old who have decided to embark on this joyful journey.
One thing I figured out a long time ago, even before I got married, is that I cannot change a person. The only person I can ever change is myself. Therefore, I focused more on learning how husbands treat their wives, rather than on how wives treat their husbands. Some husbands taught me how to treat a wife, while others taught me how not to treat a wife. That probably has been one of the reasons that our marriage has lasted as long as it has.
The other factor is my good fortune to be married to a wonderful woman with excellent character traits (samskaras).
Marriage Is Hard Work
To paraphrase Thomas Edison, “Marriage is one percent inspiration; ninety nine percent perspiration” Obviously, I am exaggerating, but only to make a point. And to use Arnold Schwarzenegger’s colorful language, I would tell every man about to get married, “Marriage is not for girlie men!”
The three rules of marriage are: commitment, commitment, and commitment. This is very similar to the three rules of the real estate business: location, location, and location. There is an old saying, “where there is a will, there is a way.” If you are committed to have a good marriage, you will find a way to make it happen, despite all the hurdles, obstacles, and rough spots that may come your way.
By commitment, I don’t mean just involvement. If you want to understand the difference between involvement and commitment, just think of an egg-and-ham breakfast: The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed.
Marriage Is A Team Effort
Marriage relies on cooperation rather than confrontation. As has been said, TEAM stands for “Together Everyone Achieves More” Most human problems arise because of power struggles in which one person tries to dominate the other. A team effort will address this issue for the benefit of all the parties involved.
Shoot for excellence, but not perfection, ”I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for. Perfection is God’s business,” says the actor Michael J. Fox.
Room For Improvement
No matter how great your marriage is, there is always room for improvement. As has been said, ”The biggest room in the universe is the room for improvement.”
No Gender Politics
In every marriage, there is always gender politics. For instance, in some families and cultures, they teach boys to dominate their wives. Then there are other families and cultures, in which they teach girls to dominate their husbands.
I, personally, disagree with both approaches. The best marriages are those in which the husband and the wife are each other’s best friends. These are the marriages where the couples compensate for each other’s shortcomings and reinforce each other’s strengths in such a way that there is a synergistic effect and the two of them together are stronger than if the two of them were separate. I have a favorite quotation that makes the point more eloquently than I can. It goes as follows:
“A woman was made from the rib of a man. She was not created from his head to top him nor from his feet to be stepped upon. She was made from his side to be equal to him. From beneath his arm to be protected by him. Near his heart to be loved by him.”
Everyone knows that lack of communication has a potential to create humongous problems in human interactions, in general, and marital affairs, in particular. But not too many people realize that over-communication too can engender problems. It creates the “familiarity breeds contempt” syndrome, which is counterproductive. Also, the quality of communication tends to decline with an increased quantity of communication. Therefore, there has to be an optimum level of communication, to be arrived at by each married couple.
Resolve Differences Rationally and Amicably
This requires a great deal of understanding, compassion, and sensitivity. The idea is to minimize fights as much as possible. The best way to do that is to learn to choose one’s battles and to refrain from nagging the other person. If one makes a habit of making a mountain out of a molehill, then that’s the recipe for marital conflicts. I know some people who relish picking fights. Those people would be better off staying single.
Convergence Of Goals
Married couples must have shared vision, mission, and goals. It’s very common for two people to have different values, mores, ethics, and morals if they were brought up in two different families. If these two people decide to get married, they must negotiate with each other at an early stage and come up with common goals so as to minimize conflicts arising in the future.
Prudent Management Of Money
How money should be managed is a very common source of conflict, however, if there has been an adequate negotiation on the part of the couple with respect to their vision, mission, and goals, as mentioned previously, this issue can be manageable.
Sensitive Handling Of In-Laws
Numerous marital conflicts arise due to mishandling of in-laws. Following the “Golden Rule” may be the best approach. Treat in-laws as you would like to be treated by them. Obviously, nobody can be emotionally as close to one’s in-laws as one would be to one’s blood relatives, but that’s no reason to treat in-laws as outlaws.