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Making marriage work even when life gets in the way

This week my husband and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary and although we tied the knot a little over two decades ago, we’ve been “an item” for much longer than that. Throughout this time, we have built two houses, changed jobs, changed churches, and raised two sons. Was every day easy? Are you kidding?
When we see friend’s marriages end in divorce and couples we love and respect part ways, it hurts. If statistics are any indication, more than half of all marriages in the United States will fail. According to the New York Times bestseller The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, the chance of a first marriage ending in divorce over a 40-year period is 67 percent with second and subsequent marriages ending at an even greater percent.
Why is it that so many marriages end? Generally speaking, life gets in the way. Each spouse becomes so consumed with work, sports, television, hobbies, family activities, etc. that they forget to consider their mate. Too often a good marriage, and a good spouse, is taken for granted and not given the proper nurturing necessary to endure. One of the reasons a marriage dies is that neither spouse recognizes its value until it is too late.
So what makes marriage work? If there was a magic potion available to secure a lasting marriage, it would be in high demand, but unfortunately, there is no easy fix to learning how to communicate and there is no sure-fire way to guarantee success.
Falling in love may have seemed effortless, but keeping a marriage strong will take ongoing work. A search of Amazon.com turns up more than 20,000 books on marriage and marriage therapists remain booked, but there are some simple things to consider
The first thing to consider is that men and women are extremely different; thus husbands and wives are worlds apart on almost every subject imaginable and still, both are responsible for making marriage work. Research continually supports the notion that couples who learn how to communicate, resolve conflict, manage their money, have appropriate expectations of the marriage, and build intimacy are significantly more likely to keep their marriage on track over time.
Understand that no marriage is perfect and that the grass may look greener on the other side, but you still have to mow it. In most cases, people who have jumped the fence will testify that the grass is, in fact, not greener, just different. All marriages experience trials and tough moments.
Although I am certainly no expert on marriage, there are some very simple aspects I have discovered along the way which have strengthened our bond. They include:
• Praying together. There’s a saying: “The family that prays together, stays together,” and while that is not always the case, sharing personal struggles and issues brings couples closer. It has been said that individuals win games, but teamwork wins the championships. Become a team of husband and wife.

• Developing individual hobbies and interests. This one caused me grief in the early years of marriage. I mistakenly assumed that every moment we weren’t at work had to be spent together involved in a mutual activity; however, the past few years I have discovered that I actually enjoy some alone time AND I can also take enjoyment in knowing my husband doing something he enjoys.

• Learn to discuss personality flaws and faults. We all know that people don’t typically change habits so if something your spouse does grates your nerves, let them know. They probably don’t even know they are annoying you. Don’t be afraid to speak up, but on the same token, don’t take it as a personal attack if your spouse brings up your shortcomings.
• Appreciate one another. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and sometimes it feels really good to hear “thank you for being so supportive,” or “you really look nice today.”
• Time spent together. With full-time jobs, kids in sports, church activities, etc., this one is really difficult, but worth the effort. Time together is time during which the complete focus is on each other. That means no TV, no newspaper, no kids.
A marriage, just like any relationship, should always be growing – otherwise it is dead. It takes work and dedication to achieve success with each partner committed to the cause. While a “perfect” marriage may never be achieved, with work, your marriage can be strong in storms and sunshine.