Today is my eleventh wedding anniversary.
I thought about sharing a photo from my wedding but decided against it. You’ll all tease me about how young we look! And we were young, but we had one thing going for us–we KNEW we were young, and that we had a lot of growing up to do still. We knew that the only way our marriage would survive was if we grew together instead of apart, and if we sought out the wisdom of wiser, more “seasoned” couples who’d been down the bumpy road of marriage before us. One of our commitments from the beginning has been to put hard work into our relationship, and not let it sail on autopilot. We haven’t always succeeded, but the work we have put into it has paid off.
An article from the New York Times “Well” blog speaks to the work that is required to make a marriage last: “The passion ignited by a new love inevitably cools and must mature into the caring, compassion and companionship that can sustain a long-lasting relationship.” The article goes on to outline familiar but essential suggestions about keeping married love alive. One such step is “’the importance of appreciation’: count your blessings and resist taking a spouse for granted. Routinely remind yourself and your partner of what you appreciate about the person and the marriage.” It sounds so simple, yet I know for me, it can be hard to remember to actually focus on what I appreciate about Dave. These small appreciations add up, however:
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky reports that happily married couples average five positive verbal and emotional expressions toward one another for every negative expression, but “very unhappy couples display ratios of less than one to one.”
To help get your relationship on a happier track, the psychologist suggests keeping a diary of positive and negative events that occur between you and your partner, and striving to increase the ratio of positive to negative.
She suggests asking yourself each morning, “What can I do for five minutes today to make my partner’s life better?” The simplest acts, like sharing an amusing event, smiling, or being playful, can enhance marital happiness.
Any marriage takes work, but there are special challenges when one or both partners in a marriage are clergy. The expectations of your congregation, the need to be available at inconsistent hours, needing to work on Sundays, the pressure to have a “perfect” family… These can add up and place a special burden on clergy families. And yet the building blocks of a healthy marriage are the same: mutual respect, articulated appreciation, shared values and experiences. Whatever challenges you face in your marriage today, may you be blessed “eleven times eleven” in your connection with your spouse!