My husband and I had such a stormy courtship that we almost didn’t get married. In fact, the same day that I bought my first wedding dress, we broke off our engagement, and I spent the next 24 hours sobbing on the couch. Unbelievably, after another three years of on-again, off-again long-distance relationship, we finally tied the knot, but I chose a different dress to go down the aisle!
The conflict we experienced while dating gave me a hint that couples don’t just live happily ever after with no effort. Sure enough, eighteen years later real married life isn’t quite as rosy as a fairy tale, but I’m still discovering that living happily ever after is something we choose by taking on the right attitudes.
Two Decisions Make a World of Difference:
Choose to See the Best in Your Mate
Ben Franklin hit the nail on the head when he said, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.” A loving decision to minimize our spouse’s faults helps us to see their virtues. Otherwise, minor faults get blown out of proportion and become a source of constant friction.
For instance, my husband sometimes forgets to empty his pockets before putting pants in the laundry hamper. Later when I take a load of clean clothes out to hang on the line, and it’s full of white shredded Kleenex, I can get so irritated over one small thing that I forget his many qualities: humility, gentleness, helpfulness, faithfulness and diligence. (I also forget how patient he is with the clutter that I leave all over our house!)
Recently I read the following about seeing the positive side of your mate’s weakness: “If you think your spouse is stubborn…exercise grace and choose to see them as persistent and tenacious; loving them becomes much easier. If they’re disorganized, by grace you can choose to see that as a sign that they are spontaneous, or creative…” (Word for Today) What a difference this attitude can make in our marriages!
Focus on Changing Yourself instead of Your Spouse
Coupled with my propensity towards blowing up Jose’s small faults, is an inward wish that he would change. Two people stubbornly holding out and hoping that the other will change is a poor recipe for marital felicity, yet just one person set on being the kindest, most loving and patient spouse possible can transform a marriage.
It’s counter-intuitive, but maybe the best way to see your mate change is to forget all about changing him and focus on changing yourself. I notice that when I make an effort to be more loving or romantic, my husband tends to respond to me in a like manner.
Just the other day my husband was a bit irritable, and I started to confront him. Then I remembered how I’d acted like the Wicked Witch of the West for three days straight the week before, yet he exercised patience with me and didn’t say a thing. His effort to be the best husband he could be influenced me, and I decided to take a deep breath, let it go, and smooth things over.
Last month when I wrote How to Have a Good Fight and Other Marriage Tips, readers responded with great ideas. Do you have any suggestions about choosing to live happily ever after?