Going through life with a spouse that we love is one of the greatest
satisfactions in life. A small percentage of us have a natural gift for it --
the rest of us have to learn it.
So how is it done? How we keep a marriage alive and healthy for thirty,
forty, fifty years? I figured that the best way to find out is to ask those
who've done it.
Upon interviewing a number of couples in long-lasting loving relationships, I
found they all have a common denominator -- unconditional love and acceptance of
one's partner in life, the way he or she is.
One of the elderly gentleman I spoke with put it like this way: "I say to my
wife, 'There is nothing in the world you can do to stop me from loving you, so
don't even bother trying - you are wasting your time.'"
"If we are angry with each other," this husband also said, "we apologize and
make up quickly. Since we are going to live together anyway for the rest of our
lives, why not make the journey a pleasant one?"
That's another skill these couples seemed to have acquired -- the ability to
promptly address and deal with the disagreements and grievances that arise
between them. Most of us tend to brush small problems under the carpet, hoping
that by not facing or dealing with them, they will automatically disappear. In
most cases this is not so. Imagine that you're traveling on a freeway, and come
to a fork in the road. If you take the wrong lane, you may end up many miles
away from where you were meant to be. In the same way, complex relationship
problems within families can often be traced back to some minor
misunderstanding. The earlier we realize our mistake, the easier it is to
Another elderly couple told me: "We don't wait for our relationship to go
sour and then find a solution. Instead, we are pro-active, reading books and
attending workshops and lectures on relationship enhancement, and constantly
thinking of things we can say and do for each other to make him or her feel
The rule, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" does not apply to relationships.
By constantly learning and improving our relationship skills, by doing small
acts of goodness and kindness for our spouse, we can continually improve the
relationship. Because a relationship that is not improving on a regular basis is
When I gave this advice to a couple during counseling, the husband phoned me
the following day asking, "How can I do small acts of goodness and kindness for
my wife when I'm angry with her?"
To which I responded, "The fact that you don't feel like doing so is itself a
sign of how necessary it is for your relationship for you to immediately begin
doing acts of love and kindness for your spouse. The more you do, the more you
will feel like doing."
Try it -- it works!