Seven Rules of Engagement and Marriage

Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. Get plenty of sleep. Wear your seatbelt. Pay your taxes.

These are the lessons we learn from our parents and teachers about how to get by in this world.

Advice about relationships? [crickets]

Yes, the former are important, but beyond our basic physical and financial needs, what is more important than relationships? Relationships give our lives meaning and purpose, and failure to have successful relationships makes success in the other domains of our lives very difficult if not impossible.

The permanent nature of marriage makes that relationship all the more important. I’ve struggled as much as the next gal when it comes to relationships but I have learned a lot in the meantime. This is what I’ve learned so far about the ingredients for a successful marriage:

  1. There is no Win-Lose – If you’re fighting to win, you’ll ultimately end up in a Lose-Lose. Aim for a Win-Win instead. Win-Win requires you truly try to understand and accept the other. If you just assume your partner is crazy, immoral or stupid, you’ve headed into the Lose-Lose even if you may feel like you’ve won the battle.
  2. Relationship first – Sometimes the relationship must take a back seat to other priorities like kids or job, but that should be the exception rather than the rule. Also, you should both agree on the rules or circumstances when those exceptions are mutually agreeable and necessary.
  3. Learn to balance needs and boundaries – We all need to have our boundaries – knowing what absolutely will and won’t work for you mental and emotional well-being. However, we also have to be able to step up, be flexible and stretch for what our partner needs.   For example, is that a real boundary, or just an assumption you have not revisited in decades? The conflict in your relationship is natural and necessary. It does not mean that something is wrong. Rather, it is your opportunity to find the path through it and the growth opportunity in it – together.
  4. Don’t keep score – We don’t always see or remember what our partners do for the sake of the relationship, but we tend to remember the sacrifices we make. Therefore, don’t keep score; it just builds resentment. Instead, find new ways you can be a better partner.
  5. It’s not your job to fix someone else – As glorious as you are, you have your own growth to attend to. Focusing on someone else’s mistakes and necessary growth only highlights your own needed development.
  6. If your partner is not happy, you’re not happy – Treat your partner’s happiness, satisfaction and success like it’s as important as your own, because it is.
  7. Remember, you’ve made a promise to be in it for the long haul – If you only had one pair of shoes to last you until you die, how would you treat them? (no offense for the old shoe comparison) You would clean and condition them daily and be vigilant about repairs before irreparable damage occurs. You wouldn’t use them to kick rocks around or play in the mud. Treat your relationship like the precious gem that it is and it will last a long time.

These have been hard-earned lessons for me. What is missing from this list? Share your wisdom.

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