1. Prioritize character.
Be with someone who respects you and others and lives with integrity. The novelty of substantial differences will wear off but shared core values are what lay the foundation that will see you through the hard times. It’s hard to be a safety net for someone you don’t respect.
2. What you see is what you get.
While the goal is to navigate personal growth together and to handle the not-so-lovely things about your partner with grace, who you marry is who you marry. Release any expectation of being able to change them and be sure your partner loves you for you, just as you are.
3. Invest in community.
Have a reliable network of friends and family in place that will honestly share their opinions with you during the dating stage, and will offer advice and support within a committed relationship. Vow to listen and trust them – don’t brush off sound advice. Being in love can cloud judgment and a separate set of eyes can help to see things from a different viewpoint.
4. Practice self-awareness.
Learn to see yourself from your partner’s perspective and also turn the tables to put yourself in their shoes. Take responsibility and be accountable for your actions. Admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness.
5. A relationship will not complete you.
Strive for personal wholeness and self-sufficiency on every level both before and after committing to another person. You’ll attract or inspire the same and avoid co-dependency. While focusing on partnership as a team is important, so is maintaining individuality and investing time for yourself within a relationship.
6. Have a plan.
Create a vision for your ideal life; career, relationships, parenting. Clearly define, in writing, your top five non-negotiables in a future spouse. Focus on the positive, but also create an understanding of things you absolutely won’t stand for. What does an ideal marriage look like to you? Have realistic expectations built around common goals. Right thoughts follow right actions – strive for progress over perfection.
7. Set boundaries.
Stick to them. Know your worth. Loneliness is powerfully persuasive and can lead to the allowance of bending the physical and emotional rules you’ve outlined for yourself. Honor your truth and trust your gut, which can be a trustworthy combination of head and heart. If something feels off, explore it, don’t ignore it. Have the guts to walk away from good to hold out for great.
8. Go team!
Be your partner’s number 1 fan and supporter, offering more encouragement than criticism. Build a foundation of friendship and shared interests, prioritizing quality time together to continue to deepen the connection in each other’s lives. What’s important to them should be important to you.
9. Invest in maintenance therapy.
Take preventative measures (both as a couple and individually) and tune up with a professional or other resources as you go instead of waiting until the ruts are deep and things are spiraling downward. The grass will be green where you water it. Sometimes a watering can won’t cut it and you need a sprinkler system, landscaping team, and lots of time spent getting your own hands dirty. I’d argue that working to rebuild a marriage beats potentially building a life alone.
10. Become a master communicator.
Be transparent, vulnerable, and clearly express your feelings and needs. Learn how to fight effectively and understand how to handle recurring arguments. Pick your battles. Forgive quickly. Offer grace.
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