Being married is not something to take lightly.
People have many ideas as to what makes a marriage work. What works depends on if you want to give your marriage everything you’ve got, or throw in the towel when things get difficult.
It’s hard to know or say what exact characteristics make a marriage better or last forever. There are so many elements, ranging from how you were raised to how you deal with difficult circumstances.
We are all prone to make mistakes, which is why it’s good to know what defines a healthy and strong relationship—because you and your spouse WILL make mistakes and struggles—but it’s with grace that your mistakes can be turned into victories.
Over the past ten years, my husband and I began to realize that there are positive characteristics to our marriage now, that were never there before; like how we resolve arguments and so on. It’s these elements our marriage has grown into something beautiful.
Had we never stuck with it through the ups and downs, we would have never gotten to where we are now—a strong marriage, filled with love and understanding for one another. It’s definitely not perfect, but I have never felt like perfection should be an element to a healthy marriage, anyway.
Our marriage has been through a lot—circumstances that most couples wouldn’t persevere through. But the fact that we did, proves not only that it’s possible, but even the most difficult circumstances don’t have to end your marriage.
Here is our definition of what a strong and healthy marriage looks like.
The Characteristics of a Strong Marriage
The reason I name grace as the number one element to a strong marriage is because, in marriage, you will hurt one another in more ways than you can count. From grace flows all of the beautiful characteristics of love…
Patience, kindness, forgiveness, perseverance.
Grace is forgiveness, at it’s best.
It’s with grace that we can allow our husband or wife to make mistakes, knowing we are also capable of making mistakes.
The perfect example of grace that I draw from is Jesus. We have unmerited, undeserved favor freely given to us on a daily basis—and it’s all because of Christ, so why not extend this beautiful grace to our spouse?
If your husband or wife has hurt you immeasurably, it can hinder the grace lens you might have been looking through, and learning to forgive them can be daunting. Mistrust begins to set in and you don’t know why or how your marriage turned from contentment to resentment.
This is why grace is the most important element. With grace you can forgive, trust once again, and love your spouse the way that God loves you—unconditionally.
Intimacy is a FRAGILE thing. To open up to someone sexually is one of the most vulnerable things you will ever do. It’s no wonder that marriages are brought to ruin because of a lack of good and meaningful sex.
Good sex is defined by the fact that both parties involved are being equally satisfied. Sex is not to selfishly fulfill one partners desires—it’s a mutual bond that takes years to master.
Seriously, the older my husband and I get, the longer we are married, the better the sex. This is because sex should always be evolving with your marriage.
If you would rather be watching or reading about other people’s romance, then it probably means that yours needs to be reevaluated.
My husband is my best friend. We do everything together, but also respect one another’s need for alone time.
This hasn’t always been the case. The reason I mention that is because I truly believe that this element takes time and intentionality.
Think about your girl friend or guy friend that you’ve had throughout your life. Were you best friends from day one, or did it take time and a give and take mentality that brought you to finally say, “You’re my best friend?”
Living a lifetime with your spouse who is also your best friend, is a beautiful thing.
I am not one to cover up the fact that our marriage is FULL of unhealthy communication. If you’ve read some of my other posts, you would know that. But we are working at it. It’s our area of particular struggle and we are realizing that the healthier our communication, the better our marriage.
Healthy communication comes easy to some couples, but others are daunted by it. Resolving conflict isn’t something people really learn about before begin a relationship—sometimes, you have to be thrown into the deep end before you learn how to swim.
But if your marriage is going to get stronger, learning to communicate healthily is one of the most important defining factors of a healthy marriage.
Arguments can be a good thing, given they are done right. Yes, there is a right and wrong way to argue.
Humans are selfish. We just are. When we don’t get our way, we become irritable, angry, resentful. Marriage is difficult because it’s two selfish people living together…forever—things are bound to get heated because of that.
But if you want to stand out from the crowd, it’s with humility that your marriage will begin to shine.
Humility is admitting when you’re wrong. It’s putting the other person first; holding true to the promise you made—for better or worse.
It doesn’t want to be right, or NEED to be right. It’s also the most difficult practice in marriage. Who wants to be last, or give up your right? No one does.
We learn humility when we desire to see our partner happy. For me, I want my husband to be happy, so there are certain things I will give up or sacrifice in order for him to be okay. He also does this for me.
Sometimes we want what we want and when we don’t get it, we throw a fit. But we try, try again.
This is why is all goes back to GRACE.
Trust and Transparency
We’ve all lied at one point in our life. Some lies are big, some are little and white.
Being transparent with one another is an element of a strong marriage that will protect it. When we begin to let in the little lies, they can transform to big lies. Once big lies are apart of your marriage, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to heal and learn to trust again.
It’s better that from the beginning you are transparent about everything, no matter how difficult. It’s not easy to be transparent. That means we have to admit we are human; that we make mistakes.
Another reason why grace is needed here. Forgiveness is a byproduct of that.
Last but not least is team work. Being on the same page is sometimes not something that comes easy. Because you are two different people, coming from two different backgrounds, having team work is sometimes like herding cats.
My husband is amazing at this when it comes to helping me out around the house. He helps me clean, organize—he’s actually better at it than I am.
When I am changing diapers, he is scooping the cat poop. When I am cooking dinner, he is helping our son with homework. We recognize that team work is needed in order for our family to function as a whole.
Doing life together is much better than living with one another, doing life apart.
You can be right next to someone but feel as though they are miles away. It’s just more painful—you still feel their presence, yet you can’t enjoy it. We’ve been there. Maybe you are there, I don’t know.
What I don’t want is for you to read this and think,
I wish I had that. Why can’t I have that?
Wishing something to be different won’t help you and your spouse have a healthy marriage. But you can do something about it. Taking the first step is the hardest part. But take it from a couple who has been down a pretty hard and heavy road. There is hope.