Wouldn’t you agree that marriage is at all times, in every culture, and under the widest circumstances, one of the supreme tests of human character? Psychologist Arnold Glasow remarked, “Marriage is the best method ever devised for becoming acquainted!”
Although it appears that marriage does have a positive effect on health, no marriage is free from problems. I’m reminded of the young bride who said to her mother on her wedding day, “I am the happiest girl in the world because I’ve come to the end of all my troubles!” The wise mother answered, “Yes, dear, you just don’t know which end".
Although each marriage is unique, there are three types of relationships. Which one describes yours?
Marriage partners who operate on the lowest level (the “Self-centered Level”) ask, “How can I get more of what I deserve?” They are self-centered and selfish...always thinking of themselves first. When they do think about others, they think in terms of what that person can do for them...to make them happy. It’s all about “me”.
Middle-level marriage partners (the “That’s not fair! Level”) ask, “How can we set this up so it’s fair? Maybe I can do this for you, then you can do this for me. They insist on fairness. “I washed the dishes last night, so you have to wash them tonight.” When they quarrel you hear, “He did this to me, so I’m really going to show him! I can get back at him by doing this!”
On the other hand, marriage partners who function on the highest level (the “Others-centered level”) ask, “What can I do to help her be happy?” Or, “How can I better understand him? What can I do to make his life easier?” It’s about service without expecting a reward. It’s caring about your companion with a true and selfless love.
For the next few days leading up until Valentine's Day, let's take a look at 6 steps that lead to a happy and prosperous marriage. You'll be surprised what changes you will see occur between you and your spouse when you take these simple yet powerful concepts and apply them to your own life!
Here are Six Essential Steps to Create An Amazing Marriage:
4. Communicate positively
Step 1: Show Kindness in Thought, Word and Action
A study done by three outstanding researchers, Dr. Wesley Burr, Dr. Ivan Buetler and Dr. Thomas Lee concluded that “kindness is the single most important ingredient in a happy home.”
One of my heroes is the sainted Catholic nun, Mother Teresa. She once said, “Spread love wherever you go; first of all in your own home. Give love to your husband, your wife, your children - to your next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness.....kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”
There are four parts of kindness: kind thoughts, kind words, kind tone of voice, and kind actions.
Kindness is the single most important ingredient in a happy home
Since kind thoughts always come before kind words and action, how we think always determines how we act. If we want to become kinder people, the first step is to recognize that unkindness begins in our own minds, not from the circumstances of our lives. We can choose to think good thoughts, no matter what is happening around us.
If we really understood that principle - and applied it in our lives - every single relationship we have would be healthier.
Eleanor Roosevelt understood it. She said, “No one can offend me without my permission.” It’s true - we have the agency to choose whether or not to be angry - jealous - frustrated - with the people and the circumstances in our lives.
When we understand this principle we no longer say, “You MAKE me angry!” Because no one makes us angry. When we have clarity on the principle of choice and accountability we don’t say, “It’s not my fault; I forgot!” We don’t blame others. We don’t blame our parents saying things like, “You know, I’d be a better father if I would have had a better example....” It may be true that your parents could have given you a better pattern for living. But pointing fingers or making excuses is negative and pulls you backwards. Taking responsibility for our thoughts, words and actions means that we choose to be in control of our emotions and of our lives. It’s a healthier way to live and can give you freedom to move forward in your relationships - knowing that you’re in control.
Please keep an eye out for Step 2: Care, the next article in Dr. Paula's series on creating an amazing marriage.
Dr. Paula Fellingham is the Founder and CEO of the Women’s Information Network (WIN), an educational and social network for women, and a global community of women: www.WomensInformationNetwork.com. The WIN hosted the largest gathering of women in history for the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2011: 377 live events in 152 countries.
Paula has given presentations to delegates at the United Nations, for the World Movement of Mothers in Paris, and at numerous other conferences across the world.
As a magazine contributor, Paula has written articles for People Magazine, International Business Times, Boston Globe, ABC 11, Worth Magazine, Family Living, Executive Excellence.
Paula received her Bachelor of Arts in 1971, and her Doctorate in 2004. Dr. Gilbert Fellingham (University Professor of Statistics) and Paula are the parents of 8 children, and the grandparents of 24 grandchildren.
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