Do you feel at times like your marriage has more threats against it than support? If so, it’s time for you to intentionally build a support structure that protects the unity and happiness of your marriage partnership.
Number 1: Start with ensuring your commitment to each other and your marriage is strong. Re-visit your marriage vows and assess how you are applying them in your lives today. Look at what is going well in your marriage that you want to keep doing. Let each other know each day, “I choose you”. What
else would help you focus on your commitment?
Number 2: The next support structure to build is incorporating marital practices or rituals that strengthen connection and intimacy, according to Dr. William Doherty in Take Back Your Marriage. He says intentional connection rituals are social interactions that are repeated, coordinated, and significant. Actions don’t count in this category if they don’t significantly contribute to your closeness. Is there something in the way you greet one another, stay in communication throughout the day, or do an activity together that is a connection ritual?
The guidelines Dr. Doherty recommends for rituals are as follows: Have a clear transition into the time together and a clear exit. If the activity involves a conversation, avoid logistics talk (who did or will do what, where, when); avoid problem-solving talk; and avoid conflict. Focus on checking in emotionally with one another. (Take Back Your Marriage, pp. 130-133)
Couple practices are often very specific to the two of you. You might always bring a small gift back from trips, make the bed together in the morning, or say prayers each evening with a cup of tea. Think about what would enhance your connection in many ways with one another, and then experiment to discover what works well for you both. Remember that a new practice may initially feel uncomfortable or difficult to integrate into your time together. Be sure you try something out enough times to be certain of your response. Also consider how you are treating your wedding anniversary–do you regard it as a very special event?
Number 3: A third area of focus is building family, friend, and community support. As needed, turn to happily married couples for guidance, or to friends who know and like both of you and will be honest but not destructive. Many marital issues are common ones that others have found solutions for. Make sure when you talk to others that you are sharing the positives in your relationship and not just the negatives. Let them know what types of support you are looking for and when they say something that is not helpful or that undermines your marriage.
Dr. Doherty calls us to begin creating “community-based” marriages. This concept can include:
- Being more open about your marriage
- Asking others about their marriages
- Paying people compliments about their marriages when you see something you like
- Asking a couple who are close friends to be partners with checking in with each other about your marriages
- Attending marriage education and enrichment activities (Also consider studying a book about marriage)
- Working with a mentor couple (Take Back Your Marriage, pp. 167-168)
As you pause and review the health of your marriage, consider who and what can support its well-being. The more intentional you are about taking steps to protect and support your marriage, the greater your chances of having a happy, lasting marriage.