Seven Habits to Building a “WOW” Marriage
By Steve Cesari
Consider this: most people spend more time planning their weddings than they do planning their marriages. And, with as much as we put into planning those weddings, you would think our goal would be doing whatever we can to ensure it lasts; in other words, creating relationships that make people say ‘wow.’
How can you create a WOW marriage? The best way is by focusing on improving yourself. These seven habits will help:
- Exercise a High-Energy Lifestyle. The famous baseball player, Mickey Mantle, said, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” If we do not have our health, we cannot possibly live with the energy and vitality needed to create a successful marriage. A high-energy lifestyle creates the foundation and capability for a strong marriage. When you or your spouse is out of shape, tired, or run-down, it is practically impossible to practice the principles that lead to a great marriage. As a consequence, petty conflicts and neglect clog your marriage’s potential and trigger a vicious cycle of survival-mode thinking and the negative emotions that accompany it. Fortunately, the causes of high energy and powerful immunity are no secret! Become a student of wellness, make better choices, and enjoy the positive ripple effects that spread throughout every aspect of your relationship and family life.
- Create Positive Expectations. You tend to receive not what you consciously want in marriage, but rather what you subconsciously expect. These expectations are expressed day in and day out through your own self-talk, what you say to your spouse, the habits you develop, and the goals and plans you share for the future. As a result, you actually train your spouse to treat you the way they do. Constantly remind your spouse that you believe in them and that the best is yet to come. Prepare yourself as though this magnificent future were guaranteed.
- Make Meaningful Daily Deposits. Just as with exercise, small deposits made on a consistent basis will keep your relationship fresh and exciting. Having goals for your marriage will help in this area. Schedule date nights together, plan vacations, and surprise each other with kind acts or gifts that are not for any specific occasion. Get creative when it comes to your marriage and good things will follow. In what ways could you grow closer by traveling the extra mile for your spouse on a consistent basis? In what ways could you really surprise your spouse in the next 30 days? What types of surprises would you like your spouse to be planning for you?
- Practice Purposeful Communications. Another great tool is what I call quick listening, and can be practiced in both directions. It’s a form of active listening that provides the speaker brief feedback that validates and acknowledges what they are expressing. One of the greatest lessons I have ever learned is that my wife doesn’t want me to fix her problems. Most of the time, she just wants to know that I am listening to her and that I heard what she said. So now I always ask the question: “Do you want me to listen, or do you want me to respond?” I was working with a couple and I asked them about the best marriage advice they ever received, to which they said, “to reflect and respond versus react and reject.”
- Dwell on the Positive Attributes of your Spouse. Whatever we focus on grows and expands in our experience of life. If we frequently remind ourselves, either mentally or verbally, of our spouse’s negative characteristics, these weak qualities will dominate our thinking and create a twisted impression of our spouse. I call this “Stinking Thinking.” On the other hand, if we focus on and emphasize what is awesome about our spouse, we will notice even more positive things. The reality is we all have positive and negative traits, and after we have been together for a while, we tend to focus on the negatives and bypass the positives. To paraphrase a quote, “treat a man or a women as they are and they will remain as they are. Treat a man or a woman as they could be and should be, and they will become what they should be and could be.” On what version of your spouse will you choose to focus?
- Couples that Pray Together, Stay Together. Nothing else comes close to matching the positive influence and power of prayer in marriage. It is the ultimate love language. Through the act of praying with and for our spouse, we gain clarity about ourselves, our thinking, speaking and doing. And, as we begin to experience the peace and presence of God via prayer, we develop a new field of vision, seeing our spouse through God’s eyes instead of our own. God has a magnificent vision and plan for your marriage, and it is incredibly more beautiful and prosperous than anything you could design on your own.
- Learn and Grow Together. When you are better educated, you have a bigger tool box and you are equipped to build a higher quality relationship. There’s an enormous supply of practical resources covering virtually every aspect of marriage. You name it—from communication and conflict resolution to intimacy, romance, and healing, there is an ocean of learning possibilities. You will find books, CDs, DVDs, workshops, seminars, and retreats—all available inexpensively, especially when you consider the big picture.
Continuing your education about love and relationships not only expands your knowledge base, it also keeps your marriage top of mind. Even if you fail to uncover a useful idea, which would be nearly impossible, the very act of seeking relationship insights forces you to stay tuned into and mindful of your spouse. It’s a fabulous tool for staying close as a couple. And, when you’re reading and listening to great relationship ideas, then, by default, you can’t be filling your mind with mediocre inputs.
Remember, the more you learn about marriage, the more you are capable of learning. I encourage you to build a Marriage Wisdom Library and keep it organized all in one spot. It will demonstrate that you have a sincere commitment to excellence in your marriage, and what a great example it sets for your children as well.