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1. Marriage matters. Married people and their kids do better on all measures of health, wealth, happiness and success. And married folks report having more and better sex than single or divorced people.
2. It's not the differences but how we handle them that separate successful marriages from the failures. Disagreeing doesn't predict divorce. Stonewalling, avoidance, contempt, criticism and the silent treatment predict divorce. Learn how to disagree in ways that help you fall more in love.
3. All happily married couples have approximately 10 irreconcilable differences -- 10 issues they will never resolve. If we switch partners, we just get 10 new issues that are likely to be even more annoying and complicated. Sadly, if there are children from an earlier marriage or relationship, disagreements about them go to the top of the list. What's important is to discuss our own set of issues just as we would discuss how to manage living with a chronic bad back or trick knee. We wish they weren't there, but what's important is to keep talking about how to manage them and still do the marriage "dance."
4. Love is not an absolute (a yes or no situation), and it's not limited to substance. It's a feeling, and feelings ebb and flow, depending on how we treat each other. We can learn new ways to interact and the feelings "of being in love" can come flowing back, often stronger than before.
5. Martial satisfaction often dips with the birth of a baby. That's normal. Marital satisfaction is at its lowest when there are kids in the house between 11 and 16. That's normal. We need to know what to expect, appreciate our parenting partner -- and hang on. It makes good sense to stay married for the sake of the kids -- and for our own sake. Even with challenges, it's a lot easier to be a parenting team than to be a single, divorced or remarried parent. Plus, there is a silver lining: satisfaction goes back up with the empty nest. The final stage of marriage -- a job well done -- is the real honeymoon period.
6. Sex ebbs and flows. It comes and goes. That's normal. Plan and make time for more "flows."
7. Creating good marital sex is not about putting the sizzle BACK INTO your sex life. Early marital sex is sex between strangers -- we don't yet know our partners or ourselves. The passionate sex is intimate sex based on knowing our partner and letting them know us. One of the most important tasks of marriage is to develop a satisfying marital sex style. It's not about going BACK; it's about going FORWARD together.
8. Repair attempts are crucial and are highly predictive of marital happiness. They can be clumsy or funny, even sarcastic, but the willingness to make up after an argument is central to every happy marriage.
9. Learn to welcome, embrace and integrate change -- to discuss and update your wishes, hopes and dreams -- on a regular basis. We often "interview" each other before marriage and then think "that's it." The marriage vow is a promise to stay married, not to stay the same. (Thank goodness!) Keep up-to-date with changes in your partner. Don't fear changes, celebrate them!
10. Try several different marriage education courses. Become informed consumers -- rate the courses, discuss what you liked best, which ideas were most helpful. Decide which courses to recommend to your kids, friends and family, which to give as wedding, anniversary and new baby gifts. The courses don't tell you what kind of marriage to have. That's up to you. They give you the tools -- the hammers, screwdrivers and levels -- so you can build the kind of marriage that suits you, one which can help you negotiate, and renegotiate, your own values meanings and goals.
Find a class here. Strengthen your own marriage and/or learn how to become a Marriage Educator and teach courses in your community.
By Diane Sollee, founder & director, www.SmartMarriages.com(R)