“Marriage is the graduate school of forgiveness.” – Dr. Dave Stoop, Psychologist
I was struck the day I heard this quote and haven’t been able to forget it. It implies that your ability to love will be stretched so far in marriage, that you’ll become an expert in forgiveness, on both minor and major issues. The dictionary definition of forgiveness is, “To give up resentment against or the desire to punish; to cancel or remit a debt.” Loving your spouse when they’re “behaving” is easy, right? What about when he/she is acting quite unlovable?
Ask any couple who’s been married a long time, and they will tell you marriage is a journey. Sometime s the road is flat, sometimes there’s a steep incline, and other times it’s a downhill ride. Below are some do’s and don’ts to help you along the way.
In the bad times, it’s helpful to remember:
- Do remember that your spouse is not the enemy
- Do remember you guys are a team
- Do stick with the topic at hand/don’t bring up old issues
- Don’t use insults
- Do listen more than you speak
- Do ask yourself: “Would I speak this way to a friend?”
- Don’t neglect your physical health—if you’re not sleeping well or have uncontrolled conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes, all of these can impact how you feel. It’s hard to enjoy your partner if you’re not feeling well physically or not feeling good about yourself.
Enjoy the good times by:
- Do stay in the present moment
- Do keep it fresh- do the things you used to do when you were dating. Try a new activity together.
- Do allow yourself to remember and appreciate the qualities in your spouse which initially drew you to him/her
- Do share your dreams for the future
- Do protect these times from conflict
- Do learn something new about each other. Have you ever noticed that the best interviewers/journalists ask the best questions? It’s possible for you to learn something new about your mate even if you’ve been under the same roof for decades.
Lastly, reflecting on your identity as a couple – how are you better as a result of being together, awareness of how you’ve dealt with past challenges as a team, and having shared dreams and vision for the future- all help to keep the bonds of marriage strong.
What has helped your marriage weather the good times and the bad?
Elicia McIntyre, a licensed clinical social worker, and graduate of Smith College School for Social Work, has 15 years’ experience providing counseling to adults, children and families in the Baltimore-Washington metro area. She has helped clients navigate life transitions, depression, anxiety and relationship difficulties. She has spent the past 3 years traveling nationally and overseas, providing education and intervention to military service members and their families.
This article is intended for general education purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional counseling or medical care. If you are interested in seeking professional counseling, please call The Stone Foundation at 410-296-2004.