With all of the things that could possibly go wrong in a new marriage, it’s a wonder any of us make it to our 5th anniversary, let alone our 25th! With so many things to overcome, adjust to, and sort out, a newly married couple can often find themselves snarling more than they smile and snapping more than they snuggle.
First of all, if you’re reading this and you are not only in a new marriage, but recognize yourself in the description above, rest assured, you are normal. Actually, if you are finding yourselves with issues, it’s a good sign, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. Don’t get discouraged and, whatever you do, don’t even think about giving up. Anything worth having is worth fighting for – and if your relationship wasn’t worth fighting for, you wouldn’t have gotten into it in the first place.
Building a Strong Relationship
A strong relationship can overcome anything – and that’s what you are actually doing right now, building a strong relationship.
Think about your body. How do you build stronger muscles? You work them!
Couples who never seem to argue or “iron out” disagreements are what I call “wolf and sheep couples.” Why? Because one of them is a sheep and the other’s a wolf. The sheep doesn’t have enough backbone or spirit to stand up for what they want – so they just sheepishly give in to what the other wants. The wolf sits pretty for a while, until he or she wants more from a relationship than a sheep across the table! You see, a sheep is as bad for it as the wolf is for the sheep.
A healthy couple, one that stands a great chance at seeing their 25th, 50th, and 75th wedding anniversary, is the couple that challenges one another. It’s the couple with two individuals who think for themselves and stand up for what they want. It’s the couple where neither one wants to dominate the relationship or the other person.
Earlier, I told you that if you were in the “arguing phase” of a new marriage or relationship, that it was actually a good thing. Here are a few reasons:
- You aren’t a wolf and sheep couple! You are two people with your backbones intact. When you butt heads, you may not think of this as such a great thing, but it actually is. If you’re working on key issues in your relationship, you are working on building your relationship. Think again of muscles, they have to be challenged to gain strength. Just don’t wear them out! Choose your battles with the utmost of care. Don’t nitpick or become overly critical. You will be tuned out and it will be a habit the other person maintains for years and years.
- Many times, arguing is a sign that both individuals want to work on the relationship. It’s easy to walk away and it’s even easier to hang up on someone. It takes guts to stay and talk it out. If one of you tends to walk away or hang up consistently, don’t immediately think that the relationship isn’t important to this person. While that may be the case, they may also simply be afraid of confrontation. Maybe something in their childhood has caused them to be afraid of yelling or arguing. It’s something you should talk about – patiently and compassionately.
- You can’t fix it if you know it isn’t broken. Many people will keep biting their tongue for years about something the other person does that irritates them – only to blow up way out of proportion down the road. Many times, these huge blow ups are harder to bounce back from than the small ones. It’s good for a relationship when both individuals are honest about their feelings right off the bat.
Building a Strong Relationship With Your In Laws
One of the things new couples fight about the most is the other person’s family. Unless his/her family members have done something hurtful or wrong to you, don’t rock the boat. Realize this: They are now your family too – like it or not. You must find a way to get along with them, not only for your loved one’s sake and not only for the family’s sake. You have to work on getting along with them for your sake as well. If you don’t, you’ll only be inviting the tug of war fights where you say things about their family, then they say things about your’s.
Keep in mind that your loved one doesn’t have a remote control that he or she uses to operate their family or friends. He or she doesn’t control their every move or word and shouldn’t be held responsible for them. Do not blame them for the so-called sins of others! IF someone has done something wrong to you, I think your loved one should stand up for you, BUT make sure it’s honestly worth the trouble and forgive immediately when called upon.
If their family has done nothing to you, and you simply want them to turn their back on them, you need to take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, “When did I become so selfish?” Love doesn’t wish harm, loss, or hurtfulness for the other person.
Approach your in laws with as much friendliness and kindness as you possibly can. Go out of your way to be friendly. Ask your loved one about them, remind him/her to call them, have them over for dinner, etc. These relationships are vital to your marriage – absolutely vital. If you want to strengthen your marriage, you must strengthen all of the relationships that touch it.
House Rules for Disagreements
Okay, you know as well as I do that arguments and disagreements are going to happen (you don’t look like a sheep from where I’m sitting). As you’re building your relationship, I want you to implement something called your own personal House Rules. Write them down or print them out. Better yet, memorize them and let them keep you honest.
- Absolutely, positively no name calling. We aren’t in kindergarten. When someone calls names, they look worse than the person they’re talking about.
- You know the saying, no one likes a smart ass? Well, not only do they dislike them, they don’t listen to or respect them either. Unless your goal is to be disliked, disrespected, and ignored, keep the sarcastic tongue bitten and let the more mature, reasonable one have it’s way.
- Do. Not. Touch. The. Other. Person. When. Angry. Don’t do it! Don’t throw things, don’t hit walls, don’t even pound a table. All any of this says is, “I’m out of control! Don’t listen to me, I’m a raving, rabid idiot!” [ I don’t want to get off of the main road I’m on here, but as a mother of three daughters I’m afraid I have to for a minute. If you’re in an abusive relationship, get out of it. If the other person loves you, they will get help. If they don’t – they won’t. Why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t love you?!! Of course, the abuser can be the female. I’ve seen enough angry girls to know that. My advise is the same. Do not allow yourself to live under the same roof with someone who hits you, kicks you, shakes you, smacks you, bites you, or throws things at you. Each time you allow it to happen without leaving, you further impress upon them that it’s okay. If you leave and they get the help they need, THEN go back if that’s what you want and if they’re who you want. ]
- Don’t nitpick! If you harp on and criticize everything the other person does, make no mistake about it – you will be tuned out. Mentally, they’ll cause your every word to become blah blah blah blah and nar nar nar nar. So what if he makes a certain clicking noise when he eats, so what if she drinks more pop than you think she should, so what if he leaves his socks on the floor, so what if she uses your razor. Certain things can be, and should be overlooked. If you put the other person under a magnifying glass all day long, they’ll start avoiding you. They’ll find solitary in another room or even house – someplace where they can let down their hair and be themselves.
- Try very hard not to yell. Granted, sometimes you have to yell to be heard, over the other person’s yelling. Ideally, the thing to do is to both agree to keep your voices down – especially if you have children, pets, or nearby neighbors. Set a House Rule to keep your voices down. Children and pets are frightened when they hear loud yelling. Don’t subject them to it if you can keep from it at all. Also, if children hear yelling often enough – you’re simply going to raise a screamer. And that’s not something you want, right?
- Leave people out of the discussion who aren’t involved in the issue at hand. For example, if you’re arguing over which movie you want to see (don’t couples argue over the silliest things?!), don’t bring up the time his mother scowled at you. Also, don’t bring up past arguments or issues – like the time she called your best friend fat. All this does is illustrate that you don’t have enough facts to back you up. You’re having to go fishing in the past.
- Speaking of the past, leave it there! No one is perfect and that means that every relationship is comprised of two individuals who are going to make mistakes – you included. You want your mistakes to be forgiven and forgotten. The other person deserves the same.
- Let the other person talk! This is such a pet peeve, I can’t even tell you. I HATE this scenario: Person A has their say then just as Person B tries to speak, A interrupts. Finally, B says, “Can I talk?!” So A takes a defensive stance (usually with their arms crossed and a condescending expression on their face) and still tries to butt in. When B is finished, A picks up where they were before – it’s obvious they never HEARD anything because they were too busy wanting to talk. Selfish and immature people behave this way.
- Finally, respect the other person and their feelings. I don’t care if you agree with their feelings or thoughts or not. Respect them. Disrespectful people are downright ugly! Respect the other person enough to allow them to have their say and their own beliefs. Just because you are in a relationship with them doesn’t give you the right to control what they think or how they feel.
No one is at their best when they’re angry. When emotions are running at their highest, it’s often best to take a 30 minute time out and then talk about it. These 30 minutes can be used to write down specifically what you want to say. If both people do this, then you can take turns reading them – with the opportunity for brief rebuttals (with the House Rules intact!).
Keep it mature. Keep it clean. Keep it hands off. Keep it as quiet as possible. When you make a concentrated effort to keep your voice down, you keep your anger and emotions down as well.
One final thought that both individuals should remember: Do not try to control anyone else. Take care of yourself and let the other person lead their own life – they don’t need you to do it for them. If they’re doing something harmful to the relationship or to themselves, of course you should say something. But, come on – how often he calls his mom, whether or not she dusts every day, how many Cokes she drinks, where he puts his socks – these aren’t issues.
Be the sort of person you, yourself, would want to be in a relationship with. Every now and then, ask yourself how you’d feel about you if you were the other person. Would you want to be around you? Would you want to talk to you?
Talk about a wake up call!