Learning how to make your relationship better doesn’t have to be hard. Here is our small list of big marriage lessons every couple should know.
Winifred M. Reilly (psychotherapist) wrote an article outlining 35 things she learned from 35 years of marriage.
She mentions things like:
- Never start the day nagging and complaining (#2)
- Admit your weaknesses and shortcomings (#9)
- Never discuss divorce when you are PMS-ed (#5)
- Apologize first (#18)
- Ask for what you want and need; don’t assume (#28)
- Don’t just complain, present solutions (#24)
This list is insightful. Enlightening.
But I can narrow it down to four things.
I’ll admit, her list is more of a micro view of her marriage. Mine approaches it from the macro level. There is a difference. Micro implies the small details. Macro deals with the bigger picture. Hence the difference.
Before I jump in to my small list of big marriage lessons, I want to tell you a story. One that will put my points in perspective and give clarity to my ideas.
The Farmer’s Sons
Benjamin Hardy tells the story of a farmer and his two sons. I’ve reworded it a bit but here it is…
The farmer was ready to retire and decided to leave his farm to the youngest son. This infuriated the older son.
When the eldest confronted his father, the old farmer made a request:
I need you to do something for me. We need more cows. Will you go to Smith’ farm and see if he has any cows for sale?
The older son shortly returned and reported, “Mr. Smith has 6 cows for sale.”
The father graciously thanked the older son for his work.
He then turned to the younger son and asked him to do the same. The younger son did as he was asked.
A short while later, he returned and reported to his father:
Mr. Smith has 6 cows for sale. Each cow will cost $2,000 each. If we are thinking about buying more than 6 cows, he said he would be willing to reduce the price to $1800 each. He also said they are getting special jersey cows next week if we aren’t in a hurry, it may be good to wait. However, if we need the cows before then, He could deliver the cows tomorrow.
The father thanked the younger son for his work. He then turned to the older son and said: “That’s why your younger brother is getting the farm.”
With this in mind, let’s use this as a grid to discover a few important marriage lessons.
4 Incredibly Valuable Marriage Lessons That Will Make Your Relationship Better
Success in marriage comes down to understanding things on the macro level. These four keys will help you get a grip on married life, and hopefully lead you to a happy marriage.
Lesson #1: Understanding The Purpose Of Marriage Gives Deeper Meaning To Your Relationship
It’s unfortunate, but many couples do not know why they are married. They just exist in the framework called marriage, but they aren’t really sure why they are together.
It’s not an issue of love. They love each other, but they have never discovered the big picture that addresses the ‘why’ of their relationship.
In our marriage pyramid, trust and purpose make up the foundation (among a few other key things). Knowing there is a reason for your marriage empowers you to work through the small stuff that often derails a relationship.
Simon Sinek popularized this concept with his books, ‘Start With Why‘ and ‘Find Your Why.’ (The images below are Amazon links)
The idea behind both books is we fail when we try to build our business, life, or relationships around ‘how to’ steps. Yet this is where we naturally want to begin.
I get questions from couples regularly wanting to know how to communicate better, how to build trust, how to work through issues. These aren’t bad questions, they are just out of order. Not ‘out of order’ in the sense of being wrong; but out of the proper sequence.
Before you can properly understand what to do and how to do it, you need to know why you need to do it.
The answer to this question isn’t superficial.
For example, a husband responded to my question of why with: So my wife will quit nagging me!
The desire to avoid conflict is not totally wrong (there are times you must face and deal with conflict if it helps your relationship move forward. The problem is, most couples don’t understand what ‘forward’ even means.
They have no sense of purpose to their relationship. Maybe they married out of lust. While sex is obviously an important part of your relationship, it doesn’t define the reason you are together. Or, at least, it shouldn’t.
There is a purpose – reason – for your marriage. We identify eight reasons for marriage that address the issue of ‘why.’
Simon Sinek talks about discovering your why in the video below:
In the story of the farmer’s two sons, his youngest uderstood the idea of purpose. He saw the bigger picture. He knew his father wasn’t just asking a simple question to pass the time. When he asked, Will you go to Smith’ farm and see if he has any cows for sale? it was because he had a purpose in mind.
He even stated it to his sons: We need more cows.
But even that statement has a deeper meaning. Why do they need more cows? What is the purpose of having more cows?
The younger son contemplated the reason behind the assignment. This is why was the one who did the better job.
In marriage, this plays out in a number of ways.
For example, every couple needs to communicate. Do you communicate because you feel obligated, or you want your spouse to stop nagging? Or do you communicate because you desire to experience deep connection with your spouse.
Your answer to the question why sets the tragectory of your marriage.
Lesson #2: Getting The Details Right Makes Things More Meaningful
Not only do we need to undertsand the big picture of why our marriage is important, the details also matter.
In fact, it’s usually the details where things get sideways.
In our story the younger son paid attention to the details. He probed – dug deep – to get the answers he knew his father was looking for. He wasn’t content to come back with the answer, ‘Yep. Mr. Smith has some cows.’
That’s what the older son did. He got the answer to the basic question, but failed to dig deeper.
Because the younger son knew his father had a reason for wanting to know if Mr. Smith had cows for sale, he used that knowledge to get all the details that his father might need to know.
This is important for marriage as well.
It’s not just about knowing your spouses favorite flower. Or remembering what she said she wanted for Valentine’s Day. It goes much deeper than that.
Knowing the details is the difference between ‘getting your wife a gift’ and presenting her with something that touches her heart.Knowing the details is the difference between 'getting your wife a gift' and presenting her with something that touches her heart. Click To Tweet
But it’s not just about gifts. I use the example of gifts because it’s easy to relate to. But it’s deeper than that.
Focusing on the details in your marriage is about discovering your spouse. Knowing them in an intimate way so you can add value to their life – so you can minister to the deepest part of their soul. It’s about knowing them so you can willingly serve them.
This leads me to the next point…
Lesson #3: Going The Extra Mile Makes The Difference
The younger son went the extra mile to find out the details of Mr. Smith’s cattle situation. He was willing to invest a little time to get more information that his father might need.
Going the extra mile is crucial for a healthy relationship.
A successful marriage is built around our willingness to do more and go further than is required. The couples that master this are the ones who thrive in their relationship.
Think about our story:
How much time did it take the younger son to ask a few more questions to get the answers he was looking for? Not much.
The truth is, it doesn’t take a lot of extra time, energy, or effort to go the extra mile. The son was already at Mr. Smith’s farm. All he had to do was ask a few more questions. Those simple questions made a huge difference in his report to his father.A successful marriage is built around our willingness to do more and go further than is required. The couples that master this are the ones who thrive in their relationship. Click To Tweet
The principle of increase and multiplicatoin comes into play here.
I like to refer to this as the ‘seed’ principle. If you sow a single corn seed into the ground, you don’t just get back a another corn kernal. You get a stalk with many heads of corn, which contains many kernals of corn. That’s multiplication.
The same applies to almost every area of life. If you sow something, you get it multiplied back.
Going the extra mile has a multiplying affect. With every step you take going the extra mile, you do not merely add another step toward your marriage success. You make giant leaps.
While doing what is required (necessary) moves you in the right direction, going the extra mile puts you on the fast-track.
Lesson#4: Commitment Is Vital To Your Success And Happiness
We all know commitment is important. Most couples, however, reduce commitment to marital fidelity. It needs to go much deeper than something you don’t do (having an affair).
Commitment is a vital part of successful relationships, whether it’s to your spouse, your partner or your children. Without commitment, you set yourself up for failure.
Commitment means more than simply marital fidelity. Yes, infidelity is a betrayal of trust and can severely damage a relationship. However, the lack of commitment runs much deeper than that. If you are not committed to your marriage or partnership, you can never be happy in it.
You can never feel settled or secure. You’re always going to be waiting for something better to come along or feeling trapped by what you see as less-than-ideal circumstances.
A lack of commitment also leads to dissatisfaction with and boredom with life in general. If you aren’t committed to the people around you or to the life that you’ve created together, then it’s impossible to be truly happy and satisfied. This is because there will always be something missing from your life that should be there but isn’t.
Commitment is more than just words when it comes to being married and being in a long-term relationship. It’s about doing the hard work necessary to make every aspect of your relationship work, from communication to finances and everything in between.
Back to our story:
The younger son was committed to the big purpose of his father. The older son did what he was told. He was committed on a lower level – doing what was required. But he wasn’t committed to the farm. He wasn’t committed to the bigger purpose. The younger son was.
When you understand the reason behind (for) your marriage (see point #1), commitment becomes easier. It’s never without it’s challenges, but it is easier to commit to something when you known the purpose behind it.
When I was young I spent the summer working for a man who was notorious for not communicating. He never explaiined WHAT we were doing or WHY he wanted it done. He only gave instructions for the immediate. In other words, instead of explaining that he needed the barn cleaned out because he had new hay coming the next day, he would only say, ‘Clean the barn.’
Talk about vague. Many times we (I worked with a few other guys) would not do it the way he wanted it done (most of the time because we focused on things we thought mattered without realizing what really mattered).
We worked hard, but our efforts were not always met with approval. Why? He never gave us the big picture. He never told us why he wanted a certain thing done.
Contrast that experience with working with my dad. My father always let me know why we were doing the things we were doing. He was great about explaining the big picture. This helped me help him.
Because I understood what we were trying to accomplish, I could commit to the process.
It’s impossible to commit when you do not undertand the purpose.
There is a purpose for your marriage. It gives your relationshipn meaning.
So it’s your job to discover that purpose so you can work together to create the marriage you desire. One that works. One that is successful.So it's your job to discover that purpose so you can work together to create the marriage you desire. One that works. One that is successful. Click To Tweet
I believe it is every persons mandate to make sure their life as a married couple is fulfilling, healthy, and happy.
Final Thoughts on Marriage Lessons
The word “marriage” comes from the Latin word “maritare,” which means to unite as one. A marriage is not a joining of two lives, but a uniting of two lives into one.
Making your relationship better isn’t as complicated as many people think. In this article we talked about four big marriage lessons vital for every couple to understand.
- 4 Incredibly Valuable Marriage Lessons That Will Make Your Relationship Better
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Healthy Marriage Academy
Our courses will help you build a strong marriage. Each course is designed to meet a specific relationship need.
If you are having serious marriage struggles, we recommend starting with ‘Save the Marriage System‘ by Lee Baucom.