A successful marriage is one of the most wonderful things you can share with another person.
Throughout my career, I’ve emphasized the importance of creating intimate connections with others. The same holds true with your marriage.
Because of this, I have developed 3 keys to my successful marriage that can also help YOU create more fulfilling and authentic relationships with your spouse, family members, or anyone in your life. In turn, you will see that achieving happiness in this sphere of your life will bring you success in all other areas.
The Greatest Source of Joy in My Life
My relationship with my wife, Inga, is the greatest source of joy in my life. I adore her for how much she understands me and what I am about in life:
My purpose, my mission, and my priorities.
Additionally, for her unceasing love, support, humor, and encouragement.
My 3 Keys To Maintaining a Successful Marriage
Partners often drift apart because they never develop the deep sense of connection required to overcome the stumbling blocks that happen in every relationship.
They share a bed…but not a life.
They sit next to each other… but never share their deepest thoughts and feelings with each other. Then one day they wake up to a stranger sleeping beside them.
Good relationships are key to getting what you want from life. But what most people don’t understand is creating and maintaining a successful marriage or relationship takes commitment, time and energy.
Key #1: Express Your Authentic Self
So the first key to stronger, happier, and more fulfilling relationships is committing to being and expressing your authentic self.
And that’s a lot easier said than done.
The truth is that most people put on masks and different personas depending on the people they are with and the situations they find themselves in. They become chameleons in order to be accepted, liked or loved.
Finding the Courage to Voice Your Feelings
In addition to time and energy, it takes courage and the willingness to be vulnerable – to tell the truth about your thoughts, feelings, and desires to maintain a successful marriage.
It takes courage to admit that you feel lost, scared, overwhelmed and discouraged if you are supposed to be the boss at work or the breadwinner at home.
It takes courage to admit you are unhappy or dissatisfied with the relationship, that you are not getting your needs met, or that you are thinking about quitting your job or that you find yourself being attracted to another person.
Revealing Your Flaws is Worth It
Revealing your flaws makes you more appealing to your partner and to others. And taking off all your masks to express the parts of yourself that you’d rather keep hidden is going to naturally bring up feelings of awkwardness and discomfort—even fears of rejection.
But it’ll be worth it because it’ll bring greater authenticity and awareness to your relationships.
I can remember a few years back being frustrated that my wife would often criticize my eating habits – the food I chose to eat, the amounts I was eating, and so on.
I began to feel irritated and resentful of her criticism, but in my commitment to being a positive person, I didn’t bring it up, but inside I was still feeling angry and like I wanted to get away from her when she did this.
Telling the Uncomfortable Truth
As uncomfortable as it was, I told her that I needed her to be less critical and more supportive of me whatever my behavior was, and that I would take responsibility for my body and she should take responsibility for hers.
At that point, she told me that underneath her critical comments were her fear about my health and my longevity. She didn’t want to lose me to a heart attack or an early death.
Her concerns and her fears touched me deeply. As a result, I started eating even more consciously than I had been, and she made a commitment to support me and accept me with less judgment in whatever I was doing.
The Formula For Effective Feedback
Now that I eat better she has become a lot less critical in every area of my life. That uncomfortable conversation of truth-telling helped transform the quality of our relationship.
By the way, a powerful communication tool that we now both use, instead of criticizing the other person, is this formula for effective feedback that helps avoid defensiveness and counterattack.
It goes like this.
"When you ____, I tell myself ____, and then I feel ____, and my request is that you ____."
For example, instead of saying: "I hate it when you criticize my eating, especially in front of other people."
Say this instead: “When you eat bread and butter before dinner and then order dessert, I tell myself that you are going to have a heart attack, and then I feel scared that you are going to die and I will be left alone, and my request is that you eat fewer refined carbohydrates.”
It’s amazing how powerful this tool is for creating conversations that actually bring you closer together rather than creating separation.
Key #2: Quality Time Forms Connections
The second key to my successful marriage is quality time.
You and your partner’s definition of quality time may be different, but you need to constantly set aside time to connect with each other in the best way that works for each of you to continually build upon your relationship.
When I spend quality time with Inga, I give her my full attention with the TV off, and my computer and phone put away. I give her full eye contact and actively listen and respond to what she is saying.
She loves going on long walks together with me or sitting by our pool and having long conversations. When we do this, she feels seen and heard and ultimately deeply connected.
Key #3: Set Goals
The third secret is to set goals.
It’s one of the most powerful of all the Success Principles, and while people use it at work and in their professional life, I notice people rarely use it in the context of achieving healthy intimate relationships.
Believe it or not, goal setting is sexy. Defining what you want and going for it with gusto is very appealing to your partner.
It’s not enough to say that you want to spend more quality time together.
Setting Relationship Goals
As I’ve stated many times, vague goals produce vague results. If you want real results, you have to be specific and state your goal in a way that’s measurable.
You have to state how much or how many, and by when.
For example: “I will take my spouse out for dinner at least once a month and schedule one evening a week to hang out together without any TV or cell phones, so we can spend more time talking and enjoying each other’s company.”
Just like with being yourself, setting relationship goals means probably confronting some long-standing fears and roadblocks.
There is a Solution to Every Obstacle
Maybe setting the goal of spending more quality time with your spouse makes you realize that you’ll need to say “no” to your boss when he asks you to stay late or come in on the weekends.
Or maybe you’ll have to confront your fear of talking about your feelings.
It’s important to remember that there is always a solution to any obstacle — you just have to look for it. Perhaps you can ask your boss if you can come in a couple hours early on one or more of the weekdays so you can make sure you get your evenings and weekends off.
Give Each Year a Focus
Every December, Inga and I take an afternoon or evening and set life goals for the next year.
These include how many vacation days we are going to take, how many evenings we are going to schedule with friends, how many days we are going to spend with our children and grandchildren, how many days we are going to attend a meditation or spiritual retreat, and what quality we are going to focus on for the year—
Such as love, acceptance, authenticity, fun, or courage.
One year we agreed to reread Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements and practice implementing one of the four agreements (be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best),
So that by working on one each quarter, we could master them in one year.
A Successful Marriage Takes Patience
Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into creating more successful and authentic relationships, but I want you to try one of these as your homework assignment.
Whether you’re married, in a relationship, or just want to work on your general relationships overall, I guarantee this will bring more joy into them.
The main marriage tip for you to keep in mind on this journey: Be Patient!
It may take your spouse, partner, family member or friend time to face their own fears or roadblocks before being able to meet you halfway.
If you are committed to being your authentic self, spending quality time with your partner, and setting focused goals, you’ll solve the problem together.
Leave a comment below with one of the relationship goals you and your partner are planning to set for 2017. I’ll follow up with you to make sure you’re staying on track!
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