If your kids are at all like ours, they’d really like to have a lot of things. A trip through Target involves an endless barrage of “can I get this?” and not a day goes by without hearing pleas about something they just can’t live without. But you won’t find the most valuable gift you can give them at any store.
The best gift parents can give their kids is a strong, healthy marriage. We’re not kidding. Not only does a strong marriage improve the daily lives of everyone in your family (including you), but more important, it gives them a model of what to do when they meet that special someone. Our attitudes and expectations of marriage — both good and bad — are formed in childhood, as we watch our own parents interact with each other. If our parents nurtured and genuinely respected each other, we’ll be far more likely to do the same with our spouse. If they lived by clear values, we’ll inherit those standards and outlooks.
What are some of the signs of a strong and healthy marriage?
1. Both practice self-care and personal responsibility
If you don’t take care of your own body, mind, and spirit, you’re less able to nurture your relationship and more likely to resent it. This includes how you eat, when you exercise, making sleep a priority, and taking measures to strengthen your mental and spiritual health. Without bringing the best version of you of to the relationship table, the outcome will most definitely be less than ideal. So please, first start with you. You are so worth the investment, as is your relationship.
Own only what you think and do, and let your partner do the same. Sometimes we spend our energy on the “of only” and the “why aren’t they” instead of owning our own thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviors. We can really only manage ourselves, and the sooner we begin to focus on what we can control (and that doesn’t include our spouse) the better chance we’ll have at experiencing personal fulfillment.
2. They put the marriage first
If your relationship takes a back seat to your job, your hobbies, your kids, your family, your friends, or anything else, it’s not likely to be full of magical moments. Marriage takes the kind of investment you gave early on. Creating opportunities for fun, trying new activities, and encouraging new sights is a way to keep freshness in the marriage. Steadiness of the “usual” place is great, but mix it in with something new.
3. Both follow the Golden Rule
Are you speaking to (and about) your spouse as you wish they would do to (and about) you? How we speak about those we love will most definitely impact the level of intimacy and enjoyment we feel when we are with them.
4. They help each other grow
We all need people in our corner at the end of a long day and in a world where opinions abound and offenses ran rampant and there’s nothing quite like hearing, “I got you,” “I believe in you,” and “you can do it” from the person closest to you. Again, we can’t control what they say to us – but we certainly can bring encouragement to our spouse. It’s desperately needed these days!
Do you spend more time calling out the best in them or telling them what they do wrong? Taking time to notice the little things – and the big things, and being intentional about verbalizing those things, are like fresh water to soul. How often do we call out those traits we fell in love with them for? When was the las time you said, “I love so much that you are…” Try it today.
5. Both practice gratitude
Over time, we tend to lose the act of gratitude, curiosity, and forgiveness, and they get replaced with expectations, judgment, and resentment. Without curiosity and forgiveness, the emotional safety of the relationship can’t be present, and this is a breeding ground for stale or even contemptuous communication… quite the opposite of what we really want.
Whether your children are just reaching the age when they feel that spark you remember so well, or whether they’re giving serious thought to starting a family with someone, they’re viewing that person through the lens your own marriage created and using you as a model. If you’re afraid they’re not seeing what they should, perhaps it’s time to have a conversation with one of our professional counselors about what you can do to make your marriage healthier and more satisfying. Why not reach out to us today?