Happily Ever After

Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

If you did your homework last month, you have been busy making lists and rediscovering those traits that made you fall in love. You've also been looking inward and considering those traits that make you an attractive partner.

Now that you are focused on the positive, think back to your wedding day. Whether you chose to get married in a church, a courthouse or a chapel in Vegas, by a priest, a notary public or an Elvis impersonator, you entered into a legal contract and a spiritual union. It amazes me how much time and energy people put into selecting the perfect dress, the music, the cake and the flowers while putting little thought into the words they are about to exchange. If you wrote your own vows, you may deserve extra credit. But even so, it's possible that some of the seriousness got lost in the pomp and circumstance.

Nobody plans to fail at marriage. So why then, are so many marriages ending in divorce? My theory is that too many people are saying something they don't mean. While marriage vows are worded slightly different among the world's many cultures and religions, the one common thread is the lifetime commitment. Consider these traditional vows of marriage:

Do you, (Groom/Bride), take (Bride/Groom) to be your (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do you part?

If you answered, "I do," then start doing it. You did not promise to have and to hold as long as your husband has a triple-digit income or a 30-inch waist.

Although certain circumstances may warrant dissolving a marriage, once the "I dos" are said, I believe that the D-word should be banned. So you are mad at your husband. He has done something despicable. Or maybe his annoying habits are just making you crazy. Unless he is abusing you or your children, or participating in illegal activities, do not even think divorce. Never consider it or threaten it. Never utter the word. Granted, other "charming princes" may be waiting in the wings to sweep you off your feet. But don't kid yourself. Going through a divorce is gut-wrenching. The best you can hope for is to trade one set of problems for another. Whether you choose to remain single or to remarry, you WILL have a new set of problems, so why not learn to solve the familiar ones instead? Consider professional counseling, if need be, but don't automatically think that divorce is the answer. Do everything you can to save your marriage. It is worth it.

Sustaining a loving relationship over time can be hard work. But you might be surprised how easy it can be if you nurture it on a daily basis. We'll talk about resolving conflict in a future issue, but for now, let's talk about creating a positive atmosphere in which your marriage can flourish.

If your relationship is relatively intact but you feel like your marriage could be more fulfilling, talk openly with your mate about ways in which you can improve your day-to-day life. Discuss the vows you made on your wedding day. Remind him how much those words meant to you then and what they mean to you now. Consider renewing your vows. You can simply repeat them in private or organize a public renewal among loved ones and friends. (For ideas, see www.idotaketwo.com)

If your marriage is in trouble, improving it might be like cleaning out the garage for the first time in 25 years. It's overwhelming. It takes time. But with determination and practice, you can rekindle the love in your marriage. Do your homework, and get started today.

Whether you are a newlywed or have been married a hundred years, you can make your marriage more joyful. Every morning, when you awaken, let your first thought be: "What can I do to make my mate's life more pleasant?" It can be as simple as making his morning coffee or as complicated as rearranging your day to spend some time with him. Just make some small change that will be meaningful to him. Put a love note in his briefcase. Wear something you know he likes. Offer to run an errand. If that sounds corny and old-fashioned to you, come up with some original ideas that suit your personality and your relationship. At first, he may not notice these gestures of kindness. Resist the urge to point out the favors you are doing him. Over time, he will respond. He may not even realize what he's responding to, but he will feel a difference and you will reap the rewards. Unless your husband is a total zombie or a complete idiot, I guarantee that you will get back ten-fold what you are giving. Guys, if you are reading this, it works the other way, too. Do something to make her day-no grand gestures like roses or diamonds-just little acts of kindness that make her feel loved. The key is to do something every day until it becomes a habit. When it becomes a mutual habit, you will be on your way to a rock-solid, divorce-proof marriage.

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