Ian has experience in relationship and marriage counselling.
When two people in love decide to tie the knot and take their marriage vows, they start a journey full of hope and expectation. It is however not uncommon to hear stories of separation and divorce.
In fact, divorce statistics are a little alarming. Studies show that in the United States alone, there is one divorce every 13 seconds. In other words, 50% of all marriages in the US end in divorce, and the average length of marriages that end in divorce is eight years.
Even in countries like Uganda where divorce is still stigmatized due to cultural beliefs, the story is not any different. Some couples seem to be humming along in perfect harmony until you suddenly hear the unexpected.
Despite sharing common interests and similar careers, couples still end in divorce courts. It is also true, however, that some marriages thrive against all odds and make it to the golden jubilee anniversary.
Very often, the signs of trouble are there but we ignore them. These three signs can help you tell if your marriage is headed for success.
1. You freely express your feelings
Most people in love fight. In the beginning, there is a period of bliss, and there is little about your partner that bothers you enough for you to air it out. Or, you may be trying hard to avoid conflict because you assume it could mean that something is awfully wrong with your relationship.
Honest discussions may sometimes end in arguments or fights. It is important to remember that fights in a relationship are usually about those areas in your lives that aren't easy to understand about each other, and in many cases, there may never be any straightforward answers.
This is normal and is not an indication that something is terribly wrong with your relationship. Being able to express yourself, even if it involves a heated argument can be a sign that your marriage is on the right track.
Honest discussions provide a way for couples to reconnect. They often touch our weak spots and these are what we need to address to make success. Arguments provide an atmosphere for the expression of one’s true feelings about our habits and various weaknesses. Coupled with positive criticism, they can be a means to help us understand ourselves and how we relate with our partners.
They, therefore, promote understanding of those unique details that make one relationship different from another. They also prevent the accumulation of anger. When a fault is sighted in a relationship, it needs to be addressed promptly. Unfortunately, this may mean engaging in a heated argument because each party is passionately trying to prove that they are right. On the other hand, if such faults are allowed to accumulate, they will culminate into anger outbursts that will lead to regrettable irrational decision making.
A study by the University of Washington on newlywed couples found that couples who rarely fought or argued were happier in the relationship than those who fought often. Three years down the road, however, the findings had reversed dramatically. Couples with an early history of bickering had worked their problems and were more likely to be in a stable marriage. Couples who had avoided conflict early on were more likely to be in troubled relationships already.
Note that this is far from violence or verbal abuse which are unacceptable, and are signs of disrespect.
The important thing here is not who can win, because anyone can win provided they are willing to win at the cost of love and respect. What then should the fight be about if not winning?
A healthy fight is aimed at restoring the balance of power rather than destroying it. It is about expressing feelings without one partner subduing the other. You're trying to let your partner know exactly how you feel about the situation.
This kind of fight will end in surrender rather than loss and this must never be one-sided. Fighting matters in marriage because what counts out of it is forgiveness. Avoid the temptation of trying too hard to win. You should always unite to fight external forces. Remember never to say what can’t be unsaid.
2. You still spend time with your friends
Despite being married, you're still two different people with many different interests and aspirations in life. Therefore, your marriage shouldn't feel like some sort of 'dungeon' that robes you of all your rights and freedoms as a human being.
Remember before you fell in love with your darling, you had a life, friends, and family. Perhaps these are among the things that got him or her to fall head over heels for you.
A good marriage affords you the freedom to do those things you enjoy to do because these are what define you and your happiness. These should of course be morally acceptable and shouldn't be the kind of activities that disgrace you or your partner and your marriage (remember marriage means growing up).
Spending time with friends keeps you up to date with life outside your relationship. You will not be ‘left behind’ on trending fashion or entertainment news. This keeps your mind fresh and brings a general sense of happiness to your life. You will also get a well-deserved break from all the pressure that could be piling up in your relationship. Spending time away from each other refreshes the mind and allows you time to think of each other and miss each other’s company.
You don’t need to live in each other’s pockets or do everything together. Studies show that relationships in which one or both partners are overly possessive are more likely to encounter problems than those in which partners freely relate with friends and family.
This calls for trust which by all means must be earned. There is no doubt that trust is important in any relationship, in fact, a marriage without trust is doomed to fail. Trust, love, honesty, and effective communication are the key to spending time away from each other successfully.
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3. You use 'We' and 'Us' when talking about your relationship
The use of such unifying pronouns is a characteristic of a marriage headed for success. This is often expressed in activities done together.
According to Tara Packer-Pope, a wellness blogger for the New York Times, the way you talk about the good and bad times of the moments spent together is about 90% accurate in predicting success or failure in a marriage. In her article; “How to avoid common marriage traps” Tara sights an example of a couple that goes hiking together on their first date. “In a happy marriage, the wife might tell the story this way; "we got terribly lost that day, but we laughed about how neither of us had a good sense of direction. After that, we knew better than to plan another hiking trip.”
“But if the relationship is stressed,” she continues, “the wife might tell the story this way; He lost the map and it took hours to find our way back. After that, I never wanted to go hiking again.” The same story but told from different mindsets. The latter depicts a sense of individualism. The wife feels that most of what happened was her husband’s fault.
This is typical in marriages that are heading towards a sour end, as one partner possibly feels suffocated by the unfair distribution of power in the relationship. It should be understood that marriage is about the balance of power. The best way to avoid domineering is by never letting activities done together, to be determined or controlled by one person.
These subtle signs are present in many marriages. But because they often go unnoticed, many of these marriages end up in painful separations or divorce, leaving children in difficult positions of having to take sides between their parents. Most of the marriages that have thrived against all odds are those in which these signs are noticed and dealt with early.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2013 Ian Batanda
Ian Batanda (author) on November 24, 2017:
Dashingscorpio, I have read your comment over and over again and every time I read it, I obtain a new perspective of marriage. As someone who works with married people, I used to underestimate the concept of finding the right partner. I used to believe that as long as people are attracted to each other and are in love, that's all that counts.
I have worked through situations that have opened my eyes to the idea of 'being in love with the right person'.
I have come to realize that sometimes falling in love with the "wrong" person can cause serious stress on relationships.
What I haven't figured out yet is this:
Is it possible to carefully select a marriage partner who seems to fit all descriptions of an ideal partner for you, only to have them change into a complete stranger a few years down the road? Or are the signs present from the beginning, but we simply choose to overlook them?
Ian Batanda (author) on November 24, 2017:
Thanks Richard for the comment. Marriage can be really challenging. It's really impressive that you have made 11 years and I salute you for that. I believe communication is also very important for survival of any marriage.
Thanks again, and stay blessed.
Richard J ONeill from Bangkok, Thailand on February 24, 2017:
Nice hub with some interesting information. It's pretty shocking that a divorce occurs every 13 seconds in the US!
I have been married for 11 years and agree with your insights about what makes a marriage work, especially the last point about couples being a "we" rather than a pair of "he's" and "she's".
Take care and I look forward to reading more of your hubs soon.
dashingscorpio from Chicago on June 30, 2016:
"Fights provide a way for couples to reconnect. They often touch our weak spots and these are what we need to concentrate on in order to make success. Arguments provide an atmosphere for expression of one’s true feelings about our habits and various weaknesses..."
I have heard many people feel this way. In fact some people believe they want a mate or marriage that will "challenge them".
A lot of people also believe marriage is "hard work".
Personally speaking I believe finding the "right mate" is the REAL hard work.
In my opinion choosing the "wrong mate" is the #1 cause for divorce.
This happens for a variety of reasons. Some people pursue relationships and marriage before they figure out who they are and what they want/need in a mate. They allow "impulsive connections" and "happenstance" to dictate their relationship choices. That's the equivalent of going shopping without a list!
In many instances they make the decision to marry while still in the "infatuation phase" of the relationship. Whenever a "red flag" pops up they attribute it to getting "cold feet".
Choosing the wrong mate is likely to lead to a lot of arguments and fights because you really don't want the same things, or are not in agreement on how to obtain those things, maybe you don't even share the same values!
The #2 cause for divorce is getting married for the "wrong reasons".
Someone had a "age goal", there was an unplanned pregnancy, all of your friends were married, an ultimatum was given, prospective spouse has money, got tired/feared being single, someone was in the military and about to be deployed and wanted someone to come home to....etc
A marriage based upon circumstances is likely to fail.
Lastly the #3 cause for divorce is people change/evolve over time.
We're either "growing together" or "growing apart". Communication is the GPS for marriage and relationships. A couple maries with the idea of some day having a family. Three years into it someone's career takes off they no longer desire to have children. Another couple reaches a point of retiring and one of them decides they want to live in another country while the other is adamant about staying close to family and friends.
Whenever a couple has a major disagreement about the direction of the marriage staying together for the sake of staying together makes no sense. Happiness comes more from being compatible than compromise.
As you stated couples who talk in terms of (us & we) as oppose to (you & me) tend have a stable marriage.