How to Make a Marriage Work And How Counseling Can Help Posted on December 16, 2022, updated on January 9, 2023 by Dr. John Hawkins, Sr. I’d like to tell you a story that I hear almost daily as a marriage counselor. Two people meet, begin dating, and fall in love. They have their arguments now and then—as we all do—but ultimately, they love each other. They decide to get married. As the wedding approaches, one (or both) parties begin imagining how different things will be after the wedding. Maybe he thinks she’ll be more supportive or disagree with him less often. For her part, she pictures him becoming a perfect partner after saying “I do.” But months or years after the wedding, things are harder than ever. And now they’re both pulling their hair out wondering how to make a marriage work. Does this sound familiar? Many people convince themselves their marriage will be perfect 100% of the time. But this just isn’t a realistic expectation. You see, expecting perfection is a surefire way to create strife between you and your spouse. At the same time, studies show married people are happier than those who remain single. That’s why I want to talk about how to make a marriage work. I’m sharing my 3 biggest keys to marital bliss, what the Bible has to say about the importance of marriage, and answering the questions I hear most often about marriage counseling. 3 Keys to Making Your Marriage Work Marriage is never going to be what the movies, books, and TV shows make it out to be. The idea that exchanging vows will make you into a perfect spouse is a beautiful idea, but not a realistic one. The truth is, we’re all human. And while we all face hurdles, what matters is how you and your spouse handle them—as a team. And I believe these 3 tips will help you do so with grace and love. 1. Practice Gratitude How much time are you each spending feeling frustrated by each other’s flaws? These negative thought patterns can sow seeds of resentment faster than you’d believe. When you subconsciously believe you’re getting the short end of the stick, every interaction you and your spouse have will suffer. This is why practicing gratitude and appreciation are so important, no matter how long you’ve been married. Take time every day to appreciate your spouse. Think about the qualities that initially drew you to this person. Reflect on ways they’ve grown or new things you’ve come to love in the time since. When you’re grateful for the good things, talking about your challenges becomes so much easier. 2. Avoid Blame When you’re dissatisfied with your relationship, it colors your perspective. Complaining or discussing issues with your partner becomes a blame game. For example, how often has one of you said something along the lines of “You’re so selfish! You never hold up your end of the deal!” When instead, you could say something like, “We agreed you’d let me know if you had to work late. I was so worried when I didn’t hear from you. What happened?” See the difference there? While it’s easy to assign blame, it’s never helpful for working through an issue. 3. Reframe Disagreements No couple is going to agree on every single thing 100% of the time. It’s just the nature of our different upbringings—and there’s no way to cover every single potential issue with your spouse before getting married. But all of that is completely normal. Whether it’s raising your children or how to split up responsibilities around the house, disagreements happen. It’s your perspective that makes all the difference. Remember, you two aren’t battling one another to “win.” You’re a team trying to find a solution. So when these disagreements happen, let go of being “right” or “getting your way.” Work with your partner to find a compromise and defeat the problem. Why Marriage is Important According to the Bible Marriage is crucial to God’s plan for each and every one of us. This is a major part of finding happiness in your life right now, and eternal happiness in Heaven. But marriage is about so much more than us. It allows us to serve God in so many ways—through faithfulness, through our children, and through our relationships. Your marriage is symbolic of Christ’s love and sacrifice for the church. You and your spouse serve our Lord by serving one another. It’s about both the joy and the duties involved in this union. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” 1 Corinthians 13:4 – 8 How Do You Know if Your Marriage Needs Counseling? Here are 10 signs your marriage needs counseling: You and/or your partner feel indifferent towards one anotherMost of your communication is negative or argumentsOne or both of you are lying or keeping secretsThere’s no intimacy in your marriageYou think of each other as “the bad guy”One or both of you has been unfaithfulYou keep rehashing the same argumentsYou or your spouse are lying about financeYou’re afraid of trying to communicate with one anotherYour lives have become completely separate Your marriage may be suffering from some or all of these major issues. At this stage, you’ll both struggle to repair the damage amongst yourselves. It’s true that my earlier tips on how to make a marriage work are important. But if you’re struggling with any of the above issues, those tips alone aren’t enough to bring everything back into balance. Working with an experienced, unbiased marriage counselor is the best way to establish a solid foundation with your spouse and rebuild your relationship. What Happens in a Marriage Counseling Session? During a marriage counseling session, you can expect: Working with your counselor to improve communication skillsLearning how to speak with your spouse in an open, honest, and vulnerable wayDiscovering ways to curb unhealthy actions and negative behaviorsDiscussing unmet expectations or desires and expressing them in a respectful way You and your spouse will spend the first session discussing your history, answering questions about your personality, and generally getting to know your counselor. Every session is custom-tailored to you and your spouse’s needs. So, it’s very important that your counselor gets a clear picture of how your marriage functions. How Can You Make Marriage Counseling Effective? You can make marriage counseling very effective for your relationship by: Being willing to do “homework,” or putting your counselor’s insight into action at homeBeing open to making positive changes in your own behavior and thought patternsSharing your most honest and vulnerable self with your partner and counselorPutting in the time for regular sessionsTaking divorce off the table while you work through these issues And let me be clear—I know the above recommendations aren’t easy to follow. They’ll require your dedication, plus putting yourself out there in a way you might not be comfortable with. But pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and adopting a mindset of growth will make marriage counseling so much more effective for you and your spouse. You should also know that according to research, marriage counseling is effective for 70% of couples. When it comes to how to make a marriage work, there is no one-size-fits-all trick. Every marriage is a one-of-a-kind relationship made up of 2 unique people. That’s why marriage counseling with an unbiased, empathetic expert is your best path toward a true partnership. If you’re ready to learn more or book your first session, just give us a call at (561) 468-6464.