The Four Cornerstones Of A Happy Marriage
THE FOUR CORNERSTONES OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE
By Bill Cottringer
There are very good reasons why marriage failure is such a widespread epidemic. The four cornerstones of a happy marriage represent life’s toughest tests; and they are not lessons most people are skilled at learning right off the bat in relationships. Here are the four difficult tests that challenge all people trying to thrive in relationships:
• Expanding unconditional love
• Finding the right perspective
• Practicing good communication
• Being God-centered
The glue that holds a marriage together is unconditional love, but it is rare glue with secret ingredients that run contrary to our human nature. The secret ingredients are acceptance, understanding and tolerance of human differences, especially when they go against our sense of fundamental fairness, core values, important expectations, strong preferences, and basic ways of thinking, acting and being.
We first learn that unconditional love is real and not an imaginary myth, during the presence of children, soul mates, pets and God’s splendid creation of nature. Love is truly unconditional in these interactions; they are free and easy. This phase of unconditional love probably happens just to coax us into wanting more of it in our relationships, where there is no shortage of obstacles working against it.
Expanding your capacity for unconditional love is a lifelong quest that has to be done one experience at a time. In an odd sense, the heart’s capacity grows through hurt and bleeding. Knowing these realities makes it a little easier, but unfortunately there are no shortcuts here. This is without a doubt a marriage’s toughest test that the majority of people fail. Probably the best way to make headway is to realize the amazing unconditional love God has given to us with our life and free will. There are very few fatal conditions, mostly just temporary detours.
THE RIGHT PERSPECTIVE
The perspective that allows a happy marriage to flourish is one of optimism and hope that all situations, good and bad, eventually result in good outcomes over the long haul. What that means is when the inevitable bad times do surface—the major stressors of family interference, medical problems, unemployment, financial difficulties, mental illness, job changes, affairs, addictions, etc.—their reality is seen as temporary and not permanent and fatal. These types of roadblocks are normally deal-breakers, by means of a pre-mature, incomplete and impatient perspective; but it is difficult to make judgments of when to fish or cut bait at the time and even after a decision has been made, as to whether it was right or wrong, too selfish, or whether staying could have worked out.
Having the right perspective about something that is very unpleasant is extremely difficult to do especially when something crosses your line in the sand; but considering a better prospective provides breathing room by making the unpleasantness less powerful so that you can begin to think and act in ways that help you get to the better times on the other side of the dark ones. Most people lose patience in the darkest of times and those times exaggerate themselves way out of perspective. Keeping things in proper perspective over time, however, leads to a stronger optimism, which increasingly gets better results as any self-fulfilling prophesy does.
Poor communication is usually the number one cause of marriage failure. Good communication is essential to build a strong relationship foundation of positive interactions. This is what is needed to withstand the dreadful conflicts that eventually erupt as a result of differences in our human nature—our unique ways of thinking and expressing ourselves, our personal values, goals and all the personal characteristics that make up who we are. We all have our unique grades of sandpaper and this is what needs to be worked on, not the size or shade of the sandpaper.
The door to the good communication that builds the needed foundation of the relationship is having explicit permission to talk about anything without fear of getting defensive or leading to an unfavorable outcome. This kind of free, open communication builds confidence to approach sticky, difficult conversations in an assertive way that resolves a later conflict effectively. It is the unresolved conflicts brought about by poor communication and negative interactions which feed the termites that destroy the relationship’s foundation. Good communication has to start right, or it requires much more effort to correct it. Once the habit of derailed communication starts, the right track becomes near impossible to find.
What this means is that you finally learn the full meaning of ‘Oneness’ and the reality that God is really love energy than runs through everything in the universe. And when we finally see the light about the illusion of separation from this oneness (all the years of efforts of the self-centered, ego achievement in the me vs. everything else perspective) and then start developing humility and exploring a mature, responsible use of free will for the greater good, we are on the way to solving life’s greatest mysteries (especially how to get along with another person in an intimate relationship!).
The quicker you realize this truth, the more happiness you can enjoy. A happy marriage that is God-centered is one in which the two people put aside their self-centeredness and selfish needs to listen to God’s wisdom which is what guides husband and wife to think, feel, speak and act in the ways that result in giving the couple back more than either could have being alone. Being God-centered is not subservient obedience or a weak surrender to a defense against life’s dark side, but the smartest and most natural awareness we were born to understand, grow and apply in our lives to experience and get the most out of life.
The interesting thing about these four cornerstones is that we already know the truth of them. It is mainly a matter of remembering this and doing what our consciences tell us we need to do to grow in these four areas. Obviously some people have better memories than others and less resistance to listening to their consciences more than others. They are the happy ones.