M Y husband and I have had the privilege of counseling couples in different seasons of their relationships. We’ve done premarital counseling as well as counseled couples who have been together a long time, some of whom had established some pretty unhealthy patterns.
As individuals, we are always learning and growing, and our relationships aren’t any different. If two people are committed to growth, then no matter how unhealthy a marriage is, there is hope.
Want to know how to have a healthy relationship? Here are 5 powerful ways to make a marriage healthy:
Retain separate identities.
Many couples falsely interpret “the two becoming one.” What this idea really means is being in unity with another person and committed to their good as equally as you are to your own. But balance is necessary because this concept can easily become skewed. I know some older couples where this is especially true, and the woman has lost her own identity because she thought she should. When friends of mine got married, their pastor officiating the ceremony told them not to blow out their individual candles after lighting the unity candle, because it’s crucial each partner retain and develop their separate identities. It’s equally important that each partner takes responsibility and is willing to work on his/her own issues.
Show empathy for your partner.
Empathy means that you listen for the sake of understanding your partner. Become interested in how your spouse is feeling, and then validate how your spouse is feeling. Don’t try to fix it. Empathy is putting aside your own desires for them and offering your unconditional love and support.
Share your feelings.
If you feel that your partner has empathy for you and validates your feelings, it will be easier to share your feelings. Often couples in unhealthy patterns stop opening up to one another about their emotions and needs. Distance and lack of intimacy are the natural results of not sharing. In a healthy marriage, you should feel safe to express any emotion.
Give each other freedom.
When you value the other person for who they are and encourage them to grow in their individual identity apart from you, validate their feelings, and share your own, equality is a natural result. You give each other freedom, and you feel freedom from your partner to make your own choices and to grow. You don’t try to control one another through your emotions or otherwise.
Have fun together.
Being childlike and making room in your life to play and share simple joys together is a powerful tool to make a marriage healthy. We don’t have to take everything seriously, and sometimes we just need to play together to find our connection restored. It’s not always through hard work or striving that we will make our marriage stronger; play is so simple that it’s something we all knew how to do naturally as children and that we did easily when we were first dating. Try setting aside time to do something playful together that you both enjoy.
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