Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, say in their book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages, that there are 5 traits of a healthy, life-long marriage: ownership, hope, empathy, forgiveness, and commitment. Here is a summary of each of those characteristics.
1. Ownership: Taking Responsibility
Often, couples believe their problems are the result of the other person’s actions. It’s easy to avoid responsibility for our problems by blaming someone else. But in the long-haul, admitting mistakes and owning up to our part of the problem is the single most powerful predictor of turning something bad into something good. Couples need to realize that it’s not who’s wrong, but what’s wrong that counts.
2. Hope: Believing that Good Ultimately Triumphs
The foundation of hope is belief. We must believe that the kind of marriage we want is possible. Hope keeps love alive. Stop hoping and marriage dies.
3. Empathy: Walking in your Spouse’s Shoes
A spouse must be aware of what their spouse is feeling and what’s behind that feeling. Empathy involves both the head and the heart. Many of us do one or the other pretty well; we either feel our partner’s pain with our heart, or we try to solve their problem with our head. To do both can be a challenge. But that is what empathy is all about.
4. Forgiveness: Healing the Wounds
In a good marriage, both husbands and wives are quick to ask for forgiveness and to grant forgiveness. The simple words, “I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?” are magical in marriage. Forgiveness was designed to heal the deepest wounds of a human heart.
5. Commitment: Loving for Life
No matter how long a couple has been married, commitment may be the most effective tool good marriages use in battling bad things. Without commitment and the trust it engenders, marriages would have little hope of lasting.
In the face of difficulty, the key is to stay committed to your spouse and work together. Sit down with your spouse tonight and discuss how you are doing in each of these categories.