Have you ever wondered what are the key traits that sustain a strong marriage? Well, in our 32 years of marriage we can share what we believe are key pillars that strengthen a marriage for the long run. The 3 key pillars are faith, trust, and respect. These pillars are essential in order to build a successful and fulfilling marriage. In this post we will give you a breakdown of these 3 pillars and share how you can implement them in your relationship.
FAITH – We have to be honest, when we first got married this was definitely not one of our key pillars. It was only after several years of marriage, with a few kids and some marital challenges, that we, by the grace of God, came to realize that this was a key ingredient missing in our relationship. It was only after we made a decision to make our Catholic faith an integral part of our marriage that we came to realize the value and graces that we were missing. Once we made the shift, it was a game-changer in our relationship and lives.
There is no doubt in our minds that in order for a marriage to be successful and fulfilling for the long run, it must be built on a solid foundation. The foundation has to be secure and solid, this is primary, otherwise it will not be able to withstand the storms of life. If you are a Christian married couple, then that foundation is Christ.
As we think about foundations, Matthew 7:24-27 comes to mind; “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined“. As we read these words it reminds us of two foundations, we can build our marriage on, it’s a choice we make – rock vs. sand. To use a metaphor, you can have a beautiful house on the exterior with all the pretty colors and trimmings, but all that won’t matter when you have a weak foundation.
This is why it’s so critical that you build your Christian marriage with Christ in the center of it. Ephesians 2:21-22 states “Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord, in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”. These are beautiful words of inspiration and hope that give us the encouragement we need to invite God into our marriage so that we can experience His love and grace that is so necessary to overcome the challenges of marital life.
So, the question is, what are you doing to strengthen your marriage? Are you taking care of your foundation? Regardless of where your relationship is right now, have faith that you can start doing something about it. As we mentioned earlier, when we started our marriage journey, we did not make faith a part of our relationship, but now, it’s at the center of our marriage and it fuels our love and commitment to one another.
There are a few things you can do to get started. First thing we recommend is to bring it to prayer. Call out to God and ask Him to help you. Holy Scripture, Matthew 7: 7-8 says “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”. Ask for the Holy Spirit and God will be more than happy to send you the Helper to give you the guidance and grace to get started. Second thing you can do is to start (if you are not already) going to weekly Mass with your spouse and children. Receiving Holy Communion as a family is a beautiful thing to witness, and the graces you will receive will fill your hearts with God’s mercy and love, equipping you to make the necessary changes to become the best husband, wife, and parent you can become. We also recommend that you make a commitment to one another to go to confession on a consistent basis. This will help you to seek healing and forgiveness in your relationship. Unforgiveness and resentment are huge hurdles in a relationship that keep couples stuck in a mud pit. Finally, turn to Holy Scripture for words of wisdom, encouragement, and hope. It is only through meditation and reflecting on God’s word that we are able to gain clarity in order to help us move forward and create a marriage that is joy-filled and fulfilling.
TRUST – I recall hearing someone say that trust is like the frame of a picture, it holds it all together. That’s so true, if there is no trust there is no relationship. Building trust in a marital relationship is so fundamentally important that we highly encourage couples to make this a top priority.
There are different things you can do to build trust, but we would recommend that you start with the small things. If people can trust you with the small things in life, they are more willing to trust you with the big things in life. To start, you should do a self-assessment and ask yourself if your words and actions match. For example, husbands – do you tell your wife that you want to play a more active role in helping out with the kids and house chores, but find yourself glued in front of the TV watching hours of your favorite sport? Wives – do you tell your husband that you want to start saving more and cutting back on unnecessary expenses, only to find yourself online every week shopping for a new pair of shoes? You get my point? If we want to build trust in our marriage, we must ensure that we are reliable and that our actions are in alignment with our words on a consistent basis.
Another thing you can do to build trust in your relationship is to make sure you demonstrate that you have your spouse’s back all the time. Your spouse should know and believe that you support them and are willing to sacrifice for the good of the relationship. Does your spouse sense that you are both on the same team? When faced with disagreements or challenges, look for ways that you can achieve a win-win solution, accepting the fact that you will never get 100% of what you want but are willing to compromise for the sake of the relationship. This will illustrate that you are advocates, not adversaries, and that will build trust.
Finally, it’s imperative that you work hard to protect your integrity and trust. You don’t want to do things that jeopardize your trust because once you lose it, it is extremely difficult to regain. It’s not impossible, but it will require time, patience, forgiveness, and healing before you can restore trust.
RESPECT – The third pillar to strengthen your marriage is respect. We should start by always respecting the dignity of every person, simply because every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. Regardless of our differences, we all have this interior desire to be respected, it’s in our DNA, and we should honor that. When you respect your spouse know that you are meeting one of their core human needs. It’s when our core human needs are met that we feel a sense of happiness and fulfillment.
Within the context of marriage, respect is a key contributor to building a strong and fulfilling relationship. When your spouse feels respected, they are more willing to respect you, that’s just human nature. I like to see it as…you reap what you sow. When you are mutually respectful, you build more trust, and that leads to being more honest with each other, where both parties feel safe to be vulnerable and share what’s on their hearts and minds. The more you are honest with each other and communicate your emotions, the more you will feel connected.
We believe that respect should be a MUST, not a should, in your marriage. If you want to start or improve the level of respect in your relationship, there are a few things you can do. Start off by talking to your spouse about what they think respect is from their perspective. You may find that based on their environment growing up some things that you may consider as disrespectful may not be the same for them. That’s why it’s important to start there and make sure you both come to an agreement as to what will be acceptable or not. Once you both have clarity on each other’s perspective on respect, it’s important that you set healthy boundaries and commit to not crossing them. For example, we agreed and committed to never curse at each other no matter how angry we get. By honoring that commitment, we are demonstrating respect for each other.
Disrespecting your spouse can come in different ways and shapes. For example, when faced with an important decision that can impact your lives (i.e., parenting, change of career, finances, relocation offer) do you include them in the decision-making process by asking for their opinion? When communicating, does your tone send a message of superiority? When speaking to your spouse in public or in front of the kids do you speak to them using harsh and disrespectful language? Do you dominate the conversation, speak over them or cut them off? These are all different ways that you may be showing a lack of respect for your spouse. In contrast, honor them, look for opportunities to show appreciation for what they do, their contribution (even in little ways) to your relationship and family. Allow them to have a voice, ask for their opinion, and include them in the decision-making process.
IT’S WELL WORTH IT! If you want to build your marriage on a solid foundation, it will take hard work, commitment, devotion, and sacrifice, but we can tell you, it’s well worth it! Make it a priority to integrate your faith with your marriage and place it at the center of your relationship, build trust by making sure that your words and actions match on a consistent basis, and respect your spouse by honoring them and setting healthy boundaries. After 32 years of marriage, we are confident that these 3 key pillars will serve you well and strengthen your marriage for the long run!