6 Unexpected Secrets to a Healthy Marriage
It’s not often that I have the pleasure of introducing a husband as a guest writer. I’ve only been able to coax my own husband into writing one post on here – in 5 years. Maybe it’s the name, the Happy Wives Club, that keeps them at bay.
When I do get the opportunity, I always feel so fortunate. It’s beautiful reading the wisdom of our other halves, don’t you think?
This post by author and researcher, Tyler Ward, put his assumptions about marriage to the test and came out a clear winner.
Until tomorrow…make it a great day!
It didn’t take me long after getting married to realize that I had no idea how to be married.
The deeper into this unique relationship I got, the more grossly obvious it became that I had brought several misguided ideas and bloated expectations into my marriage. So, I started over.
Over a period of 5 years, I put my—and my cultures—most basic assumptions about modern marriage to the test. I interviewed over a dozen experts, consumed 20+ books, and ran experiments in my own marriage with several of the unorthodox pieces of advice I came across.
In the end, six things stood out to me. They aren’t necessarily all new or revolutionary ideas, but they certainly come packed with marriage-altering implications.
Here are six of my favorite unexpected secrets to a healthy marriage.
1. Happily ever after is a perk—not the point.
Though being happy is a very real by-product of a healthy relationship, the modern value we put on personal fulfillment is so inflated, it’s causing us to miss one of the more beautiful purposes of marriage. The ancient Hebrew culture, on the other hand, didn’t seem to miss this purpose. The language even highlights and unpacks this ideal for us.
In ancient Hebrew, the word used for marriage actually means “Fire.” And not-so-coincidentally, fire is also the element used throughout ancient Hebrew culture to represent personal reformation.
In this light, marriage, and its necessary—but often unhappy—friction, is seen less as a doorway to happily ever after and more as a tool in divine hands to help us become increasingly beautiful — increasingly our best and brightest selves.
2. Good consumers make bad lovers.
Again, the ancient Hebrew word for love — ahava — has little to do with what one feels or receives. To the contrary — ahava — is actually a verb that means “I give.”
Love is not the fleeting butterflies we get when looking into the eyes of our significant other. It’s not something we fall into when dating. It’s far simpler — and far wilder — than all of that. Love is the big or small, mundane—but generous — choices to give to our spouse. And as we begin to orient ourselves to this brand of love that requires us to show up continually, we’re sure to discover the beautiful paradox that it is.
3. Marriage isn’t just a choice.
With those words, we choose to embark on a journey to learn how to give, to value, and to care for another human as much as we do ourselves. But marriage isn’t just a choice we make on our wedding day. It’s a choice we make everyday.
A good friend says it this way, “Marriage isn’t something we accomplished the day we said I do. It is an ongoing action of marrying our individual lives—with all of our thoughts, responses, fears, and strengths—together.”
4. Marriage is designed for priority numero uno.
One of the most useful tips I’ve been given on marriage comes from a rabbi when he says, “All of your problems (financial, relational, marital…etc) are because your marriage isn’t your highest priority (this is not considering the relationship to the Divine). The gains that a spouse will feel on both a spiritual and MATERIAL level defy description, once they make their marriage first place.”
For 31 days, I intentionally put my wife first over everything else, and then I tracked how it worked. I created a metric for these purposes, to mark our relationship as priority, and then to track my effectiveness in all other areas of my life on the same scale.
To my surprise, a month later, I had a chart of data and a handful of ironic experiences to prove that the more you give to marriage, the more it gives back.
5. Your spouse isn’t the problem. You are.
It took me an inappropriate amount of time (and an absurd number of yelling matches) to see my wife’s “issues” were actually just a reflection of much deeper brokenness in me.
This is the phenomenon Solomon of the Bible alludes to when he says, “As in water, face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” Or the truth of what rabbi Shalom Arush is pointing at when he says,
“You didn’t get married to correct your spouse. You got married to be corrected, by using your spouse as a mirror.”
6. Love is a journey—not a free fall.
Many of us think we meet someone, date, fall in love and then get married. We then expect to reap the rewards of love immediately—and inevitably learn that true love isn’t, in fact, something we fall into. This state of “Love” (and all of its benefits) is developed over years of learning to relate to one another — it’s a journey.
These benefits are very real perks of love, but we certainly don’t simply fall into them. Why? Because trust requires trust-building circumstances over time, true companionship comes from years of conversation, and romance—well, the kind of romance that doesn’t fade only comes from being intentional over the long haul.
These six things aren’t formulas—mostly because marriage doesn’t play by the same set of rules most things in our lives do. However, the implications of internalizing these six ideas and finding a unique expression of them in our marriage has been significant for my wife and me—as I hope they are for you too.
Tyler Ward is the author of “Marriage Rebranded: Modern Misconceptions & the Unnatural Art of Loving Another Person,” where he explores more modern myths about marriage, tells awkward stories, and offers unorthodox best practices that are sure to help anyone write a better marital narrative for themselves. You can order it now or watch the book trailer here.