Do you remember the classic summer camp version of running a 3-legged race? Success in the race depended so heavily on who we were paired with – their height, athletic ability, and previous 3-legged race experience. There were always at least a few pairs that fell in epic fashion while a few others seamlessly raced to the finish line. Marriage is so much like a 3-legged race. Marriage success just depends on different factors.
The Race Challenges
In the marriage version of a 3-legged race, the qualities that make a pair successful are quite different than those of the summer camp version. The qualities of how couples communicate, the value system they rely on, parenting strategies, and so on can tip the scales toward success or failure. How many times have we found our spouse and ourselves out of sync? Years spent through career training, welcoming kids, and moving around the country doesn’t always bring out our finest. There are so many times where we have to stop running, look at each other, make a plan, and then slowly jog forward so we don’t fall completely flat on our face. But every time we move forward, we do so more effectively.
The Partner Mindset
A significant factor to success in the marriage race is intention. A commitment to work to understand each others strengths and weaknesses and how to balance them between the two of us. When people say “marriage takes work”, perhaps this is what they mean. Only this process doesn’t require the kind of work that brings to mind blood, sweat, and tears. It requires intention. The intention to pay attention to our partner, help them be their best while they encourage us to do the same. The trick is to realize that the intention is ever-changing.
When welcoming children, we can cultivate the intention to see our strengths as parents instead of just the ways our spouse does things differently. While working through career planning, we can have the intention to build our spouse up and give them confidence, knowing that once it is our turn to amp up the career department, the support will be returned. When landing on some easier times, that may require the most intention of all. It can be so easy to take a rest when things are going well, but really focusing on the relationship during good times makes the tough times (regardless of their nature) much easier.
Regular Reminders to Build Up Your Team
Let’s start working from a place of intention. There is a great resource from Drs. John and Julie Gottman who have established the Gottman Institute with four decades of research on married couples. Their site shares their years of research, tools for couples, and resources for connecting with a Gottman therapist. They share “The Sound Relationship House” based on the factors they have found to build lasting marriages. The house is held up by trust and commitment and several other factors fill the house. One look at the house immediately turns the wheels on ways to be more intentional and purposeful as a partner.
The Gottman Institute also has a “Marriage Minute” subscription that I highly recommend. This subscription sends twice weekly emails that offer a quick thought on building a lasting marriage. Even working from a positive space, this marriage minute will highlight what is going well in the relationship as well as nuances or patterns that could be improved upon.
Race Worth Running
Knowing that the marriage relationship is a crucial foundation for a family that is growing into its full potential, our intention to be in a good partnership is more important than ever. Whether we take time to make a daily connection, find spiritual time together, find ways to spice up date night, or learn each others love language, there is no time like the present to get in sync and start winning that 3-legged race.