This past weekend my brother and his beautiful wife vowed to commit to one another in marriage. In sitting down to write my speech for their wedding, so many different feelings came up for me about marriage. I have learned so much from my own marriage as well as from the relationships of those around me. When looking at my brother and his new wife, I see that look of hope in their eyes. The promise of love. It is beautiful. 

As a therapist, I see the many different sides of marriage. I see the good stuff, the exciting stuff, the joyful stuff. But I also see the worst of it. The pain of it. The fear of it. The end of it. 

Though many would say I am still pretty young myself, I have quite a lot to say on the subject of marriage. But if I break it down into some of the highlights, the focus is clear. Marriage takes work. It takes both people being willing to work at it 100% of the time. It takes each partner giving to the other more so than to themselves. Putting the other person first. Being selfless. Being gentle. Being patient. While it takes many different things to make a marriage work, I believe that there are three key ingredients. 

These three key ingredients are:

  1. Mutual Respect - In a healthy marriage there is mutual respect between both parties. It is crucial that you see your partner as your equal. That you treat them with the utmost respect. Of all of the people in this great big world, you chose each other. There is something to be said for that. Honor that. And if and when you lose sight of the reasons why you stay married in the first place, remember the value of mutual respect. You don't have to like each other all the time, but make an effort to always respect each other, even during the fights. Because how you treat each other when the going gets rough is a true testament to the respect that you have for one another. 
  2. Understanding - In a healthy marriage there is understanding between spouses. There is willingness to see the other person's side. To step into their shoes and explore life from their perspective. To give them the benefit of the doubt and trust that they are trying their best, even when their best is not what you see. There is an effort to support each other unconditionally, and to be understanding and supportive when the other is struggling. There is an effort to bring each other up, rather than squash each other down. There is love, patience, and empathy. But above all, there is understanding. 
  3. Family Unit - In a healthy marriage you become your own family unit. You loosen the ties a bit between yourself and your biological family and secure yourself into a new family dynamic. That of you and your spouse. You put each other first 100% of the time. You both win that way. It becomes the two of you against the world. And no matter how many times the world knocks you down, you have each other. You have your family. You are a team. 

While I am aware that to many this may seem idealistic and romantic, there is truth to these words. And no matter how far away from these ideals you may have become, it is always possible to get back to this place if both people in the partnership are willing to put in the work. No one said marriage was easy, but in my opinion, it is definitely worth it.