Tags: Dr | Laura | Marriage

For a Great Marriage, Learn the Four 'R's

By Dr. Laura   |   Thursday, 21 Feb 2008 02:58 PM

You may have heard that fighting is part of a good marriage, but I feel fighting is more indicative of a bad marriage.

Sure, there are times when one spouse is strained, drained, and devastated by illness, an act of nature, a family problem, or something else that life has thrown at them. Although it’s not unusual for people to behave badly during such times, two things must happen for a marriage to stay strong.

First, the non-“crazed” spouse needs to recognize his or her partner’s condition and not add to the problem by personalizing the out-of-control behavior, becoming insecure or hurt, or competing for who has the most rights to be upset.

Instead, that individual needs to attempt to bring the temperature down with quiet hugs, a foot rub, reassurance, compliments, and maybe even a bath prepared.

For example, it is typical these days for young people in particular to have money troubles.

It seems that the concept of working hard toward something in the future has been replaced with the philosophy of having everything now. That might include buying a house before the foundation of financial substantiality has been built.

Parents are often “spoiling” their kids with huge gifts of money for down payments on a home that the couple can barely afford even when both have full-time jobs. This means the children are neglected, abandoned to day care, nannies, or baby sitters.

When the stress gets too high, the husband and wife often blame each other and pout about their sad lot.

This is the time to say something on the order of, “Honey, we both want lovely things like a home, nice cars, and more. And I believe we will get them. But right now, we have to rely on each other to get by without sacrificing our health, happiness, and home life. Let’s wait until we can do this all more comfortably. I’m satisfied with having you in my life; everything else will come in its time.”

I realize it takes a certain amount of maturity to make such a statement when one is disappointed. Nonetheless, when each of you can take a turn showing this level of compassion and commitment, the marriage will reflect that.

Second, when there is some difference in opinion — ferocious or mild — compromise with the person who feels the most passionate about their opinion. Your turn will come for a return of that favor.

Also, when there is a problem, don’t think first about how to get your way and how angry you’re going to be if you don’t get it. A better way to solve the problem is to come up with some plan for making the other person feel better about the problem.

In fact, when you mess up — intentionally or not — the four “R”s are the lifeblood of a marriage:

1. Remorse: The true feeling in your heart and soul of regret for the damage and hurt you caused — without excuses and without blaming others for causing your actions.

2. Responsibility: Admitting to your actions, motives, and being willing to accept consequences and endure the other’s pain and disdain until issues are resolved and feelings healed.

3. Repair: Do whatever you can, directly or indirectly, to repair the damage. Sometimes this is not possible — but perhaps you can find a meaningful way to pay back the universe by lecturing others about drinking and driving or drug use or abuse.

4. Repetition: Making the kinds of changes in your decisions, actions, and reactions that will definitely stand in the way of any repeat of the unpleasant actions.

This is necessary because people need to regain trust in you, and without your demonstration of effort, your words will seem empty.

A good marriage is both delicate and durable. Forgiveness will likely come once you’ve earned it.

It takes your willingness to treat your spouse as if you loved them with your last breath — no matter how you feel at any one moment. You need to think hard every day about how you can make their life worth living, and be the kind of person you would want to love, hug, come home to, and sacrifice for.

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