Some people go through marriage blindly. Some go through couple counseling as part of their church’s requirements for matrimony. We took a completely different route. We… consulted a book.
Having read and loved Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I knew I would one day read his series on Effective Marriage and Effective Families when I’m ready to walk those milestones. With our wedding fast approaching (June 28!), Thanh and I went through the 7 habits:
1. Be Proactive: We cannot choose the events that occur, but we have the freedom to choose our response. In marriage, we cannot control our spouse’s thinking or actions, but our reactions to theirs are completely independent. Therefore, we do not blame our spouse for the feelings we have or how we interpret outcomes.
2. Begin with the End in Mind: Envision your marriage five years from now. Ten years from now. How should your children describe your marriage. Write a mission statement. Here’s our marriage mission statement:
We promise to nurture each other’s goals and ambitions; to support each other through misfortune and celebrate triumphs.
We promise to keep our lives exciting, adventurous, and full of passion.
We promise to persevere when times get tough, knowing that any challenges we might face, we will conquer them together.
3. Put First Things First: Don’t always act on urgent matters for they may be unimportant (i.e. interruptions). Assess activities and pursue those that align with your values first. Define your roles in life (i.e. student, wife, mother, CEO, etc.) and set three important goals under each role to fulfill on a weekly basis.
4. Think Win/Win: Seek mutual benefits. Your values matter and so do your spouse’s. When your interests or values don’t align, try a rating system. For example, if you want to go to the movies but your spouse prefers watching the games at home, ask each other to rate how sad you would be if you miss the activity. Then, yield to the person who would be more affected if the event would not occur.
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood: In other words, listen before you talk. Listen more than you talk. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply.
6. Synergize: Don’t compromise. Don’t settle on a solution that would make one party unhappy. Seek a third alternative through synergism. It’s not your way. It’s not my way. It’s the better way.
7. Sharpen the Saw: Make sure you are healthy: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Before we could help someone fulfill their dreams and aspirations, we must first be in a healthy position to meet our own.
The 7 habits for a successful marriage are rather common knowledge, as they should be. There is no real secret to having a blissful marriage. As with any other domains, success comes only after hard work and genuine effort. While we don’t view marriage as an uphill battle, we know not to expect rainbows and unicorns everyday. :)