Marriage is all about love, respect and acceptance. And something else?

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When Leah and Chaim were engaged to be married, they just knew their marriage was going to be wonderful.   They shared the same values and interests. They respected each other, saw eye to eye on everything, and anticipated each other’s thoughts and wants. They came from similar backgrounds, had wonderful communication and were totally comfortable with each other.  And they accepted each other’s little quirks and human flaws.   “We’re just perfect for each other, so compatible in all ways. She always knows what I want and I always know what she wants.”

They recognized in each other so many key ingredients for a successful marriage. They were all set for a ‘happily ever after’.

Some people are certain that in the right relationship they would just be able to understand and honor each other’s needs; if they were compatible everything should just come naturally.  They believe that they should be able to read each other’s minds:  “I should know what he thinks, feels and needs and she should know what I think, feel and need”.  And that they will ALWAYS see everything in the same way and would agree on everything.

These beliefs are most destructive for a relationship. Successful marriages take effort, a lot of effort. Marriage and building a family is a labor of love. There is not a marriage in all of history that doesn’t take much effort from both partners. A no-effort relationship is not realistic; it just doesn’t work that way. It is not an ideal to dream about and strive for.

A strong, healthy marriage includes love, respect, friendship, acceptance, and …  The last crucial ingredient is a willingness to put in the effort.

A strong, healthy marriage includes love, respect, friendship, acceptance, and …  The last crucial ingredient is a willingness to put in the effort.

Of course, each person is their own unique individual, but people generally operate from one of two mindsets: a fixed-mindset or a growth-mindset.   In (very) short:  with a growth-mindset, the person understands that with dedication and hard work, anyone can grow, change and develop new or improve skills and thinking patterns.   On the other hand, someone with a fixed-mindset believes their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits, that someone either ‘has it or they don’t’ and that just can’t be changed.  They are convinced that talent alone creates success, it shouldn’t take effort.

Your mindset, whether a fixed-mindset or growth-mindset,  impacts all aspects of life – including school, work, relationships and marriage.

Your mindset, whether a fixed-mindset or growth-mindset,  impacts all aspects of life – including school, work, relationships and marriage. Everyone has a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. You could have a predominant growth mindset in one area but there can still be things that trigger you into a fixed mindset trait.

In a marriage relationship, there are three key components to consider:  the husband, the wife and the marriage itself.

In a marriage relationship, there are three key components to consider:  the husband, the wife and the marriage itself.  (This is different from the concept that there are 3 partners in a marriage: Hashem, husband and wife.)

Those with a growth-mindset understand that both partners will grow and change, as will their relationship. There is no ‘perfection’; there is love, respect, acceptance and willingness to put in the effort for that growth.

On the other hand, those with a fixed-mindset feel that personal change and growth should not be necessary in a loving and accepting relationship. Requests for change from a partner are viewed as unreasonable and demanding.

The image of perfection is paramount for someone with a fixed mindset. When something in the relationship or life is not ‘perfect’ (in their definition), people with a fixed mindset feel judged and permanently branded as ‘a lousy spouse’, ‘bad with time management’, ‘forgetful’, ‘ incapable of balancing what everyone else is able to do easily’.  They feel uncomfortable with this long-lasting label and that their perfectness is somewhat exposed as being a farce.  And thus they lash out in all sorts of ways:  yelling, silent treatment,  put-downs, arguments, and even physically abusing.

When they were faced with late charges for a credit card bill, Leah was furious at Chaim.  “This month was so hectic and I didn’t get a chance to do it. He should have noticed how busy I was and done the bills.”   That was her fixed mindset blaming someone else to maintain her perfectness.

When something goes wrong in the marriage, it’s tempting to defend yourself against what your actions (or non-actions) might have contributed to the situation and foist the entire blame onto the other person. Essentially trying to make you the more righteous and powerful in that relationship.  It is so much easier than actually facing up to what happened and working to make change in that area or in your thinking about the particular nuances of that situation.   That’s the fixed mindset.

Those with a growth mindset learn from the situation, take responsibility or forgive as necessary, continue forward and embrace the possibilities of the future.

Those with a growth mindset learn from the situation, take responsibility or forgive as necessary, continue forward and embrace the possibilities of the future.  That is not to say that they are not responsible or hurt or confused, they just understand that this incident does not permanently brand them.  “That was an expensive life lesson. Let’s work out a system where that doesn’t happen again, no matter how busy we are.  What are some possibilities of bill paying systems that we can consider?”

An important aspect of marriage is to encourage your partner’s development of their goals and potential and have them encourage and support yours. All done with love, respect and acceptance.  Partners need to accept each other lovingly in many ways. However, acceptance is only half the formula of what makes a loving, solid, life-long, vibrant, successful relationship.  The other half –  in equal measure – is incorporating a growth-oriented mindset and acting on the belief that throughout the marriage both must put in the effort to change and grow.

SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGE = ACCEPTANCE + EFFORT

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