The other “three little words” that make a marriage

Happy Sunday everyone. So the time has come for John and I to write our ceremony. This is a really big deal to me. I don’t want to leave one crucial word out of the most important contract I’ll ever sign. I believe these vows, and the Jewish Ketubah (marriage contract) that we write will be the foundation of our marriage, the documents we go back to when we’re struggling.

The other day I was thinking about a lot of the couples I know who I think I can confidently say have “made it”. They all have the words I’m going to write in common. Oh, and by “made it” I don’t mean made it down the aisle. That’s just the beginning. You see, in the movies marriage is the happy ending we’re after. The wedding is usually the fade out, the scene where we all know it worked out OK.

But with divorce rates soaring, we all know these happy-ever-after scenes aren’t a reflection of reality. Walking down the aisle isn’t a happy ending. It’s the beginning of a long journey that takes work. People change over years, emotionally, physically… their needs change, their wants change and keeping up a loving and healthy relationship in the midst of that is work.

When you become family, and bound to love each other unconditionally, it can be so easy to take each other for granted, so easy to forget the vows you so sincerely meant. “I love you” gets said so often it can just become one of those things you say. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to say it. But here are a few other sets of “three little words” that are so often underrated.

Image (c) Lisa O'Dwyer – source B.Loved Weddings (click on link to visit original post)

“I am sorry”

“Yeah yeah,” I hear you saying “what a cliché”. But don’t be too quick to dismiss the importance of an apology. I wish I could remember where I read this (it was on another wedding blog, so if it’s you shout me and I’ll link to you) but someone expressed the idea this week that saying sorry means you value your relationship more than your ego. It might seem like it’s OK to leave it unsaid but saying it says so much more. It says you love your partner enough to say something that’s universally acknowledged to be very difficult to say. It means even more coupled with…

“I was wrong”

Another crucial component to a functional relationship. If you’re both prepared to admit you’re wrong when you feel you were wrong, you have a head start already. Stubbornness on one or both sides can make life very, very difficult. It’s so easy to slip into an argument that goes on for so long nobody really remembers how it started. Nip it in the bud.

“This bothers me”

Something bothers you. And you don’t say anything. It starts with a mild irritation, it grows and grows until it festers away, bubbling up one day in a spew of resentment that you’ve been holding in. My advice? Don’t. A long-term partnership is just as much about family as it is about being in a romantic relationship. And families need to be honest with one another. This isn’t a green card to go nit-picking, it just means that talking about things before they turn into an issue might be awkward or even upsetting in the short term, but it’s a much better option than letting things stew.

“We’re a team”

How many of us have been in relationships that started out amazingly well, but somehow, through neglect or through sheer incompatibility have turned into a war zone? I know I have. Of course you’re going to bicker, of course you’re not going to agree 100%… OK, maybe not even 50% of the time. And when you have kids that will only be compounded by the fact that maybe you’ll have different ideas – maybe you’ll accidentally undermine each other, maybe you’ll snap. But the whole point of being in a relationship is that you’ve chosen to be part of a team. Your goals are simple, to have a happy home together, to be a support for one another and to love each other. Doesn’t sound so hard, does it? So why do so many of us make our partner into our enemy? I hope throughout my marriage I remember which team I’m on and that he does the same – I think it may be the reminder that puts everything into context.

“I’m behind you”

Unconditional love and support. That’s what I’m offering and that’s what I’m signing up for. No matter what, I’m behind John 100%, even if I don’t always agree with him, even if it gets difficult. I’ll always be his biggest fan. It’s so much more than “I love you” it’s a safety net like no other. Support is also about understanding. Making an effort to understand each other is vital. Not being understood can be very lonely – and being lonely in a relationship is never fun. So when you’re wondering what on earth is going on in someone’s head, go the extra mile and find out.

What do you all think this lazy Sunday morning? Does “I love you” say it all? Do you need to be a team to be in a relationship? Is it important for you to hear an apology?

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