Whenever I’m doing the wedding ceremony for a couple, there is one major question which I want to know the answer to—can you grow?
If the answer is yes, there are no limitations for the couple. They can endure any hardship. Thrive in any circumstance. Enjoy a lifetime together no matter the ups and downs life throws at them.
If the answer is no, there is little hope for the couple. They will wilt under the common pressures of life. The first hardship will likely end their relationship. Even if they experience wonderful times, they will not be able to handle the success.
Marriage is not a static state. At every moment each individual in the relationship is changing, the circumstances of life are changing, and what is necessary to be happily married is progressing. Unless a couple develops the ability to grow in positive ways, they will not be able to navigate marriage.
Most marriages fail because a couple has not grown. (See: The Number One Cause for Divorce)
Sadly, some individuals will boast about their lack of growth. “She’s changed,” the husband says. “He’s just not the same person,” the wife says. They are often right in their description. The person they married is not the same person from five or ten years ago. But the problem is not that one spouse changed, the problem is that one spouse did not.
Change is a necessary aspect of marriage. Unless you are growing and adapting, your marriage is dying.
Their greatest teacher is often conflict. Any relational rub is an opportunity to learn a new skill, grow in knowledge of one another, reveal your heart, and engineer a new element of the relationship. (See: Don’t Seek Conflict, But Do Embrace It)
Success is often viewed skeptically. While a healthy couple appreciates professional or personal success, they also have a deep awareness of the dangers of success. They work with great intention to find a deeper satisfaction with one another rather than allowing success to fill relationship voids.
Failure is viewed as an opportunity. Healthy couples see failure as a tremendous chance to explore mistakes and make better choices the next time. They do not blame one another, but instead seek a mutual understanding.
This growth mindset does not come naturally. People are not born this way; they make choices to become this way. The first area in which they grow is in the area of weariness. They get tired of being tired, of repeating the same behaviors, of experiencing the same failures.
Having grown weary of being weary, they make different choices, learn new skills, and develop in every aspect of who they are as individuals and a couple.
Several characteristics are required for a couple to grow in marriage.
It requires humility. Pride is what keeps most people from growing. They think they know it all. They assume any problem is because of their spouse. They arrogantly assume they have it all together. (See: The Most Important Marriage Advice I Could Give)
It requires desire. Until you want it, you won’t have it. Many people think they want to change, but they don’t truly desire it. They think it sounds better, but to truly desire change is to hunger for it in a deeply transformational way. A true desire will not be denied.
It requires action. Change only happens when we make different choices than we have been making. For those choices to occur, we have to act in new ways. We have to learn new things and have new experiences. This cannot happen in a static manner. Action is mandatory. Read a book. Get counseling. Take a personality test. Communicate. All of these are necessary actions for growth.
It requires others. You cannot grow on your own. Other people are necessary to assist you on the journey. You need someone who is further down the road than you. You need a mentor to guide you. You need a source for ideas of how to solve problems. Without other people (writers, counselors, friends, mentors, and a community) you will not grow.
Some couples make it and others do not. We like to think the difference is circumstances, but rarely are circumstances the determining factor. Show me a couple who blamed a situation on their divorce and I’ll show you ten couples who had the same experience but their marriage got stronger through the situation.
The determining factor between failure and success in marriage if often one characteristic: if you can grow, you can succeed. If you cannot grow, you will not survive.
For more, see:
5 Books Every Married Couple Should Read
Why Nobel Peace Award Winners Get Divorced