Marriage can be thought of as a contract to live a certain way. That “certain way” happens to be that we partner with our spouse for our mutual physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual wellbeing. This contract requires unprecedented unselfishness, vulnerability, personal growth and especially commitment.
However, living in accordance to our marriage contracts also strengthens, empowers and protects us. Loyalty in marriage gives each partner the courage to ask for help. Such spouses also help each other make better life choices. In part, because each one feels the responsibility and desire to contribute to their mutual happiness. In this kind of marriage, children also learn to keep their promises based on the determination of their parents to work toward conflict resolution and find joy in each other long term.
So how do we create this kind of home; one where fidelity goes far beyond simply “not cheating on your spouse”, but rather one where commitment is part of the family culture, practically a part of the air we breathe? Here are several ideas that work miracles in my family as well as those of some of my dear friends.
Listen to your conscience and intuition. Our most powerful tool to create a loyal marriage is already within us. As we are attentive to the small voices of our best selves, we avoid taking actions that would undermine the life force of marital fidelity.
Although a friend of mine was recently feeling frustrated with her husband, I saw her do the right thing. She put aside her frustration and sought for greater understanding of his point of view. This wasn’t so that she had more potent ammunition in the argument, or so she could passive-aggressively concede. Rather, it was so that she and her husband could find a solution that worked for them independent of any outside expectations. I admired her desire to follow her conscience and unfaltering knowledge that they are a committed team.
Learn to give. As previously mentioned, unselfishness is a huge part of a successful, loyal marriage. Giving our time, attention, and energy to our spouses ensures that they feel loved and invites them to give back to us. Furthermore, this kind of marriage gradually changes us into a person who gives to others more naturally. Because we know we have contributed to our happy marriages, we know we have something to give as we notice the needs of others around us. We make the world a better place, one healed heart at a time.
Make physical affection more special by learning what it symbolizes to your spouse. Do you know what a peck on the lips means to your husband? Or how your wife likes to be hugged? Try finding out. After marriage, your physical affection becomes more select and more meaningful. If you and your spouse can agree (or at least come to understand) specific meanings to your gestures, the wide range of physical affection in your marriage becomes a powerful communication tool. Plus, you demonstrate commitment as you listen to your spouse and act on what he or she says.
For example, in my marriage, quick kisses mean something like “you’re fun,” and “love ya!” I love hearing that. But in moments when I need comfort and connectivity, the casualness of that message seems flippant and superficial. After we discussed our different ways of understanding the gesture, my husband started giving me forehead kisses on hard days. To me, these communicate much-needed tenderness, protection and devotion. Once we talked, our physical affection became a more effective and a consistent method of bonding.
Live with purpose. Have a plan, set goals and get excited about it together. When we make goals with our spouse, it makes our day-to-day lives more meaningful. This is because our more mundane actions become steps on the way to a greater purpose. We each have a natural desire to be loyal to someone who gives our lives more significance. Furthermore, the purposes themselves can bolster the devotion in our marriages. Each time we become better people, even just slightly, we give our spouse something new and remarkable to fall in love with. In essence, we keep our marriage fresh and rewarding by acquiring fresh character strengths and the lasting rewards that come from them.
Know each other’s extended families and share their stories. The families we grew up with sometimes present an obstacle in creating loyalty in our new, post-marriage families. Much of who we are is shaped by our parents’ families, so the influence of our spouses can sometimes feel strange or even intrusive. However, by including our spouse in our origin families, we allow our husband or wife to draw on the strength of relationships we already have.
One powerful way of doing this is to share family stories with your spouse. Maybe that’s the story of how your Aunt Tammy got that scar, or the story of your great-great-great-great-grandpa, who gambled, and (sort of) started the family love of card games. Since these things are common knowledge in your family, they create an unspoken bond that can leave out your spouse. By bringing these stories to light, your spouse is brought into the circle.
Each of these points are built on a premise: marriage means becoming one. As we aspire to be unified with our spouse and put in the necessary work to do so, the ability to act unified comes naturally. Just like happy homes create a strong society, a loyal spouse creates a happy home.