Listen: Collett Smart chats to Katrina Roe
What does it take to make a marriage last?
Last year, psychologist, author and Hope Mornings contributor Collett Smart celebrated her 25-year wedding anniversary, so I asked her what she knows about marriage now, that she didn’t know when she walked down the aisle.
“I never understood when older people said that your love grows deeper, and that you could love someone more than on the day you got married,” she said. “And you do.
“Love goes through phases and stages, and you don’t always have that fluttery feeling all the time, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not still in love or that love’s not there.”
3 Keys to a Happy Marriage
While there are many practical things we can do to build our marriages, Collett suggest these three principles as a key to having a happy marriage.
- Always put each other first
- Remember your relationship needs nurturing
- Find ways to encourage each other’s passions
These are all ways of intentionally thinking about your partner, and seeking to show them your love and build their happiness.
“Love is a choice,” Collett said. “You choose to love each other every day, even when it’s hard. I’m still learning after 25 years, but love takes commitment and work to stay strong for both people – and that’s something that we’ve learned along the way.”
Tips for Getting Through Hard Times
Every marriage will have dry times when you just don’t ‘feel it’. Collett offers the following keys for getting through those seasons.
1. Intentionally ‘Fight For’ or ‘Steer’ Your Marriage
“I think it’s important to fight for your marriage,” she said. “It’s not hoping your marriage is just going to cruise along on its own and get to whatever destination you thought it would. You actually have to purposefully steer it. And it’s in those little day-to-day things, like the coffees. That is part of steering your marriage.”
2. Don’t Get Personal During Arguments
Collett urges married couples not to turn nasty when they disagree. Avoid personal issues.
“You know this person more intimately than anyone and that’s amazing, but it can be used in very cruel ways in arguments,” she said. “So you make a rule not to go there. You don’t get personal because that can cause deep wounds.”
3. Don’t Keep Big or Dangerous Secrets.
It’s important in a marriage not to hide things from one another – even in troubled times. Collett said it’s important to be open and honest, and deal with things as they arise.
“If you’re struggling with something personally in your own life, don’t think it’s going to ‘sort itself out’,” she said. “It never does. It festers and it comes out in your marriage. You need to seek help.”
4. Don’t Go To Sleep Angry
As the famous saying from the Bible goes, ‘don’t let the sun go down on your anger’. It’s a good key to making peace over conflicts, even if they can’t be resolved immediately.
“Apologise before you go to bed,” says Collett. “Don’t fight it out then and there, but make peace and say we’re going to deal with this tomorrow.”
Tips for Men
Collett gives her husband credit for showing care in small ways, bringing her coffee in bed, or putting toothpaste on her toothbrush for her. She encourages men to show love to their wives in small ways, such as:
- Touch base during the day with loving texts or phone calls.
- Be affectionate. Hold hands, hug after work, kiss each other goodbye.
- Schedule in times for real conversation to keep your friendship alive. If you don’t book out your diary, somebody else will.
- Compliment and show appreciation to your wife for the daily stuff.
“Wives want to be appreciated for the small things,” Collett says. “We read heaps in the media lately about how women carry the mental load. We’re worried about kid’s sport, packing homework, stationery, family birthdays, do we need milk?”
Intentional appreciation for these many small things goes a long way.
- Collett Smart is a consultant psychologist, qualified teacher, lecturer, author, wife and mother of three children. She writes on many issues affecting teenagers, at collettsmart.com.