We live in a “you do you” culture, where individuality is prized and independence is cultivated. But when too much independence is carried over into marriage, it can create walls between spouses. One of the common messages that’s out there (unfortunately) is that husbands and wives should keep a little piece of themselves private after they’re married.
That might mean maintaining a separate bank account that’s kept as a fallback “just in case.” Or having certain confidences that we don’t share with our spouse but discuss with a close friend or relative. Those assets, confidences, and activities that we keep private from our spouse might seem like a way to protect ourselves in case the marriage doesn’t work out.
But the happy couples I surveyed and interviewed for my book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages took a totally different approach (and many of these findings were further validated and expanded in my recent book, Thriving in Love & Money!) They didn’t hold back from their spouses. They threw everything into the ring—their hearts, their wallets, and especially their hopes—by risking everything and choosing to believe that it would pay off.
Many of these couples had moved from being very troubled in their marriage to being very happy… and this particular secret was one of the biggest reasons why.
Be Open And Vulnerable With Your Spouse
The highly happy couples in our research literally removed the word “divorce” from their vocabularies. They took a deep breath and decided to not have their little secret stash of money on the side that their spouse did not know about. They gave each other full access to bank accounts, email accounts, computers, and telephones, hiding nothing. Sure, some couples did it a bit differently—for example, if one spouse had a gambling problem, they would get counsel about what financial boundaries to put in place—but otherwise they made themselves completely vulnerable to each other and took what felt like a huge risk of getting their heart broken or losing everything.
Eliminate The Self-Protective Actions That Undermine Your Marriage
Once they were “all in,” these couples found that the earlier actions they had been taking to “protect themselves” actually created the very problems they were trying to protect themselves from! With self-protection comes mistrust—if you’re holding things back from your spouse, you can’t help wondering what they might be holding back from you. On the flip side, openness and vulnerability build trust.
As one woman I interviewed said, “What is more foolish? Taking the risk to trust him and risking the small likelihood that your spouse will betray you? Or deciding that you’re not going to fully trust him and risking the almost certain likelihood that it will build a wall between you and undermine your marriage?”
Give Yourselves No Choice But To Work Things Out
One husband who had come very close to divorce told me, “Everything changed when we decided to lock ourselves in this marriage and throw away the key. Even if only one person decides to change the commitment level at first, it is amazing how much things change when you stop saying the ‘D-word’ and instead decide that as much as it depends on you, you truly are in it until death do you part. My wife started to refuse to listen when I would throw out the D-word… and pretty soon it was catching.”
He continued, “We decided that since there was no eject seat, we had to work this out. We had no other choice. It took a few years, but we are so happy today. We love being married. I wish everyone would realize the power of true commitment.”
When we make a total commitment to our spouse, without holding anything back, we end up getting so much more than we give. We get to truly do life as a team—partnered together, for life, no matter what. So go “all in” with your spouse. Commit totally. And watch your marriage thrive.