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5 Marriage Mantras to Live By

May 17, 2018 | by Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, MS, LCPC

Practical insights to help you keep your head above water and not get locked in conflict.

It can be hard navigating relationships and not getting stuck in the occasional, or not so occasional, drama. These five mantras will help you keep your head above water, not get locked in conflict, and provide you the perseverance to stick things out when the going gets tough.

1. You can be right or you can be in relationship

While it is tempting to always have it your way, especially if you feel passionate about your position, is it really always worth it? If you want to live with someone other than yourself, you'll have to get used to the fact that your spouse is not your carbon copy. This doesn't mean that your point of view is invalid; it means accepting that their point of view is also valid. Honoring each other's differences is what makes relationships work.

2. If it's hysterical, it's historical

It can be somewhat alarming when your spouse overreacts or loses his/her cool. Judgmental thoughts may arise, concerns for emotional stability or mental health might pop up. While there are certainly cases where the former may apply, in many cases it's just a trigger of an old painful experience. Like pouring salt into an open wound, the trigger hurts and causes an intense reaction. Instead of feeling threatened and taking it personally, realize that if your spouse is getting hysterical, good chance it's historical. No need to react, just have some compassion, wait until things calm down, and debrief.

3. If you listen long enough, everyone makes sense

There are times in a relationship when you are really convinced that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. Your spouse just doesn't make sense. You can't seem to understand where he/she is coming from. Your typical reaction may be to dismiss his/her concerns or to feel disconnected, as if you are both worlds apart. The truth is that if you listen long enough, everyone makes sense. Even if you don't agree, if you get curious enough to explore where your spouse is coming from, you'll discover that the meaning of what he/she is really saying.

4. Conflict is growth trying to happen-

Strife in a relationship is never pleasant. Besides the immediate pain experienced, the fears of a doomed relationship that often accompany it beget additional negativity and disconnect. When you realize that conflict is growth trying to happen, you can view it as a growth opportunity. Instead of getting despondent, you can realize that your relationship is experiencing growing pains. It is in the repeated areas of conflict in a relationship where the growth opportunity lies. As you reflect on your spouse's common complaints, and vice versa, view it as a cry for you to achieve your potential. Stop being defensive and see what you can to do change.

5. Love is a verb

Sometimes a partner just doesn't “feel it” anymore, often leading him/her to conclude that the relationship is irreparable. As much as we believe love is a feeling, it's not true. Feelings come and go. Just as you don't feel anything today, tomorrow you could be full of passion. True love is a verb. The Hebrew for love, ahavah, also means to give, hav. To love your spouse is to perform “loving” acts and is not limited to an emotion. While acts of love are typically an expression of our feelings for the other, the very act of giving can reawaken those dormant feelings. So if you are not feeling it today, remember love is a verb. Just do it.

Viewing your relationship from a macro perspective allows you not to get stuck in the details that often suck the life out of a marriage. Recognizing these overarching principles and drilling them into your head on a regular basis will give you the strength to commit and to work toward achieving a long-lasting, deeply fulfilling relationship.

To sign up for Rabbi Slatkin's newest free webinar training on the 4 secrets to Marriage Transformation, please visit:

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