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Marriage is work. It’s hard work, but it’s good work. If you’re like millions of couples around the world experiencing some marital challenges, don’t be so hard on yourself. Marriage is work; if it wasn’t they wouldn’t make you commit in a public ceremony before God, family, friends and folks there just for the free lamb chops. If marriage wasn’t work, “till death do us part” wouldn’t be the only exit clause. They knew one day you’d want to run or act like this day never happened. That’s why all marriages need guests aka witnesses. They may get all dressed up and eat your wedding cake, but they’re also witnesses for the prosecution. They’re there to remind you of what you promised on your wedding day.

Marriage, like love, is not a feeling. It’s a commitment. Commitments always come with challenges, especially in marriage. So stop being hard on yourself. If you feel like everybody’s marriage is better than yours and no one else’s marriage experiences challenges, you’re fooling yourself. Every marriage experiences challenges. Everyone just doesn’t put it on Facebook. Just because she posted on their wedding anniversary how she loves him to the moon and back doesn’t mean there aren’t days when she wants to fly him to the moon and leave him there.

Challenges are part of the marital journey. Every married couple has their own issues. It seems from the first argument, we start looking for an exit clause. But the key to making a marriage work and making it thrive is an important decision each person in the marriage must make: are you going to stay or are you going to go?  Once you decide to stay and commit to making the marriage work, though you experience some battles, the war to leave is pretty much over. If you decide to stay, then stay. Don’t have one foot in and one foot out. Don’t talk about leaving when you’ve committed to staying.

If you’ve truly decided to stay, then commit to it.  No matter what the disagreement, never retaliate by threatening to leave. Being committed to staying and honoring your marriage agreement means coming up with ways to make the marriage work, not nitpicking on what’s wrong or has gone wrong. Remember, you committed to staying.

Ask yourself: what I’m I doing to make things better or worse? When you decide to stay means you’re committing to being a part of the solution. Being part of the solution means working on yourself first to make things better. It also means practicing forgiveness. You can’t move on holding on to the past. When you committed to stay, you committed to moving forward in a positive direction. Staying means when challenges come, you lean on solutions not dwell on challenges.

Have solution methods and strategies in place before challenges arrive. Don’t wait to be angry to express your dissatisfaction. Deal with things head on. Don’t wait until you’re both angry and no one is listening to each other. Have biweekly counseling sessions. You don’t have to wait till things are bad to seek counseling. Counseling isn’t just for couples going through tough times. It’s also a great marital maintenance tool for keeping your communication open, honest and highlighting the wonderful things happening in your marriage and how much the two of you have grown.

Make your marriage a priority. Make time for your marriage. Value each other. Let him or her know how much he or she means to you and your family. Instead of trying to find a way out or thinking the grass is greener elsewhere, commit to making your marriage the best it can possibly be. No one else can do that but you. Remember, the grass is greener where you water it.