A marriage is made up of three parts: a husband, a wife, and the relationship. While the couple may be married and have agreed to pledge their lives to one another, they are still two separate people who are continuing to grow and develop as individuals. It's okay for me to have different interests, like reading different books or watching different TV shows.

She likes to read medical journals while I can't understand a single word found within the pages. I like to watch shows where myths are busted or that take place in an office. She doesn't like to watch TV.

Continuing to develop as an individual throughout your life is healthy but when you marry, you've now committed yourself to a relationship that links you to another individual. Too often the people involved in a marriage will grow apart and find themselves on different levels or with different ideas and values than when they first married. How can I make sure that everything in my marriage is going in the right direction?

I've learned that growing as an individual involves more than just sticking to the subjects in which I'm interested. Since I've been married, I've tried new foods, listened to new music, attended various events that I wouldn't have before and traveled to places that I never thought I'd visit. I've totally left my comfort zone in an effort to show interest in the things my wife enjoys. I haven't always enjoyed my new experiences, but I've grown as a person because of them and we have grown closer as a couple which has strengthened our relationship. The simple act of taking an interest in the things my wife finds enjoyable and doing it with a positive attitude has helped unify and strengthen our marriage. I've discovered that I actually like some things that I never thought I would enjoy.

While experiencing my wife's pleasures can help bring us closer together, appreciating our differences can maintain and preserve our marriage. Understanding that she is her own person, and she won't always do things the way I would has prevented many arguments. She comes from a different culture and a family who has different traditions than my own. While I may not always understand them, out of appreciation for her, I have a responsibility to respect them. Her unique qualities are what make her who she is and if I were to ignore them or try to change them, I would be changing the person with whom I fell in love.

Effective communication with one another will ensure that we are on the same page and that we can continue to grow together rather than apart. Following a bad experience, I've asked my wife if she is alright and we share our thoughts about what happened. We address each other's concerns and talk about how we can handle the problems we're facing. Misunderstandings, arguments, and hardships can all be resolved with communication and can provide you and your spouse the opportunity to take a moment to pause and evaluate the direction you're headed.

At a time, when it seems people go through spouses as often as they change their underwear, doesn't mean your marriage is destined to become a negative statistic. Hard work, determination and understanding the basic components of a marriage make a solid foundation on which to build a relationship and will give your marriage a better chance to succeed.

Here's to many more years of happiness.

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