It seems what it really takes to improve and sustain a marriage is just a little effort by both the husband and the wife (or even just one of them) – effort to be a little more aware, a little more patient, to use a little more self-control, show a little more kindness. It doesn’t have to be big and dramatic – in fact, that rarely lasts – but rather, it needs to be continual – more like a drip hose than a thunderstorm. And especially, the effort needs to continue even when the individual doesn’t feel like it. That is when it really counts, when real growth occurs. It’s easy to show kindness, for example, when things are going well but far more difficult when things are not going well. However, that is precisely when the effort makes the most difference.
It seems so easy – just give a little more effort continually. So why don’t we do it? One reason may be expectations. We assume love and marriage are supposed to be effortless. That’s what we're conditioned to believe – “happily ever after” – it’s just finding the right one and then a life of continual bliss. If it requires effort, we conclude that we haven't found the right one.
In addition, we have societal expectations of instant gratification. We are conditioned to look for ways NOT to make effort – including blaming others or circumstances rather than taking responsibility ourselves. The problem with these expectations is that they go counter to the natural law of growth and development which is inherent in all living things, including us. We are designed to grow and develop and when we are not growing and developing we are not happy. A different mind set is required – one that acknowledges personal responsibility and growth potential and yes, a little effort is necessary to make that happen.