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The Marriage Journey

"A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person."

Next week my wife and I will be celebrating our 37th wedding anniversary which always amazes me because in many ways it just doesn’t feel that long while in others it’s been my entire adult life experience since we started dating when we were eighteen. We don’t have any big plans to celebrate but will likely enjoy a long walk on the beach which is something we’re trying to do weekly since we moved.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to witness the beautiful journey of various marriages and partnerships in my life which has included many hundreds of counseling clients over the years, my parents, my friends, and, of course, my own. What has struck me is the undeniable effect these partnerships have on our mental health. There's something almost magical about sharing life with a partner - the way it shapes our existence and influences our mental wellbeing.

It reminds me of a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” This perspective, I believe, perfectly encapsulates the essence of marriage and partnership, and their impacts on our mental health.

To begin with, marriage or partnership provides a vital sense of companionship and emotional support. As social creatures, we thrive on connection. Our partners can often serve as our confidants, sounding boards, cheerleaders, and comforters. This presence can create a cushion against loneliness, reduce stress and foster a sense of belonging, contributing to enhanced mental wellbeing.

Moreover, partnerships often act as a safe space for vulnerability. They give us the opportunity to express our fears, insecurities, dreams, and hopes. This openness can be incredibly healing, as it allows for genuine understanding and empathy. It’s like holding up a mirror to ourselves, showing us our strengths and weaknesses, and helping us grow both individually and as a pair.

My wife and I have shouldered burdens together several times over our years together including the near death at birth of our first son and his life-long disability, the death of my father and brother when I was only in my twenties, the death of her father in our thirties, living as missionaries for two years and risking homelessness and bankruptcy, and then a stroke which changed our lives in several ways.

Through all those things we have always known that our marriage, relationship, and friendship has been the bedrock of our existence. We’ve always known and trusted there was nothing the world could throw at us which would ever rock our marriage and I have found that to be most assuring and calming many times over our decades together.

Research suggests that a healthy marriage or partnership can lead to improved mental health. The shared experiences and mutual support can buffer against mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, the sense of stability and security offered by a committed relationship often acts as a foundation for psychological wellbeing.

However, it's crucial to remember that these benefits hinge on the quality of the relationship. The term 'healthy partnership' is key here. It is one that prioritizes mutual respect, trust, understanding, and open communication. Unhealthy relationships, on the other hand, can lead to stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges. It's about finding the balance and nurturing the relationship so that it remains a source of support and positivity.

Similarly, marriage and partnership can promote healthier behaviors, such as maintaining a balanced diet, regular exercise, or seeking medical help when needed. These behaviors can positively affect our physical health, which, in turn, benefits our mental health. We're often more inclined to take better care of ourselves when we have someone who shares our journey.

Lastly, a strong partnership fosters resilience. It’s a tag-team approach to tackling life’s challenges. When faced with adversity, having a supportive partner can make the burden seem less daunting. This sense of solidarity can significantly boost our mental fortitude, allowing us to navigate through life's storms with more confidence and optimism.

In conclusion, the benefits of marriage and partnership on mental health are profound and multifaceted. However, these relationships require nurturing. They need open communication, understanding, trust, and mutual respect. The investment is worthwhile, leading to improved mental wellbeing, resilience, and personal growth.

Remember, it's not always about the romantic walks on the beach or the grand gestures. It's also about the quiet moments of understanding, the shared laughter, the mutual support through tough times, and the joy of achieving dreams together. That's where the magic truly lies.

Have a great week!

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