How to Have Strong Marriage When You Didn’t See One Growing Up

BY: - 24 Jan '13 | Marriage

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I’ve been married for over four years. In that time we’ve had our ups and downs (mostly ups), and we are learning what it truly means to stand by someone’s side through it all. When we said “I do” we took it very seriously, and we have every intention of making this thing work.

But, what happens when things get rough? How do we manage the “downs” when neither of us witnessed a strong, long-lasting marriage growing up?  My husband’s father passed away when he was just seven.  My father, although alive during my entire childhood, was not an active part of my life at all. All things considered, both of our mothers did a phenomenal job raising us. We now see that raising kids with a spouse is no easy feat. I can barely wrap my brain around how our mothers did it all without the added, constant support of a life partner. To put it mildly, they were amazing.

Yet, we know that how we interact with others, in large part, is a result of what we saw growing up. Did we see our parents love each other? Did we watch them disagree respectfully and peacefully? Did we see, firsthand, what makes a marriage strong?

How do we both figure out how to make this marriage thing work when the entire experience is very new for us? How do we figure out how to strengthen our union when it’s not something we saw firsthand during our childhood? We certainly saw, and received, plenty of love. But, we didn’t see how two people successfully manage the complexities of a marriage.

These tips reflect a few things we’ve learned along the way, and have served our marriage well. I hope they can help you make the most out of yours whether you witnessed a great marriage during your childhood or not.

Don’t Seek Marital Advice From Unmarried Friends

This is absolutely not an attack on single friends.  I still turn to my single friends for advice about almost every area of my life.  However, we do not turn to them for marital advice.  For that, we call our married friends.  It just makes sense to seek advice from people who can relate to your experience because they’ve been there.

Tell Yourselves That Divorce Is Not An Option

If it’s an option there is a much stronger chance that you will both consider it when things get rough (and I mean really rough).  Just take it off of the table as an option.  Unless you are in a situation where a form of abuse is involved, getting a divorce should not be the answer to a rough patch.

Remember Why You Got Married

Getting married is a major decision that I’m sure wasn’t made lightly.  Think about why you got married and remind yourself of it daily.  Is your mate loyal?  Do they believe in you when you don’t even believe in yourself?  Are they an amazing parent?  Focus on why you decided to say those vows in the first place.

Nourish Your Friendship

There is surely something to be said for marrying your best friend.  Laugh together, bounce ideas off of each other, share dreams, create goals – do all of the things that will make your friendship stronger and more meaningful.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Trying to have a successful marriage is difficult to achieve if you think every battle is worth fighting.  Learn to laugh at yourselves, and choose your battles carefully.  Some things just aren’t worth it. Save your energy for the things that are.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but even the very best things in life come with challenges.  Meet those challenges head on and give your marriage a fighting chance, even if you have to learn how to do it one step at a time.


BMWK family — What did you learn about marriage during your childhood?

About the author

Martine Foreman wrote 399 articles on this blog.

Martine Foreman is a lifestyle consultant who specializes in helping moms who want more out of life but feel overwhelmed and confused. Through her content and services, Martine is committed to helping women embrace their personal truth, gain clarity, and take action to create lives they love. For more on Martine's candid views on life and love, visit her at Martine resides in Maryland with her husband, two kids and sassy cat Pepper.


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  • melvin

    Hi hope i will be getting those updates via facebook inbox n not yahoo inbox coz normally active in facebook.
    See i am almost 30 yrs and from a broken home,but my mum raised us up (4 of us) single handedly although thro the grace of the living GOD i believe i have pull thro, i am determined to marry one day even though i did not have a father figure while i was growing up.
    To me marriage is a lifetime commitment and a covenant btw God,one man and one woman,and divorce is not an option (malachi 2:16)
    I love reading the articles that you write,and send them to me via fb inbox. Be blessed

  • Jacqueline

    So glad someone touched on this…coming from nothing but dysfunction I was fearful about marriage for that reason I didn’t know if I had what it took but we both agreed that divorce wouldn’t be an option. We’ve been together since I was thirteen and I’m in my thirties now so we know how to push each others buttons and when those bad times came we remembered what we said about divorce and sought counseling where we discovered we don’t know how to communicate effectively to one another. I’m thankful for counseling and BMWK because it has given me so much knowledge to be a better wife. We still have things to improve upon but we are working together to improve because we both want and deserve a sweet/happy marriage.

  • Ty

    My wife and I have been married going on (14) years. I really like what this article had to say. A lot of the suggestions are practiced in our marriage. Also, just want to add that when you look at marriage from a spiritual point of view and what God’s intention for the institution, it puts a lot of things in perspective. Whenever my wife and I get into a disagreement, I silently begin to pray to God. Soon the boisterous disagreement subsides and the still small voice begins to speak. God then begins to show me how to minister to my wife. This takes great humility and I have to admit I am not always there. He reminds me that I am the covering for her and she is my helpmete. We were charged at our wedding by the Preacher to out-serve one another and we have tried our best to do that. I charge all to look at God’s intention for marriage prior to entering into it. Be honest if you are not there and ask Him to prepare you.

    • Anonymous

      What a beautiful comment Ty, your wife is so blessed to have a husband who really gets it. I pray that I can have a husband one day like that who really understands what marriage is all about and God’s intentions for marriage. I think that when we view marriage in that way it can make such a difference. Like so many others I too grew up without my father and had a mother who unfortunately wasn’t the most affectionate, so receiving and giving love hasn’t been easy for me. I pray to God daily to help me in this area and to heal my heart so if he intends to bless me with a husband one day, I will be whole and ready to give 100% towards marriage.

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When Was the Last Time You Wrote Your Spouse a Love Letter?

BY: - 24 Jan '13 | Marriage

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Photo Credit: Jessica Diamond via Flickr

Photo Credit: Jessica Diamond via Flickr

I am really feeling this new issue of Ebony Magazine. Anything celebrating love and relationships immediately captures my attention; and the three different covers highlighting celebrity couples is no exception. As I read the articles on the couples featured, I was inspired and felt somewhat school girl like as I thought about the start of my own relationship. What I enjoyed the most were the love letters each husband wrote to their wife. I remember early on in my relationship with my husband, he was in Atlanta and I was in Chicago. Although we were only dating at that point I knew we had something special and he would be my husband.

Our long distance relationship wasn’t always easy. During that time apart we had phone conversations and visits back and forth, but what I think was most exciting were the weekly love letters we sent. Yes, we wrote letters all the time. Even though we may have had the same conversations over the phone, there was something special about writing to him. The letters allowed me to express myself even further than I had been able to do over the phone. I remember the days of racing to the mailbox to check for his letters. Our letters were exciting and filled with love.

Those letters kept us engaged and anxious to spend time together. They also maintained our focus when we were apart. Our relationship, at that time, required us to try even harder. I believe it created a great foundation, one that we still benefit from today. We did get married, settled down, and started our life together. Life took over, children arrived, careers took off  and the love letters stopped. Now, we don’t actually need the love letters to know or feel the love in our marriage, because our actions show it. However, the Ebony article helped me to realize how much I miss them. It might not make a whole lot of sense to write a love letter to someone you communicate with and see everyday, but I desire to bring them back into our relationship. This year we will celebrate 15 years of marriage and while it gets better with each year, I want to make sure we don’t forget to incorporate those small displays of affection that brought us so much joy in the beginning.

Even as I began writing this article I pulled out those letters I mentioned above. I have held on to each one of them. Ahh the memories. Just reading them reminded me of the excitement and passion that was so evident during our dating relationship. Love feels good when it’s done right. Expressing love to our spouse can come in various forms, the most import thing is that we take every opportunity to show it. It’s the little things that count.

BMWK — When was the last time you wrote your spouse a love letter?

About the author

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter wrote 532 articles on this blog.

Tiya Cunningham-Sumter is a Certified Life & Relationship Coach, founder of Life Editing and Author of A Conversation Piece: 32 Bold Relationship Lessons for Discussing Marriage, Sex and Conflict. She helps couples and individuals rewrite their life to reflect their dreams. Tiya has been featured in Essence and Ebony Magazines, and on the Michael Baisden Show. She resides in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. For more of Tiya's fearless life and love wisdom, visit her blog at


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