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How My Husband and I Built a Much Healthier Marriage Than My Parents'

One woman's advice on how to have a happy marriage and create your own positive family culture—even if you didn't grow up in one.
Cassidy Doolittle
by Cassidy Doolittle
Updated Apr 23, 2019

A healthy marriage doesn't come out of the blue. It takes hard work, patience and compromise, even for the happiest of couples. But how do you build a happy, healthy marriage if your parents' relationship isn't—or wasn't—your ideal? Here's how one woman learned from her parents' imperfect relationship to create a strong, happy marriage of her own.

My childhood was a complicated one, split down the middle into two distinct realms. One half held a whimsical farm life and my mother's endless kindness. The other was a hidden reality of marital trouble, tension and fighting.

During long nights, lying awake listening to my parents argue, I promised myself one thing over and over: I would never become them.

When I married, unsurprisingly, I began practicing the same repressive habits I'd witnessed from my mother. In turn, this caused me to swallow a thousand tiny offenses, only to explode over something trivial, morphing dinner into a giant meltdown. My husband would sit there, eyes wide, wondering why his seemingly normal wife kept painfully detonating every six to nine months.

One day, as we were still dealing with the fallout of one of my biannual breakdowns, my husband finally had enough. "We're completely different people than your parents," he said. "Instead of spending our marriage trying and failing to not be them, let's figure out who we want to become."

This began a long and difficult—but absolutely worthwhile—journey of discovering how to build our own foundation, family culture and healthy marriage. Here are five helpful pieces of advice what we've followed.

1. Find a couple who's really good at marriage.

Be those people who take another couple you admire to coffee. Buy them a latte and ask them questions about their relationship, backgrounds and family culture—and how they got to the healthy marriage they have today. My husband and I didn't even know how much we didn't know until we saw what we'd never had.

2. Use a relationship app.

Lasting is the nation's number one relationship and marriage counseling app that lets you learn and talk about specific relationship issues on your schedule. In addition to helping with overall communication and expectation-setting, Lasting has an amazing Family Culture and the In-Law series with insights on the topics of family-building and relationships.

3. Take the Myers-Briggs assessment.

My husband's and my Myers-Briggs assessments helped us understand ourselves and each other in new and practical ways that provided concrete communication direction. (Get your free Myers-Briggs assessment here—Enneagram, DISC, and How to Fascinate are also great personality test options.)

4. Resist staying the victim.

Your parents may have strapped you with some baggage, but, now it's your decision to either carry that baggage into relationship or try to unpack it along the way. Opt for the latter. There will never be freedom to change and grow if you're anchored to the past.

5. Decide who you want to be as a couple.

Lasting refers to The Good Life: a mental picture of a satisfying and fulfilling future. So, how do you get there? As you craft your family's vision of this shared future, ask yourself these questions.

  • What would I like others to say about me or my family?
  • What story do I want to tell about myself or my family later on in life?
  • What types of things would make me truly happy and fulfilled?
  • What do I want to be remembered by?

Your family culture is how your family thinks about the world, their values and what they work toward achieving together every single day. This culture can guide your marriage by providing the structure necessary for both the present and the future, regardless of what you may have seen or experienced in your own life.

I will probably always wrestle with the muscle memory of bottling emotions or tiptoeing around unpredictable tempers. It takes practice and persistence to move from tearing down the old to build something brand new—but it's been the best decision we ever made.

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