“I want a marriage just like yours and Charlie’s.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that remark. People often ask me how I’ve been so lucky to have had two amazing marriages. I was married to my late husband Steve for almost 17 years prior to his passing from a massive heart attack. And I’ve been blessed to be married to my current hubby, Charlie, for the last eight years. However, I don’t believe that either marriage is due to luck. In fact, my first marriage to Steve was headed down a disastrous path until I made a decision early on to take the old marriage paradigm and boot it out the window once and for all. I let go of what a marriage is “supposed” to look like and, instead, created a different way of loving the man in my life. I’d like to share with you seven keys that I believe are the foundation of a fantastic marriage.

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1. Find the love within. Most marriages suffer because we have been programmed in our world to find love and approval outside of ourselves. This is why we deny our needs and suppress ourselves in our marriages and relationships. We want to experience love so we perform and look for our partners to “fill us up” in return. But as long as you do this, you will never experience the love you seek. You have to find it within, and you do that by giving yourself permission to honor and love the way you were created. In other words, put God first by saying yes to the real you.

Most people believe that putting God first means to put yourself on the backburner and serve your spouse. But this only breeds resentment because your own needs never get met. Putting God first means to take responsibility for your happiness and stand in your truth because this is where you find the love you’ve been seeking all along. It’s inside of you.

If you want you and your marriage to thrive, find the love within. Get real and put God first by honoring and loving the way you were created. Stay true to your heart and love yourself unconditionally. Express your voice. Speak out loud. Share your heart, your mistakes, everything. Make this an agreement between you and your spouse that you will both do this.

There is nothing that creates greater intimacy than finding the love within and then sharing the gift of you with your partner. And think about the gift you give him or her. When someone knows that it is safe to stand in his/her truth, that person will feel loved from the inside and from you. If you both live authentically, you will feel free in your marriage. Free to be yourselves. This is unconditional love and is the basis of a fantastic marriage.

2. Embrace the gift in the crap. Yes, there will be crap. We’re all carrying around old programming in our subconscious minds that cause us to react to our spouses. But instead of blaming your partner when you find yourself wanting to kick him/her out the door, give thanks for the gift that is being presented. You’re being taken on an adventure to your heart.

When you react negatively to your spouse, it’s because your brain is sending a message loud and clear that you have a belief that’s running your life and it’s not your truth. Instead of getting caught up in the anger, judgment, blame, resentment, or you name it, see your feelings as messengers of God. They are calling you to go within and find the real you.

For instance, I used to get mad at my late hubby, Steve, because I felt he didn’t hear me. But when I made a decision to look for the gift, I quickly learned that I was reacting to my own family’s dynamics when I was a kid. Momma gave up her voice to my dad. She believed this was love. So I learned from watching them that the wife and mom of the home couldn’t have a voice. As soon as I realized I was holding onto that old belief, I let it go. I heard very clearly in meditation, “God gave you a voice. Now use it.”

That’s when it hit me. I thought I was mad at Steve all along for not hearing me, but it was I who had not been speaking my needs. I expected Steve to read my mind and often found myself mad at him when I was really mad at myself. But by seeing my reactions as a gift to clean up the belief that caused my reactions in the first place, and then by giving myself permission to have a voice, I shifted and so did my marriage.

3. Acknowledge your spouse. This is a hard one if you’re marriage is already struggling, but it is a key component to breaking down walls that have been built up over time.

There is a tendency to blame your partner for what’s wrong in a marriage. But as long as there is blame, there will be walls. Each day, focus on what is special about your partner. Don’t expect him/her to reciprocate at first. Just focus on bringing love to the relationship.

This was one of the first steps I took in healing my marriage to Steve. I was a master at pointing fingers at him and telling him what he was doing wrong. I knew that if we were ever going to heal, I had to change my attitude. I had to think of myself as a pioneer for our family.

Each day I made a conscious effort to acknowledge Steve and tell him how grateful I was for the little things. By putting my focus on this instead of negativity, I started seeing more things to be grateful for.

Steve’s walls crumbled to the floor. He no longer had his defenses up feeling as if I always wanted to beat him up. He felt safe to be himself. And before long, he started expressing his gratitude for me as well.

4. Allow your partner his/her journey. Often times when our partners are working through the murky waters of inner struggles, we either want to fix them or we take their negative withdrawn attitude personally. But it’s not about you. It’s about them. The most loving thing you can do is to hold a space of allowing. Give your partner time to heal.

Charlie gets very withdrawn and quiet when he’s working through a healing. I, on the other hand, want to talk about it. We humans tend to think that everyone should process things like we do, but they don’t. Stand back.

A great tool I like to use when in doubt of what my hubby needs is to get grounded and centered, and then visualize Charlie in front of me. I ask his spirit how I might support him. I’m often amazed at the answers I receive. I’ve been doing this long enough now that I trust this process to show me the most loving actions to take for my hubby.

5. Laugh! Laugh at yourself and laugh with your partner. As you walk this loving path and embrace yourself, you will begin to laugh more. Do this together. Don’t take life so seriously. Think of your relationship as a grand spiritual adventure to creating a deep connection to the love inside of you. This connection is all about joy, peace, playfulness and passion. Instead of finding fault with the other, laugh at your own quirks. Say them out loud and your partner will eventually feel safe enough to the do the same. Then you can laugh together.

Laugh at yourself every day. Instead of staring in the mirror and telling yourself what is wrong with you, laugh. See yourself as human. I had a high school history teacher who taught me this. Mr. Nash once said that I was too serious and that I needed to learn to laugh at myself. Well, his wise words changed my life and I’ve been laughing ever since.

6. Be passionate. I’m talking about in the bedroom and in life. Live life full out! The more you express your passions, the more your spouse is going to want to be with you.

Find things that make your heart sing. Instead of allowing life to control you, take life by the horns and find what makes you tick. Let go of all negativity and have fun. Make life interesting. People often go looking for love in all the wrong places because they are bored and seek passion in their lives. They think sex with someone else will make them feel alive. That’s not the answer. When you give yourself permission to be passionate about your dreams and callings, you won’t go looking for it somewhere else. You’ll also be an example for your spouse to find his/her passions as well.

As you give yourself permission to live a passionate life, you’ll stop playing by the good child rules and allow your light to shine like never before. You’ll feel so alive. There is nothing that turns a person on more than to be with a partner who is on fire about life.

7. Let go of guilt. Loving yourself goes against the grain of what we’ve been taught creates a great marriage. But it’s not really about loving yourself; it’s about no longer making the other person responsible for your happiness. Most of us have not been taught to have this kind of authentic relationship. So when we start walking an enlightened path, we often question ourselves and feel guilty.

Guilt shuts you down to intimacy. It creates walls between you and your partner. It shuts you down to the love inside of you, and the love you want to give to your spouse. Let it go. It serves no purpose other than to tell you that you’re wrong for being you. And that is not the truth.

When I first began to walk this new paradigm of marriage, it felt scary. I didn’t know if I’d lose Steve’s love. That was many years ago. I saw our marriage shift to compassion, kindness, and a deeper intimacy than I would have every imagined. Steve often thanked me for being the “grounding cord” for our family. He knew the shift I made in our marriage was the greatest gift I had ever given him and our kids. I’m so glad I let go of my guilt and listened to my heart.

This sense of knowingness only deepened with my hubby Charlie. From the get-go, we discussed our intentions for our relationship and eventually our marriage. We both knew that being real with each other was the most important thing we could do for ourselves and for each other.

Charlie will tell you that at times it was like ripping the skin off of his forearms because he had a lot of dysfunctional tendencies. But all along, I knew I had to be a strong woman leader of love for him and our blended family. Charlie thanks me regularly for standing in my truth.

Last summer Charlie got quite emotional one evening. With tears in his eyes and a quivering chin, he told me that he always knew I loved him. But for the first time in his life, he was finally receiving my love because he had learned to love himself. And by loving himself, he felt safe to let me in. What a gift!

These seven keys to a fantastic marriage can work for you, too. I invite you to sit down with your partner and read this article together. Discuss what you want in your relationship. And then take gentle steps to move forward.

Just know that your marriage is a spiritual journey. It’s an avenue to take you to your truth. If you will make a commitment to loving yourself unconditionally, that love will overflow to your spouse and create the most loving, sacred marriage that you could ever imagine. And it all begins with you.

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Are you a mom who not only wants deeper intimacy in your marriage, but also wants to be a peaceful, playful, and passionate example for your kids? If you are, join Terri for The Enlightened Mom Weekend Workshop®. Click the graphic below to learn all the details!