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Survivalist & TV Star Bear Grylls on How to Make Your Marriage Stronger

June 1st, 2016 Posted in Artist Spotlight

Survivalist and TV star Bear Grylls recently wrote what he called “the most difficult” and “most important” column that he’s penned for the UK’s GQ, where he is a regular contributor. And no, it’s not about how to survive in an isolated forest by foraging for slugs. It’s about marriage.The entire column is worth reading and full of practical advice (like going to counseling, making date nights a priority, communicating well), but he also says that balancing priorities as both a parent and a partner is essential. Especially, not putting our kids before our spouses:
We must prioritize our partners above everything else: even our kids. Couples often think that the kids should always come first, but smart couples know that the best foundation for the family is their relationship. In protecting that, they can then best love their children.

Even though he’s recognized for wild TV exploits, Grylls is also known for being a down to earth guy, who is vocal about this faith. Back in 2010, he explained his own philosophy of Christianity RELEVANT.

I remember having one moment when some really good friends turned their back on me in a really nasty way. And I remember praying a simple prayer up a tree one evening and saying, ‘God, if you’re like I knew you as a kid, would you be that friend again?’ And it was no more complicated than that. And actually the amazing thing is that all God asks is that we sort of open the door and He’ll do the rest. So often we kinda hide behind our yearning for love and acceptance with loads of complicated theological questions, and actually once that’s stripped away what we really are is just somebody who wants to have that relationship with your Father.


RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS -- "Kate Winslet" Episode 204 -- Pictured: (l-r) Bear Grylls, Kate Winslet -- (Photo by: Mark Challender/NBC)

 

Of all the columns I have written for GQ, this is the most difficult. But it’s also the most important. Because if you really want to be happy, your closest relationships have to be good. And there is no relationship more important than your marriage.

Now, I definitely don’t get this stuff right all the time. But I do really want to get it right and I have learnt a lot about what’s smart and what’s not. These are the conclusions I’ve come to.

The vicar who married Shara and me told us that marriage is like making a piece of precious glass. Do it right and you’ll create something beautiful and lasting. But glass, like a marriage, is fragile. They are both very easy to break if you take your eye off the ball.

So how do we take care of this precious and fragile thing? First off, remember that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” partner. Marriage is about finding someone whose values and character you love, and then doing everything you can to affirm, encourage and match them.

Marriages comes with an emotional bank account, and you have to ensure that your investments exceed your withdrawals. Sometimes we have to work late, be away, or we get angry or act selfishly. These are all withdrawals from our emotional bank account.

So how do we make good emotional investments?

The year that Shara and I got married, we enrolled on a marriage course. People thought we were nuts. Surely a marriage course was to help those whose marriages were in trouble? But we figured that if this was the most important thing we were ever going to do, we should do everything we could to stop it breaking in the first place.

A great tip we took away was to plan date nights, once a week if possible. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. Go for a walk in the rain together, or for dinner, or even the cinema or a picnic. We need to put time aside to spend with one another and focus on what brought us together in the first place. Because togetherness is what it’s all about.

bear-grylls_2We must prioritize our partners above everything else: even our kids. Couples often think that the kids should always come first, but smart couples know that the best foundation for the family is their relationship. In protecting that, they can then best love their children.

If we’re to prioritize our partners, it’s important that we also reserve our “best” for them. How many people come back from work in a bad mood, kick the cat, are grumpy with the kids, then put on their best face because they’ve got people coming for dinner? The smart man does it the other way round: if you’re having a terrible day, maybe cancel that dinner and give the best of yourself to your partner. There’s no better investment into your emotional bank account. It shows your partner that they’re number one.

We men are often terrible at communicating. Marriage counsellors are quite clear that the main cause of marriage breakdown is not infidelity or disagreements. It’s lack of communication. When we have concerns, we need to talk about them. Otherwise they fester and grow.

Communication is the cement that binds the bricks of marriage together. Before getting married, you should be open with each other about your attitude to the issues that all families encounter – in-laws, finances, children, schools. And sex, of course. That can be a difficult one for us to discuss, as that road will have its ups and downs for sure. But if you communicate well, sex should get better with age.

The greatest part of communication lies in the art of listening. In this respect, men often make a fundamental mistake (myself included): when we listen, we try to solve, rather than try to understand. Countless times, Shara’s told me she’s annoyed at something and I suggest solutions. But she doesn’t want solutions; she just wants to be listened to and understood. When I finally learned to listen carefully, and to show that I understood her concerns (without always trying to “fix” them), our marriage became much stronger.

At our wedding, we asked our guests for their best marriage advice. We got some gems of replies but the best came from a couple who had been married for 50 years. It was also the simplest: “Never stop holding hands.” That’s what Shara and I have always tried to do, both physically and metaphorically.

Great marriages rarely just happen. And as someone once said to me: If you ever think the grass is greener on the other side of the hill… it’s time to start watering your own.

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