According to babbel.com the 10 most common marriage issues include: boundary problems, communication issues, time management, intimacy, turned focus, emotional infidelity, money, issues around forgiveness, lack of appreciation, and allowing technology to interfere with the relationship. If you can relate to these, then this post is for you. We’re looking at 10 powerful stoic philosophy ideas that will help you face most challenges in marriage (and possibly life).
The reality is, all married couples face challenges in their marriage.
The issue isn’t the reality of challenges, but rather how we choose to face them.
Unfortunately, many couples don’t seem to have very healthy and effective strategies for dealing with the challenges they’re facing.
But, this can be changed.
Do you feel stuck in your marriage right now?
And as a result, does your life feel stuck also?
If you do, what can you do about it?
That’s what this post is about today.
I want to share with you 10 powerful stoic philosophy ideas to help you face most challenges in your marriage (and life).
I appreciate that when faced with challenges, giving up, giving in, or running away seem like the best options.
But I assure you, most of the time, they are not.
Now, as a general word, stoicism is the endurance of pain or hardship without complaint or display of emotion.
However, as a philosophy, Stoicism is much more.
We know that it was advocated by the most influential Greeks in history, like Rufus, Seneca, Marcus Aurelius, and Epictetus.
But, in saying that, it’s also enjoying a significant resurgence in modern society.
One example is a very popular channel on YouTube and blog (Owner: Philip Ghezelbash), The Stoic Body, which provides people with an evidence-based approach to nutrition, fitness and discipline all with an ancient twist.
So, why powerful stoic philosophy ideas from Stoicism?
According to Wikipedia, Stoicism teaches among other things that:
The path to happiness for humans is found in accepting this moment as it presents itself, by not allowing ourselves to be controlled by our desire for pleasure or our fear of pain, and by using our minds to understand the world around us …
In my work with clients (individuals and couples), I’ve come to observe that much of people’s unhappiness lies in the fact that they struggle to remain present and deal with what’s really in front of them.
A few things contribute to this, but ignorance is definitely at the top of my list.
We don’t know what we don’t know.
And ultimately we simply do what we can with what we know.
But, unfortunately, oftentimes that’s not enough.
In fact, in many cases, our ignorance can actually fuel our pain and suffering.
Stoicism teaches that the path to happiness is found in acceptance of what is, and by using our minds to understand how the world works in order to respond to it best, rather than being controlled by our desire for pleasure or fear of pain.
Many people make decisions as an attempt to obtain something they believe will give them relief.
Other people make decisions as an attempt to avoid any form of pain.
Unfortunately, and consequently, they tend to end up living lives that are either shallow or “not real.”
And when the pressure comes on, the wheels tend to come off.
So, in the rest of this post, we will look at 10 powerful Stoic philosophy ideas that can make all the difference in your life.
We also apply them specifically to marriage and see where that take us.
Use these 10 Powerful Stoic Philosophy Ideas to Face the Challenges in Your Marriage (and life):
The obstacle is the path. Obstacles aren’t something to be avoided. They are meant to be conquered.
Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labour does the body. ~Seneca
Many people try and avoid obstacles in their marriages.
This is fair enough.
However, obstacles can serve a greater purpose.
We just need to start thinking about them differently.
For example, obstacles typically lie in the most direct path to success.
Obstacles, therefore, could be a sign that you’re actually on the path to creating a better result.
Therefore, rather than avoiding them, you can be happy you’ve reached an obstacle.
It means you’re about to make great progress.
The secret of doing this, however, lies in your ability to allow them to strengthen your mind.
The more we learn how to think constructively about difficulties and obstacles, the more resilient we become.
Difficulties in our relationships can serve the same function as lifting heavy weights for weight loss.
They can make us better and stronger.
But, only if we choose to think about difficulties in a positive and constructive way.
Use the obstacles and difficulties in your relationship at this moment, to strengthen and deepen the connection you have with your partner.
Do not allow them to become a wedge that drives you apart.
Instead, learn from these powerful stoic philosophy ideas, and let your difficulties unite you and drive you closer together.
Only worry about those things under your control.
You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve. ~Marcus Aurelius
A different way of saying this is, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Look, the actions of others, the weather, and the fact that your mother wasn’t nice to you when you were a child are out of your control.
There is absolutely nothing you can do about it now.
The past is the past.
People’s actions are their actions.
Nothing you can do about it.
And yes, that includes your partner.
No matter how much you love them, you cannot control them.
Therefore, save your focus and other resources for those things you can influence.
But influence is not control or a guarantee.
It’s just influence.
You can influence how your partner feels about you.
You can influence how they think about you.
You can influence their behaviour.
And the best way of doing this is influencing YOUR first.
Do not give control over the most important aspects of YOU away easily.
Control your own thoughts.
Control your feelings.
Control your actions.
Control those whom you spend time with.
All these things add up to what you experience in return.
But, worrying about the weather or what the government’s doing … Nah, let that shit go.
Understand you are the sole source of your emotions.
We cannot choose our external circumstances but we can always choose how we respond to them. ~Epictetus
One of the most powerful stoic philosophy ideas is the concept that people and events don’t create your emotions.
I know many of us to want to believe that.
But it’s simply not true.
Do people and events influence our emotions?
That goes without saying.
But do they create how we feel?
It ultimately comes down to how we choose to use our focus, self-talk, and physiology that determines how we feel.
It comes down to the meaning we give anything.
The stories you tell yourself about events and people create your emotions.
All conflict begins internally.
And like Epictetus said, even though we do not choose our circumstances we can always choose how we respond to them.
Embracing this reality can truly set you free within your marriage.
The moment you truly realise you don’t control your partner, but only how you respond to how they make you feel, you become free.
More specifically, you become free to respond in a way that builds your marriage rather than destroys it.
Failure isn’t final.
Learn to be indifferent to what makes no difference. ~Marcus Aurelius
There is no reason to have negative emotions regarding failure or positive emotions regarding success.
Both are just outcomes that can be handled logically and intelligently.
Both are just results.
Results we can learn from.
So, if you feel you’ve failed at something in your marriage recently, it’s time to let that go.
Simply use it as an opportunity to learn from it.
And become better as a result.
Also, if you’ve had some great moments (success) recently, don’t slack off.
Let it spur you on to keep creating more beautiful moments.
Saying “I love you” once, isn’t enough to last for 30 years.
It’s something you have to say and show daily.
So, stop beating yourself up over “failures.”
And stop relying on “successes” to be lasting.
Get things done.
First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do. ~Epictetus
Stoics believed in being productive over being comfortable.
What that means is, you have to logically decide what needs to be done and get those things done.
You must keep your emotions in check and take care of your business.
Stoics were very aware of the importance of time and avoided wasting it.
How does this apply to marriage?
Simply this …
You won’t always feel like doing the things that need to be done.
Marriage requires sacrifice.
It requires doing things that oftentimes make you feel uncomfortable.
Not because they are uncomfortable in nature, but because we are pigheaded.
We typically want our way as people.
Marriage demands that you think about more than just yourself.
You have to think about the well-being of the relationship.
So grinding away at uncomfortable things until you achieve the result you want, is what is required sometimes.
Ask yourself: what have you been avoiding that you know needs to be done and will make all the difference in the quality of your marriage?
Once you’ve identified it, go and do it.
Our life is what our thoughts make it. ~Marcus Aurelius
Stoics were against living in your head.
We live in a time of great distractions.
We’re also good at reliving the past and projecting ourselves into the future.
But, Stoics were adamant about dealing with reality, right here and right now.
And like I said earlier, there are many things within your marriage you don’t control.
At the end of the day, it comes down to how you use your thoughts to create the quality of your life.
You can choose to relive past mistakes of your partner and keep punishing them if that’s what you wanted to do.
The problem with that approach is, it will keep giving you pain.
You can also choose to live in the future and the fear of what might happen tomorrow.
That will also result in pain.
Or you can choose to focus on the present, and living in it fully and openly.
Choose to be present.
That’s where the real gifts are.
Keep your expectations reasonable.
Don’t spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for. ~Epictetus
The great Stoics of the past believed that it was ridiculous and odd to be surprised by anything.
Frustration is often the result of unreasonable expectations.
For example, if you made $10,000 this year, it’s unlikely that you’ll make $1 million next year.
Therefore, as long as you keep expectations reasonable, nothing can surprise or faze us.
The father of life coaching, Tony Robbins, says when we trade our expectation for appreciation, our world changes instantly.
We must learn to accept and appreciate what is, rather than being driven by unreasonable expectations.
Part of our unhappiness lies in the fact that we have unreasonable expectations.
Or, they are far removed from reality.
When we struggle to bridge the gap between what is and what we unreasonably expect, we find ourselves in the grip of depressed feelings and/or frustration.
The same applies to marriage.
If you have unreasonable expectations of your partner, which they can’t live up to, it becomes much easier to feel unhappy and discontent in your marriage.
Maybe your wife can’t look like a supermodel any more. Maybe that’s not what she wants.
Perhaps your husband will never be a multimillionaire.
Maybe he’s content being a good dad rather than a successful businessman.
Not that any of these are mutually exclusive of course.
A mum can look like a supermodel.
A good dad can also be a successful businessman.
But that’s not the issue.
The issue is what expectations control your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
When we learn to trade our expectation for appreciation, we open ourselves up for experiencing and receiving so much more.
If you’re experiencing disgruntlement in your marriage right now, perhaps consider taking the time to look at your expectations.
Is it time to replace them with some appreciation?
Is it Time to change them completely?
Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one. ~Marcus Aurelius
The greatest accomplishment to a Stoic was living a virtuous life, regardless of the circumstances.
It’s easy blaming your circumstances for your poor life decisions.
It’s even easier blaming your circumstances, and past, for living a virtuous less life.
The Stoics believed that one could live a virtuous life regardless of circumstances.
And it had much to do with how you use your thoughts.
What expectations you hold onto dearly.
How much you live in your head.
How much you are able to overcome discomfort to keep doing what needed to be done.
Living a virtuous life has very little to do with your circumstances.
It’s a decision.
When you make every day.
You choose to wake up and be the best person you can be.
Every single day.
It’s about sticking to your values, even when life is most challenging.
And that includes your marriage.
It’s easy blaming your marriage for your poor behaviour.
For your cheating.
For your attitude.
For your unhappiness.
For your addiction.
For your lack of presence.
But none of that’s really true.
We choose (to a large extent) who and what we become.
It’s a decision.
A choice we make every single day.
So choose to be a good person. Husband or wife. Mom or dad.
Stop caring what others think.
You may explode in rage, but men will still go on doing what they have always done. ~Marcus Aurelius
We tend to value ourselves more than we value others, yet we care more about the opinions of others than we do our own opinions.
Ironic isn’t it.
Here is a better aim: Impress yourself and avoid worrying about whether everyone else is impressed.
If you know your marriage requires something from you to be better, then what are you waiting for?
Do what needs to be done.
Do not avoid the actions required to make your life better because you’re afraid what others might think.
At the end of the day, it is your life. No one else’s.
It’s yours to make or break.
Living life based on what others might be thinking is a sad way to live.
Why do it?
Nobody is going to give your prize for doing it.
Nobody is going to write you a thank you note for taking their opinions into account.
Stop caring what others think.
Care what your partner thinks of you (to some extent).
Care what you think of you.
Do what is right.
Be a person of virtue.
Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. ~Epictetus
Avoid focusing on the things you lack.
Instead, be happy with your blessings.
That includes your spouse.
We become truly wealthy when we realise just how wealthy we are with what we have.
Especially, when comparing ourselves with those who have nothing.
Desire a simple life.
Live to enjoy every moment.
It could be your last.
Looking at life this way makes every moment beautiful.
It helps you savour all of it.
Even what some deem to be small and insignificant.
It is beautiful because it is potentially our last.
The most powerful response to the gift of life is ultimately gratitude.
To be grateful.
Imagine showing up in your marriage with sincere and complete gratefulness.
How would it change things, if you start looking at your spouse with eyes of gratitude rather than contempt or resentment?
How would it change the way you show up every day, seeing it as a gift and not a drag.
This is a sign of wisdom to a Stoic?
I truly believe these few powerful stoic philosophy ideas can make a huge difference in your life.
There’s just so much practical wisdom locked up in them.
At the end of each day, ask yourself a few questions:
- What did I do correctly?
- What actions were less than effective?
- How can I have a better day tomorrow?
The reality, from what I can see, is that many people in modern society could stand to be a little more stoic and learn some powerful stoic philosophy ideas to start improving their lives.
I believe that it’s time to toughen up a little bit.
It is time to appreciate life a bit more.
It is time to realise that life is a gift as every moment is potentially our last.
It’s time to realise that happiness is often found in the small, beautiful moments of life rather than unrealistic, unsupported ideas we harbour in our minds.
It is time to realise that your marriage is a reflection of who you choose to be, rather than your circumstances.
That last one is HUGE.
The challenge for all of us is to face life and its many obstacles head-on.
So, take these few powerful stoic philosophy ideas from these great Greek philosophers and give this new way of thinking a try.
You’ll most likely enjoy the results.
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