I have a very close acquaintance who told me that that his wife admitted after nearly ten years of marriage that the first thought she had while exiting the church after saying, “I do” was “I wonder how long this will last?” In her defense, she had practically no female relative living or dead that didn’t divorce her husband. It turns out that divorce during hard times was her default setting. A few years after her strange confession, she found out how long her marriage was going to last when the divorce she filed became final.

We asked many people what they thought was the most important mindset to have for a lasting relationship. Unfortunately many people didn’t understand the question, some said, “Honesty” while others said, “Communication.” We finally had to explain that we weren’t talking about traits, we were referring to a “mind-set,” an attitude or outlook. Some couldn’t come up with an answer without some coaching. When we would give them our opinion, all agreed that for better or worse, the mindset that made for a lasting relationship was that their marriage was meant to last forever; or at least until death, whichever came first.

It seems that this attitude makes it expedient to change or improve oneself to make the idea of a lasting marriage more enjoyable—or bearable, whichever you choose. When both in the relationship see the value of self improvement over static growth, the marriage can become more than either expected. This often comes when neither are willing to quit.

Many people enter their marriage with the mindset that the marriage has to last because of religious reasons. They may enter the relationship with hope and excitement despite the threat of eternal damnation or worse, constant criticism from family, if they let their marriage fail. This type of incentive is actually very effective. Two historical incidents that demonstrate the power of do or die, involved the conquering of the Iberian Peninsula by Tariq ibn Ziyad in 711 AD and the conquering of the Aztec empire by Hernán Cortés in 1519 AD. Both armies were overwhelmingly outnumbered. Realizing that no motivational speech would sufficiently inspire their troops toward victory, each commander upon arrival ordered his troops to burn the boats. Without their boats, retreat was impossible. Their only option was to win the battle. Despite the odds, both armies prevailed.

Of course this extreme is a bad idea for marriages; however, having a positive attitude or mindset that your relationship will be one of the successful few and by not planning an exit strategy before the wedding reception will go a long way to creating a lasting relationship.