10 Steps to Make Your Marriage Thrive Maintaining a loving and lasting relationship requires attention, but that doesnít mean it has to be hard. Make things easy by using the tips the author has acquired over four decades of experience. BY BOB LIVINGSTONE, LCSW
Marriage should be fun. Follow these tips to make it so.
“ The inability or unwillingness to deal with uncomfortable disagreements can create decreased trust.”
In a couple of months, my wife and I will be celebrating our 42nd wedding anniversary. Folks from all walks of life from different ages and ethnic backgrounds ask me how a couple maintains a close, growing, long lasting relationship.
Here are 10 suggestions:
1. Assume that there will be conflict in your relationship. Many folks believe that any conflict in a relationship is a sign that your marriage is on the road to failure. If we witness our parents never arguing, we develop a belief that those in close relationships never do; if we observe our parents fighting often without a peaceful ending, we may want to avoid conflict at all costs. This is because we have learned from watching our parents that conflicts can never be solved and therefore should be pushed aside.
2. Address conflicts as soon as possible and work to resolve them. Unresolved conflicts lead to creating distance between partners. The inability or unwillingness to deal with uncomfortable disagreements can create decreased trust. It also can be an ingrained way of relating to each other that will cause bitterness and a sense of hopelessness. It is helpful if each partner takes responsibility for their role in the conflict and focus on understanding your partnerís view of the problem. Try to solve these conflicts before you both head to an unrestful sleep at bed time.
3. Create a structure for addressing a conflict. The first step is for both partners to acknowledge that you are having a conflict. Step two is to define what that conflict actually is. Step three is to allow each partner uninterrupted time to discuss the conflict and offer solutions. This is a process of making compromises in order to work through the turmoil. When both partners feel that they successfully resolved a conflict, they will each have increased self-esteem and a stronger union.
4. Practice empathy with your partner. Empathy is the willingness to stand in your spouse's shoes and look at issues from her perspective. If you are unwilling to take this step, your husband or wife is going to feel uncared for and think that you are selfish.
5. It is important to choose a partner whom you have things in common with. I am always amazed when I work with a couple and they inform me that that donít have any common interests. If you both enjoy similar music, movies, political viewpoints, then there are topics to discuss and connect about. One of the most important aspect of a great relationship is being able to connect on a mental, emotional and spiritual level. If you donít have common interests, it will be difficult to connect.
6. Being physically attracted to your partner is essential in maintaining a strong relationship. Sex is important, fun and produces the most fulfilling moments of your marriage.
7. It is often said that it is important that your partner be your best friend. I have found this to be true. If you are to have a safe, nurturing and growing relationship, it is valuable to be able to depend on your mate when all the walls around you are crashing down.
8. Expect you will have some rocky times during your marriage. You may have to deal with extreme betrayal, a health crises or death of a close family member. These situations will test your partnership and may pull it apart. You may also choose to persevere and work to repair your marriage and it may end up being stronger than before the upheaval.
9. If your partner suggests that you join him in a new joint activity, donít reject him because you are afraid you wonít like it. About 25 years ago my wife, Gail, suggested we take an Afro-Cuban percussion class. I told her that I would not attend because I firmly believed that I had no interest in this type of percussion. I eventually and reluctantly accompanied my wife to the class. I discovered that I loved playing those rhythms, especially with her and I have been drumming ever since.
10. Nurture your partnerís dreams and have dreams together. I want to be a best-selling, famous author someday. My wife welcomes discussion about my work and is always willing to provide constructive criticism. She is currently writing a blog about black children living in a white world. I support her in the same way as she supports me. We both dream of making a difference in the world and together fight for social justice. This struggle is overwhelming and I am grateful that Gail is by my side.
Psychotherapist Bob Livingstone has helped millions heal their emotional pain during the past 20-plus years. He has been instrumental in assisting victims of emotional and/or physical violence recover from trauma and no longer be victims. He is a featured contributor to DrLaura.com, Beliefnet.com, Ediets.com, Selfgrowth.com and SheKnows.com. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Unchain The Pain: How to be Your Own Therapist. For more emotional healing visit www.boblivingstone.com.