Ever wondered why some marriages last decades while others barely go two years? Why do some couples thrive and grow together while others crash and burn?
The secret? There are three secrets actually; three keys to a happy and successful marriage. Without all three of these, many couples will struggle to remain connected and committed.
Know Yourself and Your Partner
The sad fact is, most people spend more time trying to understand how their smart phone works then how their own personality — or how their partner’s works. We are all highly unique and complex individuals with our own set of quirks and behaviors.
When was the last time you simply sat in silence doing nothing and became aware of your thoughts?
The more we understand ourselves and our partner, the less conflict will experience. John Gottman, PhD, widely considered as the pioneer of the study of marital satisfaction refers to this as our “Love Map.” Essentially, the deeper our knowledge of our partner and how they are experiencing their day-to-day world, the deeper our connection to them. Gottman also suggests that this deep connection pays dividends in times of conflict as it better allows us to understand where our partner is coming from and thus, be more empathic and understanding.
Not sure where to start with developing more clarity into your inner self? One of the most effective ways to increase self-exploration and awareness of our own thoughts and ideas is the simple practice of mindful meditation. For more details, check out our article on How Meditation Can Help Manage Stress & Anxiety.
Communication is to a marriage what gasoline is to an automobile: without it, you’re not going anywhere. And the better the communication, the longer the motor will last.
The words we use to connect with others are incredibly important. Use the right words and you generate feelings of love, safety, and security. Use the wrong ones and you’re likely to create feelings of anger and resentment.
It is often said that how you say something is as important as what you say, and in many ways this is true. Sometimes it’s even more important. When you ask your spouse a question, is their answer thoughtful or dismissive? Do they say, “Yes that sounds like a great plan” or “Whatever”?
Both are affirmative but the first sentence is positive and respectful.
Perhaps the most important factor of good communication is listening. Many marriages have been improved when one or both partners simply learns how to become a better listener.
So how exactly do you become a good listener?
First, start caring more about your partner. When you care for someone, you are truly interested in what they have to say.
Second, when they’re speaking, don’t think about other things. Don’t think about your day or what you want for dinner. Don’t think about how you’re going to respond to what they’re saying. Just simply listen to them. Give them your full attention. No doubt, if you are not in the habit of doing this, this will take practice.
A great way to help in the beginning is to repeat back what you hear your partner saying. For example, “It sounds like you were really frustrated when your boss told you Suzy was going to get the project and not you?”
If you can master this one simple (read: simple, not easy) skill with not just your partner, but everyone, you will see the relationships in your life flourish.
Put Each Other First
Happy and successful marriages include partners that put other’s needs first. When both are doing this, all needs are met. Problems arise when only one individual meets their partner’s needs. When this happens, one person is unhappy and the other is perfectly content.
Gottman often refers to the concept of fondness and admiration. His findings conclude that when we demonstrate both of these qualities for our partner, we find ourselves in a much happier marriage with less conflict.
How often are you acknowledging your appreciation for your partner? When was the last time you shared with them much you appreciate something about them or something they do? Remember, this doesn’t have to be a deep emotional conversation. It can be as simple as, “I really appreciate that you make an extra cup of coffee for me in the morning before you leave” or, “I like it when you text me during the day to see how my day is going.”
If your marriage is missing some of these critical ingredients, or you’re not quite sure how to begin to develop and increase your own self-awareness, don’t be afraid to seek the guidance of a counselor. A skilled couples therapist can help both individuals and couples get their priorities straight and reconnect.
Are you looking for relationship counseling in New Haven?
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in Woodbridge, CT where they help couples and individuals reconnect in their relationships and move From Surviving to Thriving. If you’re looking for relationship counseling in New Haven call today for a free consultation!