Have you ever wondered what does it take to be in a good, fulfilling, healthy marriage or any other committed relationship? Relationships are very complex and require constant work. Falling in love is not enough. Marital satisfaction is never completely constant, even in healthy relationships/marriage research shows that satisfaction in marriage or any type of relationships of couple-hood, whether same or opposite sex, declines in time. Satisfaction is at its highest during the “honeymoon” years. For some, it’s months. The drop in satisfaction begins as children are introduced to the marriage. Also, when each partner in the relationship develops realistic expectations of each other. Marital satisfaction is also affected by how often partners get into conflicts. In volatile marriages, partners are very expressive and are willing to take more conflicts, while in others, conflict-avoiding marriages partners don’t tolerate high level of conflicts. They accomplish it by minimizing clashes or down playing emotional reactions. This does not mean that one marriage is better then another. It’s just a different style.
Healthy marriages are characterized by healthy boundaries. In ultimate relationships, partners share with each other their thoughts, feelings and secrets that they are not sharing with other people.
Boundaries should be flexible. They need to bend but should never break. Healthy couples work together like a team. They will not let outside forces influence them against each other (such as parents, in-laws, friends or even children). They will not break the promise they made to one another and the confidence they have with each other. Healthy married/committed couples make their relationship a top priority.
According to Dr. Mark Dombech (5.16.06) “personality and temperament and goal compatibility is very important in determining whether a marriage will be strong”. Couples who are sharing similar values, goals, traditional sex role, economic background, family structure and religion also may have a better marriage.
Problem solving skills are a must in a good relationship. Problems start to occur when communication breaks and primal needs are not met (affection, acceptance, respect, sex, etc.). When a crisis happens, healthy couples will turn inward rather than away from each other. It is important that discussions about money, roles in the household, sex, parents, in-laws, religion and children will take place before starting a life together. Self help books or premarital counseling can be a good source for a good beginning in committed relationships.
Breakdowns in relationships will happen according to Dr. John Gottman when the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” enter the relationship. Those are: Contempt, Criticism, Stonewalling and Defensiveness. If you exercise any of those four in your relationship you are heading for trouble.
What should you do to stay in a strong relationship?
1.Be friends – you must be each other’s best friend. Be willing to go the extra mile for each other. Respect and honor one another.
2.Break the routine – make sure to continue and invest as much as you did during your courtship. Go on dates, surprise each other. Take time for the two of you without the rest of the family.
3.Communicate – make sure to let your partner know how they are doing. Appreciate one another. Be able to communicate your needs. Compliment and validate one another.
4.Develop solving-problem skills – tolerate each others faults. Add humor to your problem solving. Schedule set time to tell your partner what you need and listen to what he/she needs in order to fix a problem. Negotiate on agreement that will work for both. Neither one of you can walk away getting 100% of what you want. Always take the side of your partner before anybody else.
5.Finances – discuss money all the time! How much need to be spent and on what. Work out a budget that you both agree on. Money issues can put a serious strain on your relationship. Make sure you are on the same page. Plan your financial future.
6.Sex – learn to talk with each other about sex in a way that
will make you feel safe and heard. You want to get
intimately closer and not apart. Be direct when it comes
to your needs. Do it respectfully. Do not criticize your
partner! Lead him/her in a respectful way.
7.Create your marriage to be a peaceful place where you feel secure, safe, appreciated and loved.
If you hit a gridlock and can’t find your way out of a problem, reach for professional help.