Our relationships are ever-changing. We experience both good and hard times, celebrate joys and share struggles. Through it all, we strive to maintain our partnerships and make the journey together. The work doesn’t end after you say, “I do.” Even long-lasting marriages fail when the effort to sustain them falters. Whether your marriage is in a stable place or in need of some help, there are steps you can take to reinforce the communication, connection and commitment that create a happy partnership.
Our emotional cravings are deeply tied to communication. We want our partners to hear us, understand our needs and show us that we are wanted. But until mind reading powers become the norm, we have to use our words to achieve this.
Wake up ten minutes early and explore emotional intimacy with your partner using only words. Share what you enjoy about your relationship and ask how you can continue to help each other. Even if your partner feels secure, reinforce their worth. That early morning time spent talking in bed might lead you to explore greater physical intimacy, too!
When we feel unheard, we often respond defensively or shut down. Pay attention to your communication patterns – are you responding in these ways? Take a moment to calm down and sort out your thoughts. What is it that you need but aren’t getting from your partner? Practice asking for it clearly without anger or frustration. Then listen to their response in the same way.
With so many demands on our time – work, kids, home, family, errands and more – it’s hard to face life together when you spend so much of it apart. A functional approach to connection will help you maintain your partnership even with a busy schedule.
Make time for joint excursions – go out on a date, take part in a favorite activity (yours or your partner’s), share a bath, give each other massages, or make dinner together. Whether it’s a whole weekend or only ten minutes, spending time together will infuse new energy into your relationship. Plan ahead and write it down in your schedule so you know that it’s a priority.
Schedule a daily ten-minute check-in with your partner, either by phone or in person. Ask each other about your day, open up about your interests and try to see things from the other’s perspective. Most importantly, avoid judgment in your responses. Respect and support your partner even if you don’t necessarily share their interests or agree with one of their opinions.
The person you are with today mostly likely won’t be the same person you are with in twenty years. It may be the same face (a little more wrinkled) and the same body (with a few extra pounds), but our personalities change and grow over time. The philosophy of marriage is that we change and grow together instead of apart.
Talk to your partner about your commitment not to settle or become complacent. Create your own philosophy of marriage, write it down, and revisit it periodically. Having that commitment in mind will help you grow together through the years.
Commit to not giving up too soon. Uncovering the core issue of your problems can take significant time and effort. Accept each other’s emotional pain and search for what’s missing or unfulfilled in your relationship. Give each other a chance to learn from your mistakes and provide feedback – positive, constructive, and supportive. Finally, let go of past hurt and fears. They will only keep you from moving forward.
Total Health Concepts
Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
About the Authors
Virginia Inglese, LCSW, CEDS
Founder of Total Health Concepts, Virginia has thirty years of experience in the health and wellness field. She specializes in counseling couples and families to strengthen their relationships.
Jennifer Stanhagen, ATC, CPT
Jennifer is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness.
Both authors can be reached at [email protected].