Guide to a Healthy Marriage
Having a connected, happy and long-lasting marriage requires your continued willingness to work on yourself while courageously showing your vulnerability. It is important to remember all the reasons you fell in love in the first place. Think of all the silly things you liked about your partner at the start. All the eye-contact, the laughing and admiration. It is important to keep all that up. A marriage that keeps building the friendship has a higher chance of surviving the ups and downs it will inevitably experience.
The following areas are what our relationship counsellors considered the most important for a healthy marriage.
- Be clear about what you want from the very start of your committed relationship.
- Practice thinking aloud in front of your partner. Partners tend to assume what the other is thinking – share information, create more opportunities for understanding.
- Take a curious stance, rather than a predictive stance. This is the key to not becoming stuck in patterns of mind reading.
- Negotiate everything, even the roles you will each play in the relationship, e.g. will there be a main breadwinner? Who will take out the rubbish? How will cooking duties be distributed? etc.
- Talk about the hard stuff when things are going well.
- Learn how to recognise and understand your own emotions.
- Get to know each other’s communication strengths and weaknesses.
- Set regular time aside for sexual intimacy – it is so easy for family and work commitments to take over.
- Talk about sex out of the bedroom – what excites you, makes you want to etc.
- When spending time together, avoid talking about the kids or your daily struggles.
- Be intimate with yourself, too! Find out what you like.
- Remember to have fun!
Some tension needs to be present in relationships, but if it breaks the balance and destabilises it, the longevity of the marriage could be in danger. Avoiding conflict is also the avoidance of intimacy – it is important to find the right balance for you as a couple. De-escalate conflict by turning towards the relationship during and after by using the following strategies:
- Learn how to calm yourself down.
- Learn to give in, be aware of what is important and what is not.
- If you feel like stonewalling and looking away – face your partner instead, even if it is to just let them know you will need a moment to gather your thoughts.
- Practice self-soothing. We all want to influence our partner, but the best influencer is one who works and changes themselves.
- Repair during and after a conflict is essential, this includes awareness of one’s own emotions and a genuine interest in defusing the conflict.
- Give the other time to form ideas while we listen. Feeling heard is sometimes enough!
Have rituals for your marriage, rituals that create space for connection. Marriages can be hard work, but also an amazing opportunity to learn about yourself while having the courage to show your vulnerability to your partner.