Regardless of the alarmingly high divorce rate (about 40% in Canada and 50% in the United States), resilient marriages do exist. Indeed, a solid partnership can relieve stress. Just ask those celebrating their 10th, 30th or 60th wedding anniversary – many will say they couldn’t have gotten through many of life’s trials and tribulations without their partner by their side.
In The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, by Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee describe factors that contribute to a successful coupleship. They interviewed 50 couples that had successful marriages for ten to 40 years. They then interviewed them again two years later. Wallerstein and Blakeslee’s research was so thorough that this 1996 publication is considered a classic. The focus on what works in an intimate partnership, rather than the flaws is refreshing.
The authors discovered nine crucial tasks required to create a good marriage. Here is what you can do to move enhance your coupleship.
- Be aware that when couples get into bed there are, at least, six personalities—including each person’s mother and father.
- Create a balance between me and we. Avoid saying, “My bedroom” or “My kitchen.” Use words such as “we,” “our,” and “together.” As in, “We have a problem with coming to a decision around renovating the bathroom.” Develop an attitude of being in a partnership.
- We all need times and places where we are seen and experienced as individuals. Periodically, it is a good idea to assess our personal path, particularly at the beginning of the marriage, at midlife and retirement. Then we need to check if our partner is supportive. If not, negotiation needs to take place.
- Your coupleship can be weakened by over focusing on children, pets, or other relationships. The coupleship needs to be valued as much as children, employment, and friends.
- The couple benefits from handling stress and crisis with an attitude of “this can strengthen our commitment to one another.” Small challenges are better handled sooner than later and risking an escalation.
- The coupleship can offer a safe place for anger, expression of differences and resolving conflict. Remember that conflict is a part of most healthy relationships. Neither anger nor conflict is an indicator that the relationship is in danger of ending. Make a clear rule that there will be no verbal, emotional, or physical violence.
- During discussion decide on the topic and stay focused on it. Do not argue about aspects that cannot be changed.
- Keep the bedroom clean and joyful. Create a sexual relationship free of previous relationships and hang-ups.
- Inject humor and fun into your relationship to relieve boredom or taking one another for granted.
- Pay attention. Listen first and then seek to be heard. Encourage and celebrate one another.
- Keep romance alive. Bless your relationship with appreciation as often as possible.
Nine Marital Tasks Summarized
- Separate emotionally from your family of origin and redefine your relationships with family members.
- Build just enough autonomy and enough intimate connection.
- Resolve the inevitable conflicts that come with being parents.
- Confront, talk about, and manage conflict.
- Create an emotionally safe space for the expression of differences, emotions, and conflict.
- Establish a rich sexual relationship and have boundaries around it.
- Develop humor. Laugh, play, and share fun, interests and friends.
- Provide mutual nurturing and comfort.
- Maintain romantic habits and behaviors to keep the love flame alive.
Get a copy of The Good Marriage to enhance your coupleship.
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Patricia Morgan MA CCC helps her readers, clients, and audiences lighten their load, brighten their outlook, and strengthen their resilience. To go from woe to WOW call 403.242.7796 or email a request.