When it comes to building a healthy marriage/relationship, one of the best resources is to hear from couples who have been together for many years and, most importantly, would do it all over again with the same person.
In the marriage/relationship enrichment workshops I run, there are often couples who meet this very criterion. Here are some of the important marriage/relationship advice tips these couples have shared:
1. It’s not just about communication.
Of course effective communication is important, but these couples realize that sometimes they’re not going to see eye to eye and at some point they just have to let go of an issue.
As one woman shared, “It’s just a fact of life that two opinionated people won’t always agree. You really have to develop a strong backbone and realize this. Otherwise you’re going to keep on talking about the same issue over and over again until you’re blue in the face. Honestly, that’s not communication, it’s futility.”
2. You need to get a life…
…more specifically, you need to develop an aspect of your life outside the marriage/relationship that doesn’t necessarily include your mate. This is about life-balance, and it allows for a richer life and ultimately a more fulfilling relationship.
Many of these couples have careers, particular interests, or hobbies that they enjoy and find meaningful on their own. This takes pressure off the relationship (and each other) to meet all of your needs (it’s unrealistic to expect that the relationship or your partner can meet all your needs…that’s an impossibility), and developing a meaningful interest of your own can lead to deeper levels of sharing since you’ll be broadening yourself in the process.
3. Create connecting routines.
Too many couples end up living parallel lives if they do not take the time and effort to nurture their marriage/relationship. But this effort doesn’t have to feel like unpleasant work! Successful couples engage in activities together that feed their connection.
Here are some examples that couples have shared (these are activities done together): walking or hiking, cooking, taking classes together, attending theater or musical events, going for drives, participating in a book group, having a movie or date night, playing sports (bowling, softball, pool…or learn a new sport together)…the list is endless.
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff but take the serious stuff seriously.
This is easier said than done but it can make a big difference in your relationship. A problem arises when you feel something isn’t a big deal but your spouse/partner feels it’s really important.
Rule of thumb: If your mate believes something is a big deal, start by validating his/her experience rather than minimizing it (even if you don’t feel it’s important). This will allow your mate to feel loved, understood, and close to you. It’s always easier not to sweat the small stuff when you’re feeling connected to each other.
5. Successful couples fall in love with each other more than once.
These couples describe falling in love with each other more than once (and in different ways) over the course of their marriage/relationship. There are naturally occurring relationship lulls intermixed with periods of greater connection (emotional and physical intimacy) and intensity.
Feelings change, love intensifies and wanes–over the lifetime of a marriage couples fall in and out of love with each other again and again.
Think of your relationship as a journey–a journey that will involve highs and lows, success and disappointment, discovery and rediscovery. Along this journey, successful couples hold onto the reasons they fell in love in the first place and they find new reasons to deepen their existing love.
Discovering new reasons to fall in love with the same person more than once is the challenge and gift of long-term relationships.
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Rich Nicastro, Ph.D. is a psychologist & relationship coach with over fifteen years experience. He specializes in helping couples build stronger marriages and relationships in Las Cruces, NM.