Long-Term romantic relationships really are quite unique. We humans are pack animals, and even the most introverted amongst us tend to seek out this type of connection. Commitment such as this implies unconditional love and acceptance, which many promise for life. This sounds awesome – much like a guarantee that your best friend will have your back for as long as…. Well…. Forever.
For those of us who are in long-term committed relationships, whether you are married or not, you know that this commitment is far from easy. Beyond the external stressors that every couple faces, marriage (in and of itself) takes WORK. This isn’t news to any of us, and even the youngest couples are aware that they will face challenges in their relationship.
But what does WORK really mean in a relationship? I hear a lot of people talk about perseverance and unconditional love for their partner, but not many people talking about what that practically looks like from day-to-day.
How do you know if you are putting in enough effort into your marriage?
Drs. John and Julie Gottman have done extensive research on just that – the practical and concrete behaviors that the average happy couple shows to one another to keep their marriage healthy. Since I hear a lot of people taking about the necessity to work at their marriage, but not many people being able to articulate what that means from day-to-day, I wanted to share the following with you: the six things that YOUshould be doing for your marriage on a weekly basis.
- Partings: Don’t leave for work in the morning without knowing something that’s going to happen in your partner’s day. Take interest in what is happening in their world. And when they leave, try and show them some affection…. Share a kiss (a good one… not just a peck…)
- Reunions: When your day is over, take some time (an average of 10 minutes each) to talk about your days. What happened with the meeting they told you about before they left this morning? How did things go with the coworker who’s been bothering them? Listen, provide support, and remember that understanding and validation MUST precede giving advice.
- Admiration & Appreciation: Find some way every day to genuinely communicate affection and appreciation for your partner.Thank them for doing something around the house (even if they do it every day). Tell them when you think they did something well, or overcame a personal struggle. Notice when they’re trying, and point it out. One little comment goes A LONG WAY.
- Update Your Understanding of Each Other’s World: Our preferences change as we get older and we mature. Try and spend time together each week (ideally, two hours per week) either going on a date or just spending time talking with one another. Decrease distance by sharing your thoughts, perceptions, and realities with your partner, and asking them about theirs.
- Resolve Conflict: Fights happen, and we say/do things we don’t mean. Successful couples don’t just move on as if nothing ever happened. They TALK about it. Ask your partner to help you understand their perspective and really listen – listen to understand rather than retort. You don’t have to agree – most of the time, what people are looking for in conflict is that their partner understands their perspective and gives them the space and validation to feel how they feel. Don’t just let unresolved conflict fester. Inviting your partner to talk about it communicates that you recognize its importance to them, and the desire to prevent future hurts on the same subject.
The “WORK” comes in in these small things done often – they don’t take much time, but they act as incredible buffers to relationship stress and turmoil when you face struggles either inside or outside of your marriage.
So… how do you do? How often, and to what degree of quality, are you nurturing your relationship?