Decades of research reveal these seven principles for maintaining a happing meaningful married life
When it comes to marital happiness, prevention is indeed the best (or at least the easiest) cure. Dr. Gottman, who has studied relationships for a number a decades, has identified the similarities among happy couples and those among unhappy couples.
Through his research, he has managed to distil many strategies that can help enhance a marriage and help it become a stable, fulfilling relationship that we all dream of. He gives 7 strategies that improve a relationship and strengthen it.
1) Enhance your love maps
Dr. Gottman defines ‘love-maps’ as a detailed mental representation of the partner’s life experiences, choices and opinions. The more you know your significant other, the more intricate your love map will be. The reasoning is simple, actually.
The more you attend to your partner; the more you learn about them, their thoughts, choices, feelings and how they would act in certain situations. And the more you know about your partner, the more you are likely to empathise with them, understand them and anticipate and respond to their needs.
2) Nurture fondness and admiration
This may seem easy during the first bloom of the relationship; but with time, couples can start to take each other for granted. It’s important to spend quality time with each other that will enable you to remember what made you fall in love with your partner in the first place.
This not only keeps the romance alive; but also motivates people to resolve disagreements and conflicts. Regardless of how old the relationship gets, it is healthy for the relationship when partners view each other through somewhat rose coloured glasses.
3) Turn toward each other
In healthy relationships, partners tend to respond to each other’s need for attention and involvement more often. Even if we are tired, busy or distracted, taking a moment to respond to a partner’s bid for attention helps keep the relationship going strong.
Through years of research, it has become evident that the more couples pay attention to each other, the higher are their chances at having a successful relationship. Even when busy, if you take a moment to acknowledge your partners news, and tell them that you want to talk, but need to finish something first; it counts as a positive interaction.
4) Let your partner influence you
Partners who are happy together allow the views and desires of their partner to influence their own ideas and decisions. The influence could be something as simple as what to have for dinner, or as complex as whether to move cities for a lucrative job.
When partners feel that they are important to each other’s decision making; they are motivated to make adjustments for each other, and to share their ideas openly. Of course, it is necessary for BOTH partners to accept the other’s influence. If only one partner is constantly influenced by the other; the relationship can quickly become unhealthy.
5) Solve your solvable problems
Some of the problems couples face are enduring differences that they just have to learn to live with. On the other hand, a lot of problems can be resolved if the couple is committed to finding a solution. For example, a couple may never see eye to eye about their political affiliations.
But they can most definitely come to a decision about how to spend their weekends. If one partner prefers to go out while the other prefers to stay home; the couple can reach a compromise where they spend some time indulging in an activity favoured by either partner.
The first step is to identify whether a particular issue is one that can be resolved. If it is, then each partner needs to honestly explain their opinions to the other. It helps if each of them tries to find an optimal solution that both will be happy with. Often, reaching such a solution will require some compromise; and it is important to remember that your partner is also compromising something for you.
6) Overcome gridlock
As for the issues that are more enduring; it is necessary to voice your stand, and to hear and understand your partner’s opinion. Enduring differences start causing trouble when either partner feels that the other does not understand and respect their ideas or dreams.
To avoid unresolvable conflicts (or at least, to keep them to a minimum), it is important to try and understand each other and respect what your partner thinks or feels. It is possible for partners to reach an understanding about why and how they differ – and to agree to disagree – if they both feel that the other respects their stance.
7) Create shared meaning
Have you seen those couples who seem to have internal jokes, complete each other’s sentences and say the same thing at the same time? These couples don’t just seem happier; but often they are actually happier than most. They have shared experiences that are special to their relationship. They spend time together doing things they enjoy, talk to each other about their thoughts and celebrate their similarities and shared ideas.
These experiences enhance their sense of intimacy and mutual affection and respect; thus drawing them closer to each other. And we all want that; don’t we?