The following are eight fundamentals of a solid relationship. It is by no means an exhaustive list, and it does not imply that the following are easy to do. However, if the following eight things are done more often than not by both partners, it’s a good foundation for a healthy marriage.
1) Put Your Spouse First
Your spouse gets first priority in your life. Period. No matter what else you have going on in your life-your work, your other family members, hobbies, and friends, your spouse and your relationship always come first. Of course, you should be a self-actualized person with a satisfying and rich life, full of friends, interests, and work aspirations-but your spouse still comes first. Your spouse needs to support your interests and friendships outside the marriage, but the relationship is primary.
2) Make Sure Your Spouse Feels Appreciated
Think about it- we often do not have to nerve to confront a rude salesperson or tell a close friend that we need to get off of the telephone after a conversation that has gone on for far too long, but we feel perfectly at ease snapping at or ignoring our spouse. Why? Because they belong to us! Does the person who loves you, married you, and puts up with you deserve LESS politeness than a stranger who might not even call 911 if you were mugged? No. Treat your spouse with the kindness and respect that, at a minimum, you would show a stranger. And yes, ideally, you would be kinder to your spouse than a stranger!
3) Let Your Spouse Be Right Sometimes
You are not right all of the time. No, not even you. However much you think your spouse has wronged you and could not make a bigger mess of things, they still have their point of view and feelings that need to be respected. It is always worth asking yourself, “Is this battle worth fighting?” if it is something you think you can let go, then please let it go. Also, you will be wrong sometimes. Saying you are sorry when you are can often undo a lot of damage.
4) Do Not Express Contempt or Disrespect
In a longitudinal study by Dr. John Gottman at The University of Washington, divorce could be predicted 90% of the time depending on the amount of contempt that was present in the relationship. The study showed that the presence of contempt in a relationship was the single MOST DESTRUCTIVE emotion present in a marriage.
5) Have a Good Support System
You do NOT need to be inseparable; in fact, familiarity breeds contempt as the saying goes, and no person can be all things to you at all times. You need friends of your own and activities apart from your spouse in order to stay alive, vibrant and vital to each other. Having other friends and interests brings variety and juice to the marriage, sharing what your experiences have had when you have spent a little time apart. Everyone needs a good support system of at least four good, solid friends. Expecting one person to be able to take care of all of your needs is not realistic.
6) Do Not Threaten
You and your spouse need to be able to express conflict safely. If you threaten to leave or end the relationship each time there is a problem, you erode trust in the relationship and your spouse will stop expressing him or herself openly.
7) Do Not Ask Your Partner’s Opinion, Then Do the Opposite
Asking your spouse’s opinion then doing the opposite is more destructive to a relationship than many people realize, and many divorced couples remember doing the “opposite” of what was discussed as a major reason for the end of the marriage. It might seem to you that you are being thoughtful and interested when you ask your spouse’s opinion over an issue or a situation, even if you have already made your mind about what you are going to do since you are involving them in your life and expressing an interest in what they are thinking. It shows your partner that you do not have respect for their opinion and is infuriating and hurtful to them.
8) Do Not Use Silence as a Weapon
There will be conflict in a marriage. How it is contained Health and managed is key. Icy, cold silence is a passive and resentful Psychodynamic form of anger; your spouse has no idea how long this treatment will last and imagines that you are thinking the worst about them. Anger and hurt need to be expressed and acknowledged if you are so upset that you want to punish them with the silent treatment.
What do you think are the fundamentals of a solid marriage? If you feel you need couples counseling to become closer to your partner, please contact Jennifer De Francisco, MPA, MSW, LCSW of Newport Beach, CA at (949) 251-8797.