Henry Youngman: The secret to a happy marriage is still a secret.
I love the above quote! I believe that successful relationships look very different for different couples. There is no set framework or definitive strategies to master. There is no magic formula. Building and maintaining a strong relationship is like solving a mystery that has twists and turns as you go along. Like a good novel, it’s interesting, surprising, complicated, and compelling but not necessarily easy to understand or navigate.
However, there are some protective factors that have been collected and posited as a result of research about couples (see the July, 2016, blog for some links). Here are a few that might ignite some insight, direction, or conversation. As well, I have included some practices that may be helpful.
Practices and Protective Factors
- Increase your overall enjoyment of your life and the life of your relationship (e.g., plan for regular time away, date nights, and events that you can happily anticipate; fulfill life dreams; obtain meaningful work)
- Increase your overall enjoyment of your partner: appreciate the qualities you fell in love with (while realizing that these may be the same things that drive you crazy now); turn toward them even when it is hard to do so.
- Increase your overall capacity for stress and develop the skills to deal with it: create rhythms and routines; mediate or pray; exercise; reward yourself; and remember what is going right even in the midst of pain; practice generosity and service.
- (Re)establish and increase connection points—emotional, psychological, spiritual, and physical.
- Increase the intimacy level (i.e., affectionate touch, affirmation, communication outside of daily chores and responsibilities, do things together, and have sex).
- Maintain a balanced lifestyle (SLEEP!).
- Develop shared values and beliefs that will steer you into the same waters for the purposes of decision-making and responsibilities, respecting one another’s contexts and culture, and figuring out directions and goals.
- Get support early for issues relating to mental health, addiction, illness, or losses.
- Protect your relationship from anything that might threaten it (e.g., job stress, in-laws, nosy neighbours, over-spending).
- Have fun; delight in one another; cherish one another.
- Create the best possible scenario for the other to flourish whenever possible.
Peace to you and your household,
Shari van Spronsen