“Good relationships don’t just happen…They take time, patience, and two people who truly want to be together”. –Cheryl Frommelt MS LCPC LMFT
Over the past 25 years as a Marriage and Family therapist I’ve worked with numerous couples. Many initially enter my office seeking answers on how to get their marriages back on track.
Marriage like anything else in life, takes prioritization, knowledge, intention, and effort. Often it seems as if “we fall into love and then we fall into life”. Couples spend a tremendous amount of energy identifying what is absent in their relationships. First, I encourage my clients to envision a “good marriage”. The next step for them is to define specifically what that looks like and then they must make the commitment to take the intentional steps to follow through.
Understanding what healthy couples do is the key to creating a “good marriage”.
We may not have a road map that navigates our relationships in life; however, we can develop healthy habits that sustain them. These habits are applicable for all marriages, at any stage, whether you are newlywed or your relationship is entering its twilight years.
Express Admiration: State the characteristics, habits, or behaviors that you admire about your partner, their achievements, their smile, the role they play in the family and or their positivity.
Have Individual Interests: In addition to doing things together it’s important to maintain a balance between your connectedness and autonomy. Take time to identify and engage in your interests and hobbies.
Have Individual Friends: Enjoying relationships that are different than that which you share with your spouse are important for your own fulfillment.
Respect Boundaries: Be aware of your spouse’s particular needs, for example, privacy, socializing, and sharing may differ from those of your own. Letting one another know your individual needs communicates respect, builds trust, and is important for both to feel significant in the relationship.
Fight Fair: In the heat of the moment it’s essential to express your thoughts and feelings about issues and to avoid making character attacks, sweeping generalizations, or dominating the conversation. The goal is for your spouse to feel their thoughts and feelings are valid and respected.
Express Gratitude: Saying thank you, especially for the little things your spouse may do for you that shows consideration, makes your day a little bit easier and lets your partner know they are not taken for granted.
Apologize: You want your apology to be accepted. The sooner you apologize the better. Here are three key components to a heartfelt and meaningful apology.
- Acknowledge the impact of your actions
- Demonstrate remorse and empathy
- Make restitution or “make it right”
Compromise: Meeting your partner’s needs halfway is a powerful act of love. Sharing in decision making creates a strong bond and prevents the relationship from falling into a win/lose dynamic.
Try New Things Together: These experiences keep the relationship fresh and strengthen the bond between you. Seize opportunities that continue to generate the excitement you both felt upon initially meeting.
Think Kind Thoughts: Lead with optimism in your relationship. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt, especially when hurt. Shift your perspective to focus on their best qualities; doing so will foster a greater intimacy.
Visualize a Shared Future: Prevent the acceptance and adoption of “falling into love and then into life”. Take time to construct short and long-term dreams. Define the meaning of these dreams together.
This is the perfect time to sit down with your partner and discuss the kind of marriage you intend to share. Communicate with one another how implementing and exercising these habits will benefit the relationship. Take joy in experiencing the excitement as you delve into the process of intentionally creating the good marriage you both deserve.
Cheryl Frommelt MS LCPC LMFT