If you read my posts often, you’re probably sick of my relationship and marriage advice (especially considering that I’m only about to get married, while there are plenty of articles from couples who have been happily married for decades and decades). But guys, I just found some really good tips! From a recent Time article written by Tara Parker-Pope, author of the book For Better, they’re not the stuff we always hear – but from my own experience, I know these to be helpful. Allow me to fill you in:
Celebrate good news
It’s no secret that positives are a good thing (pardon the pun). So it makes sense that couples who celebrate the good things in their life also show higher levels of relationship satisfaction. Sometimes we assume that our partner knows we’re happy for them, proud of what they’ve achieved or thrilled to be their one and only. But we need to show them too!
A small example – my fiancé and I remember every “month-anniversary.” Usually this just means that our morning phone call starts with a very enthusiastic “Happy # months!” and once in a while, one of us will surprise the other with a dinner reservation or a delivery at work (let’s be honest, he does most of the surprising). Better yet, we like to say that we celebrate every day – for example, a few days ago he texted me to say “Happy 17 months and 3 days” (isn’t he the best?) People might think we’re over the top, but looks like it’s the right thing to be doing!
Here’s one for the mathematical types out there: the ideal ratio of positive to negative moments should be 5:1. Because research shows that if the ratio is 1:1, your likelihood of divorce is much higher.
A friend of mine once explained it like this: a relationship is like a bank account that trades in love (she’s an accountant, can you tell?). You always want to be depositing more than you take out – preferably, five times more. Practically? I’d say, after an argument or disagreement, keep the focus over the next week on really showing your love in little ways. If you tell them something negative about themselves, also make sure to mention a few things you love about them. If you guys are going through a tough time, find small ways to bring back the smiles such as little presents, surprises or treats.
Keep your standards high
This is an interesting one. A lot of people believe they’re unhappy in their relationship because their standards are too high, but research tells another story: that people who expect more, get more. And it makes sense – if you expect to be treated with respect and won’t accept any less, then you’ll probably attract someone who’s willing to do so.
This certainly holds true for me. My mother spent a lot of time being frustrated at me for being “picky”, but I knew what I wanted in a man (I may have even had a comprehensive list – a non-shallow one, don’t worry) and I refused to settle for anything else. And thank goodness! Plus Mum is super happy about it now, considering she likes my fiancé better than me (Mum, if you’re reading, that was just a joke!).
Stay close to family and friends
I’d say it’s easy enough to become totally dependent on your spouse for all necessary support and affection. As the Time article so aptly puts it, “your marriage should be your primary relationship, not your only one.” It’s not to say that you shouldn’t be as close as possible to your partner, but rather that there are benefits to still putting effort into your relationships with family and friends.
Abusive relationships isolate you from family and friends, so it makes sense that a healthy relationship allows and encourages those bonds to flourish. We all need a variety of input in our lives, after all, and if the person who you’re with can’t recognise that, it’s not the best sign. True, it can be hard to find the time, but you could make the most of family events and double dates, for instance.
Don’t expect your spouse to make you happy
This one is a pretty classic mistake. Individuals spend many a year yearning for their soul mate, so when they come along, they assume that they’ve reached the peak of happiness. Not quite how it works, I’m afraid. Of course your spouse brings you happiness, don’t get me wrong! But that true, deep, lasting joy? That’s something we have to choose within ourselves – no-one can fully provide that for us (except God, for those who believe in Him).
When someone expects their spouse to make them completely happy, they’ll begin to overreact every time they do even the tiniest thing “wrong”– because, quite frankly, 24/7 perfection in any human being just does not exist. Practically speaking, this is about a change of mindset: realising that it’s not your spouse’s job to make you happy.
More physical affection
The Time article talks about increasing love-making, but I think this applies to physical affection in general. People crave closeness to the people they love, and so understandably, it can improve your mood and boost your levels of contentment.
Now, I’m not saying that a couple should be all over each other all the time (please, spare us!). But a certain amount of affection at the appropriate time can be very beneficial. For example, if I’m disagreeing with my fiancé, I keep holding his hand – even though this probably feels unnatural when upset. I think it psychologically helps to recognise that we’re still united and a team no matter what.
I’ve read about this before: couples should partake in more exciting activities, to hold on to the rush of young love, and also because it helps us to associate our relationship with positive and thrilling feelings.
I don’t think this means that every date night has to be of bungee jumping or skydiving proportions. It just means that once in a while, you go out of the ordinary for that extra bit of excitement – a restaurant that’s a beautiful one-hour drive away instead of local; a surprise day trip; a treasure hunt. It’s more fun – so why not?