What does it take to have a long happy marriage? Some might say intimacy is the key to success, while others credit their long relationship to a good sense of humour. My parents were married sixty years, and I can still remember some advice my Dad told me just before I tied the knot with my partner. He said, “Make sure you never take the small things for granted and live each day loving that person just a little more than the day before.”
The Seasons Of Love
There is no magic formula for making a marriage last: happy couples have shared life’s magic moments but also pushed through countless challenges. Most would say their marriage has changed along the years, and that’s only normal. We don’t live in fairy-tale land, and our lives don’t look like the stories we see on the Hallmark Channel. Relationships evolve, kids leave the nest and fears might set in, but according to several studies, the key to a long term marriage is being intentional about strengthening it whether any storms that may arise.
For the world-renowned expert on marital stability and divorce prediction, Dr John Gottman – founder and director of The Gottman Institute – who has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples: “successful long-term relationships are created through small words, small gestures and small acts.”
Certainly, you don’t agree on everything, but sticking up for each other is what unconditional love is all about. Don’t underestimate the power of those little things in your routine that bring you joy, for they might be the ones that will still add relevance and importance to your marriage when you are ‘in a rut’ in your relationship.
Of course, there are also moments when it’s a challenge to give up control, especially around routine things that you usually do, but still, letting your partner help you around the house – even if he puts too much detergent in the washer and forgets the softener – is a way to make him feel appreciated.
It’s important to recognize that relationships have seasons – explains Dr Gottman-. When hard times are hard, remember that it’ll pass. And when it’s good, hold onto it, cherish it, because that’ll pass too. Embrace the seasonal shifts in your relationship! Discuss the ways that you can support and connect with each other in the droughts of ‘winter’ — when you feel like your relationship is just okay — and when your relationship heats back up in the ‘summer’.
Day-to-day actions that count
At times it’s difficult to value the little things in a relationship and often we take them for granted. When you worry that your marriage isn’t perfect, remember that no one is perfect. When you think back to those first moments together and those butterflies you had in your stomach, it surely felt magical, but that doesn’t last forever.
Marriage is a commitment, an institution, and a friendship that is forged slowly over time. The world’s happiest couples know that it is those day-to-day actions that have the greatest impact.
Here are 10 things you can do every single day.
Honour and respect your partner
It’s easy to say, but is it as easy to do? Sometimes you may need to bite your tongue; don’t put your spouse/partner down in front of others. Also, consider every conflict, even the regrettable ones, as an opportunity to understand each other better.
Make Time For Date Nights
You don’t have to be dressed up and fancy for a date. Sometimes spontaneous errands together; a cup of coffee at a new cafe in town or a walk around the block might be the quality time you need. Most often good conversations and active listening are the winning combinations, whatever that looks like for you.
Get your sexy back
You might be more comfortable in fuzzy socks and flannel pyjamas, but does it make you feel sexy? Maybe brushing your teeth and putting on something other than leggings might help. Put your insecurities aside and enjoy time with the person you love. Communication is key: let your spouse /partner know when you feel most sexy and confident.
Besides the release of oxytocin or the cuddle hormone, which is associated with wellness and happiness, hugs release dopamine. Dopamine is the body’s natural happiness chemical. That is why hugs make us feel happy, reduce stress, make us less afraid, and act as a source of support. And according to a study by the University of California at Berkley, cuddlings have anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing benefits, too. When it comes to relationships, physical touch is at the forefront of how we say ‘I love you’ without actually speaking. By hugging your partner not only are you literally bringing each other closer together, but your connection also becomes emotional as much as it is physical. Also, hugs are a ‘fight timeout’ that help show that your love for your spouse is more important than being right or being safe.
Simply say ‘Thank You’
A little gratitude goes a long way. Try bringing them a cup of coffee in the morning, or let them know that you really appreciated them folding the laundry, or mowing the lawn. Validation is a powerful tool: used correctly, you’re showing your partner not only that you recognize how hard he is working, but that you express this appreciation in small, obvious ways.
Focus on each other’s strengths
A partnership means accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Supporting each other is essential in a relationship especially when life gets really harder; make time to appreciate each other’s efforts in your personal and professional lives.
Do things together
Share common experiences. No matter how busy you are, take a few minutes each day to put aside your electronic devices, stop thinking about other things, and really focus on and connect with your partner. Find something that you enjoy doing together, whether it is a shared hobby, dance class or daily walk: doing things together can be a fun way to connect and keep things interesting.
Say ‘I Love You’
Actions speak louder than words in most cases, but no relationship has suffered from hearing the words “I Love You” from their significant other. It’s easy to say to our kids, but at times it something we forget to tell our significant others. Love makes us appreciate the rain and rainbows.
Give yourself a time out
With the stress of everyday life, it is important that we carve out a few minutes every day to ‘decompress’. Maybe this means stepping away from the Internet or listening to some music. Clearing your mind does wonders for the soul and for your relationship.
Appreciate each other
Identify and write down three things you do on a regular basis that you don’t feel are appreciated by your significant other. Then, do the same thing but switch your mindset to identify three things that your spouse or partner does regularly and may be unnoticed by you. Relationships require a lot of work, but when the exchange is mutually satisfying, then good feelings continue to flow.
Now look at your significant other sitting across the table from you: see the lines, the wrinkles, the age of that person and all of the experiences you’ve had together. You had visions of marriage always being great, and to be honest, it isn’t. However, you’ve made it through moves, job changes, losses, kids and all sorts of things you couldn’t even imagine when you first met each other. Sometimes we get so hung up on our expectations that we miss how beautiful our relationships are — and the lessons they’re teaching us.