What Makes A Great Relationship?
Craig and I have attended one of your Prepare Enrich Seminars, and plan to marry next fall. Could you tell us what makes a marriage last?
Thank you for following up with me on Q & A.
There are thousands of studies and reports on the elements of great relationships and marriages. The similarities between many of these studies have shown people in a great relationships have completed a number of psychological “tasks.”
Here is a summary:
– Separate emotionally from the family you grew up in: Not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that your identity is separate from that of your parents and siblings. After all, you should be closer to your spouse than you ever could or should be to any other member of your family.
– Build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity, while at the same time set boundaries to protect each partner’s autonomy: A couple should almost be as one, a single unit, but at the same time one is not a clone of the other.
– Establish a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship and protect it from the intrusions of the workplace and family obligations: That connection you have with one another is part emotional and part physical; one failing will affect the other and thence the couple as a whole. Keep it safe in its own special place. When having that intimate encounter, make sure no distractions from home or work will intrude. After all, if you decide to cut it short because the boss called with something “urgent” that really could have waited an extra hour, whom do you think your wife is going to blame; the boss or you?
– For couples with children, embrace the daunting roles of parenthood and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage: Parenthood should not be considered an inconvenience intruding into your relationship, but rather a physical manifestation of the love the two of you share for one another. Every time you look at that baby, you should be reminded of the one who helped you make it.
– Learn to continue the work of protecting the privacy of you and your spouse as a couple: What goes on between you and your partner, for good and for bad, is really no on else’s business but your own. Others need to respect that boundary and keep their meddling noses out, including parents. Many a good marriage has been ruined by the well-intentioned interference of in-laws.
– Confront and master the inevitable crises of life: As the saying goes (to paraphrase), stuff happens. The trick is not to run from the problems that arise, but to confront and solve these problems… together.
– Maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity: No matter what, that bond the two of you share should be the strongest thing in your Universe. Your home could be flooded, your kids near death, and your dog run over by a train, but you should still be there for one another even in the worst of it all. A house divided cannot stand, and neither can a couple divided.
– The marriage should be a safe haven in which partners are able to express their differences, anger and conflict: A good marriage is one in which both people feel they can express any grievances they have against one another, discuss and argue them through to resolution, and yet know that they will still be there for one another, still love each other, after all is said and done. It’s like the old comic scene in which a couple is arguing rather loudly, someone else comes in to intrude with his two cents worth, then as one the couple turns and shouts at the poor guy, “Shut up, we’re arguing!” It should be that safe.
– Use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation: Humor is the cure for all ills. It’s a great means of bringing people together, of allowing you to see a problem for the very minor obstacle that it is, and for reminding people why they got togeth
er in the first place.
– Nurture and comfort each other, satisfying each partner’s needs for dependency and offering continuing encouragement and support: Would not your right hand tenderly nurse your left hand when it is cut? You are more than simply two separate people, b
ut this needs to be constantly demonstrated, one to the other. Be there for your mate’s hurts and doubts, but also for their joys and dreams, as the other will in turn be here for yours.
– Keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time: How many times have you seen news reports of old couples married some sixty years and seen that they still have the look of doe-eyed teenagers in their eyes for one another? Enough times to get the point?
You can find more ideas in our Reboot Your Relationship book. I have attached a link to the first chapter.
To read more about Rebooting your Relationship, you can download the first chapter for FREE CLICK HERE or buy the book CLICK HERE