Wondering if you have what it takes to make marriage work? Patricia and Gregory Kuhlman of Marriage Success Training have dedicated their lives to helping couples get on the right track. Keep reading for their top tips on keeping your marriage together.
Q: Are there basic, common elements to every successful marriage?
A: In happy, enduring marriages, couples maintain an overall positive emotional tone. Partners generally manage their differences and challenges as a team, without undue negativity. They also spend enough time and energy on their relationship to feel connected.
Q: Are there factors that are particularly important?
A: Relationship tone is considered positive when positive interactions outweigh negative ones by a ratio of at least five to one, and usually more. Successful couples have a lot more positive interactions to offset any negativity.
How to Do If Your Marriage is Over? The biggest mistake that couples make is to take their bond for granted by assuming that their connection will stay strong because they love each other, or with “hard work.” But they don’t have an intentional strategy to maintain the strength of their union. Without a specific plan, most couples’ attachment can grow weaker over time, whether or not they want this to happen, placing their marriage at risk. The first years of marriage are the riskiest for divorce and affairs. Couples report that “the spark is gone,” or that while they still love each other, they are no longer “in love” or have “grown apart.”
Q: Do men and women need different things (in general) for a marriage to succeed?
A: Different people will need different things, but on average women need more verbal and emotional interaction than men, while men are more activity-oriented in their bonding style.
There is almost always one partner who is more prone to becoming overloaded during emotional interactions. Couples need to learn to protect this partner (usually the man) from becoming overloaded and help him learn to engage in a way that doesn’t lead to overload and withdrawal.
The different approaches of the genders to many aspects of relationships, including communication and bonding, are another factor that can stress a couple’s feeling of closeness over time. The pursue-withdraw pattern –where one partner keeps after the other to resolve an important issue or for more closeness, while the other feels overloaded and keeps withdrawing or picking a fight to get away — is especially dangerous. This pattern is what’s primarily behind the stereotype of the “nagging” wife and the husband who “doesn’t talk.”
Q: Any tips for how to translate these factors/elements into relationship practices?
Here are seven solid approaches that marriage success research has shown will help to keep your bond vital:
1. Build positivity in your relationship: No one can avoid negativity completely, but limit it. Marriage research has revealed that happy couples have at least five positive interactions for every negative one. Couples who slip below five-to-one have a hard time restoring the balance. Repair after your fights. Don’t allow prolonged periods of resentment to persist.
2. Make time for your relationship: No matter what. Couples need to spend a weekly average of at least 12 hours of non-sleep, non-TV time together to stay bonded. Lots of couples don’t understand that if you try to put your relationship “on hold” while you give more attention to a new job or to children, it will be much more difficult than you imagine to restore the closeness between you.
3. Daily, non-stressful communication: Continuing to keep up with each other’s lives — is another bonding activity. And it’s one that tends to go by the wayside when lives become busy. Remember how curious you were to learn the details of each other’s lives when you were getting to know one another?
4. Approach life as a team: Don’t become adversaries, even when you disagree. Your disagreements are something that both of you must take an active role in managing. Planning and dreaming together are bonding for both genders.
5. Appreciate the male need to bond through shared activities: Make time for the intimate talking that women usually prefer for bonding, but make it easier for him by scheduling it at a good time, setting a time limit on the discussions and limiting negativity.
6. Keep your sex life active: Schedule a regular date night, especially if things are slowing down. You’ll be surprised how the anticipation will whet your appetite — just like it did when you were dating. Introduce new forms of novelty to compensate for the inevitable diminishing partner novelty. Overcome any disagreements about initiating and active/passive roles by taking turns. The brain chemistry stimulated by sex is critical to renewing your bond.
7. Celebrate your relationship!