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Nurturing a Successful Marriage

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When our marriage falls apart, we feel a sense of shock. Even though we were aware things weren’t good, we somehow still believed they weren’t as bad as they are.

We ask ourselves, “What happened?”

Once trust is broken, it is difficult to rebuild, but it can be done. We wish there was some magic wand we could wave to restore those early feelings of love and contentment. But with honesty and a desire we can rebuild.

Final stages of a marriage

  1. You see your marital problems as severe
  2. Talking things over is useless. You problem-solve on your own.
  3. You start leading parallel lives
  4. Loneliness sets in

Affairs begin to happen by the fourth stage and are usually the result of a dying marriage – not the cause.

But even these marriages can be saved with the right help. The key to reviving or divorce-proofing a relationship is what you do when you are fighting. And, if you take the time to strengthen your friendship, it will also strengthen the marriage.

Happy marriages are based on a deep friendship and sense of belonging, along with mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company.

Marriage can be extremely complex. It takes courage, determination, and resiliency to maintain a long-lasting relationship. These couples know each other intimately. They know each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes, and dreams and accept one another.

They continue to build a positive relationship by expressing their affection in little ways every day. Their friendship is maintained and becomes the foundation of their love. That friendship will fuel flames of romance.

Positive thoughts partners hold about each other will override negative feelings and will fuel optimism. As you support each other’s endeavors and personal goals, you are also supporting the goals you have as a couple.

A successful marriage is built together and requires respect for each other.

Most marital arguments are not resolved because couples spend most of their time trying to outdo each other or forcing changes. It can’t be done.

Fighting over fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality or values are not going to succeed.

When there are no attempts to repair the marriage, both partners remain on constant red alert. They expect to be in combat with each other and withdraw or disengage emotionally from the relationship and the marriage.

Bottom line: 

Learning how to live with the differences we have by respecting and honoring each other is the key to avoiding divorce.

Communication: The number one issue

Again, communication becomes a huge factor. According to a study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), (Dec. 22, 2019) communication problems were the number one reason for divorce in the United States.

The study stated that about 67.5 percent of all marriages failed because of a breakdown of communication.

The reasons for this breakdown included arguing, the inability to understand the other spouse, or total lack of communication. (See more here)

Talking Openly

Healthy couples take time to check in with one another on a regular basis. This means discussing deeper and more personal issues than just parenting and maintaining the household.

It doesn’t mean you avoid difficult subjects. Keeping concerns or problems to yourself breeds resentment. When discussing tough topics, though, remember to be respectful.

Researchers have found that communication style can be more important than commitment levels, personality traits, or even stressful life events in predicting whether happily married couples will go on to divorce.

In particular, negative communication patterns such as anger and contempt are linked to an increased likelihood of splitting up.

Disagreements are part of any relationship, but some fighting styles are particularly damaging. Couples who use destructive behavior during arguments — such as yelling, resorting to personal criticisms, or withdrawing from the discussion — are more likely to break up than couples who fight constructively.

Constructive strategies for resolving disagreements include attempting to find out exactly what your partner is feeling, listening to his or her point of view and trying to reduce tension with kindness and laughter when both see the humor in the situation.

Date nights

To keep that friendship going, plan regular date nights. Even dates can get old, though, if you’re always renting a movie or going to the same restaurant.

Experts recommend breaking out of the routine and trying new things — whether that’s going dancing, taking a class together, taking an afternoon ride, or going on hikes.

Sexual Intimacy

Intimacy is also a critical component of romantic relationships. Some busy couples find it helpful to schedule sex by putting it on the calendar. It may not be spontaneous to have it written in red ink, but setting aside time for an intimate encounter helps ensure that both your physical and emotional needs are met.

When should couples seek help?

While every relationship has its ups and downs, some things are more likely to create bumps in the relationship. Finances and parenting decisions often create recurring conflicts, for example.

One sign of a problem is having repeated versions of the same fight over and over. In such cases, therapy can help couples improve communication and find healthy ways to move beyond the conflict.

You don’t have to wait until a relationship shows signs of trouble before working to strengthen your union. Marriage education programs that teach skills such as good communication, effective listening and dealing with conflict have been shown to reduce the risk of divorce.

9 psychological tasks that make marriage work

Research on what makes a marriage work indicates that people in a good marriage have completed these psychological “tasks”:

  1. They have separated emotionally from the family they grew up in; not to the point of estrangement, but enough so that their identity is separate from that of their parents and siblings.
  2. They build togetherness based on a shared intimacy and identity but can still maintain personal boundaries to protect each other’s autonomy.
  3. They have established a rich and pleasurable sexual relationship and protect it from the intrusions of the workplace and family obligations.
  4. For couples with children, they embrace the daunting roles of parenthood and absorb the impact of a baby’s entrance into the marriage. They continue protecting the privacy of self and that of their spouse as a couple.
  5. They confront and master the inevitable crises of life together.
  6. They maintain the strength of the marital bond in the face of adversity. The marriage needs to be a safe haven where partners can express their differences, anger, and conflict and find some resolution.
  7. They use humor and laughter to keep things in perspective and to avoid boredom and isolation.
  8. They nurture and comfort each other, satisfy each other’s needs for dependency, and offer continuing encouragement and support.
  9. They keep alive the early romantic, idealized images of falling in love, while facing the sober realities of the changes wrought by time.

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