Marriage is a journey, and just like any journey, it comes with its own set of challenges. For any couple about to say "I do", the prospect of a lifetime together is incredibly exciting. However, there are certain habits you should foster to nurture and strengthen the relationship. Once the wedding rings have long been exchanged, these nine pillars form a strong foundation for your relationship, and give it the best possible chance of longevity.
You make time for each other
Time is what builds depth, trust and true companionship. The more time you spend together, the closer you and your partner will be. It is important to carve out quality time with your partner by planning things like date nights to ensure that you each feel like a top priority to the other. Duane W. Crawford, an expert in marital relationships, explains that while couples must make time together a priority, it's also vital that they give one another space. Make sure you have balance, creating time for yourself, other friends and family is also important.
- Make sure you celebrate your special days and anniversaries.
- Plan a regular date night that you both agree to.
- Don't become complacent and forget to make plans with your partner.
- Don't forget that quality time is an important love language in lots of relationships.
You have your own interests
Image Credit: Rahul Jain
Two whole, happy individuals make a perfect pair. If two people with their own strengths, interests and passions come together, this creates the foundations for a strong relationship. If one person in the partnership is only focused on their partner's interests, their individuality can start to fade. Instead, a strong relationship is built where two individuals with unique interests can bounce off each other and spend time pursuing their passions outside of those shared in the relationship.
- Continue pursuing your own hobbies and passions that you enjoyed before entering the relationship.
- Continue finding new things that interest you.
- Don't get so invested in your partner's interests that you lose sight of your own.
- Don't forget that you and your partner can have differences and different interests are one of them!
You communicate well
Communication is probably the most crucial feature of a successful relationship. Firstly, the more you talk and communicate your thoughts, feelings and needs, the more you understand each other. Couples counselor Suzanne Degges-White describes how "if you don't know how to ask for what you need, you are less likely to have your needs met." and emphasizes that "effective communication requires the mastery of active listening." Understanding how your partner communicates is also helpful, as this alleviates confusion or misunderstandings that could lead to disagreements.
- Learn how one another communicates.
- Share your thoughts, feelings and opinions respectfully and honestly.
- Don't be afraid to take a pause during heated discussions or disagreements.
- Actively listen to your partner.
- Make an effort to understand your partner's point of view.
You are comfortable together
Being comfortable with your partner means you can be the most authentic version of yourselves. We all know that being anything but your true self is tiring, and building a relationship based on your true self will provide a strong foundation for many years to come. If you live together or plan to live together, being comfortable is also a crucial factor in enjoying your lifestyle living with one another.
- Be your true, authentic self.
- Accept your partner for who they are, including their quirks.
- Don't make your partner feel uncomfortable by being judgemental or unaccepting.
- Don't try and change who your partner is.
You have fun together
What is a relationship without laughter? Laughter and fun are crucial in any successful marriage. Without it, your relationship will lack zest, excitement and joy. When you're first entering a new relationship, you may notice one of the first things that set it apart from others is the amount of laughter you and your partner share. It is also important to do fun things together to bond in a fun, happy context.
- Plan fun activities together like going to the beach or dancing.
- Put time aside to do something spontaneous, whatever it may be!
- Don't take yourself too seriously.
- Don't say no to trying something new and exciting with your partner.
You trust one another
No loving or successful relationship can last without trust and honesty. Honesty builds trust, connection, comfort and vulnerability, which are especially important in romantic relationships. Honesty doesn't just mean telling the truth, but it also means sharing who you are—good and bad—with another person. Creating an open and loving space ensures each partner feels comfortable being honest and transparent. According to couples therapists and founders of 'The Couples Institute'' Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson, the foundation of making a relationship work is not love, but trust.
- Have regular one-on-one chats with your partner where you really listen and connect with one another.
- Be vulnerable.
- Try some trust exercises, like staring into each other's eyes for five minutes and not talking.
- Don't keep big secrets from each other.
- Don't be dishonest about your emotions.
- Be open to listening and avoid being judgemental.
You make intimacy a priority
The one thing separating your marriage or romantic relationship from the rest of your relationships is the intimacy you and your partner share. Sometimes intimacy can go out the window with the busyness and stress of day-to-day life. Instead, it is important to prioritize intimacy as it should be nourished to help keep the love and deep connection in your relationship strong.
- Plan intimate date nights.
- Make the bedroom a sanctuary—avoid talking about relationship problems, money and household issues in the bedroom.
- Make your wedding anniversary a special day—give wedding anniversary gifts and plan a special date.
- Don't bring your phones into bed—make your bedroom a technology-free zone if possible.
- Don't wait for life's stresses to disappear before igniting the intimacy—life will always bring challenges. Make space for intimacy even during tough times.
You have similar goals
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Having similar goals within your partnership is essential for longevity. It is special to have someone on your team to help you achieve your goals, and it can be that extra bit rewarding when you achieve joint goals together. Of course, each individual should have their own goals but you should align on crucial things, including ideas of success and happiness.
- Write a list of the goals you share.
- Set some benchmarks for achieving your goals.
- Communicate your individual goals.
- Don't forget about helping your partner achieve their individual goals.
- Don't ignore red flags that can come to light when comparing your goals.
You support one another
A partnership is solid when both people are the best version of themselves within the relationship. Your partner should help lift you up, encourage personal growth and nurture physical and emotional health, and vice versa. A strong and healthy relationship is one where each partner brings the best version of themselves when they spend time together. Being your best, unique self and helping bring this out in your partner in fun and magical ways is the cornerstone to a flourishing relationship.
- Encourage your partner to pursue their interests and passions.
- Do healthy, invigorating things together as a couple, like going on hikes and cooking healthy meals.
- Don't laugh at or make fun of your partner's quirks.
- If your partner is starting something new, encourage and support them while they learn.
When it's time to see a couples therapist
Relationships take work, and seeing a couples therapist is a good idea if you think your relationship needs some help. Some people think that attending couples therapy can feel like a failure, but it is actually a very positive step to nurturing and strengthening your relationship.
Many therapists offer a free consultation so you can find a good fit before you commit. California-based couples therapist Debbie Lambert emphasizes, "When you're looking for a therapist, you want one that you have a good connection with and that gets good results." While you don't necessarily need a reason to see a couples therapist, these are some of the main signs that a session with a therapist may be beneficial for you.
- You find you and your partner are arguing more often than not.
- Your relationship lacks intimacy.
- There is a distance between you and your partner.
- Communication is difficult or non-existent.
- You rarely laugh or have fun with each other.
- You don't want to spend time together anymore.
- Your relationship lacks honesty and there have been breaches of trust.
- Your goals are not aligning.
- You and your partner both want to improve the relationship.
- You want to build strength in the relationship in case you face roadblocks further down the track.
Nurture your relationship
Each relationship is unique and special. Ask any couple celebrating their diamond wedding anniversary what their secret is to a long and happy union, and they will all give you a different answer. At the heart of it though, all successful relationships share some similar traits including authentic connection, trust, respect, and a deep understanding of each other's needs. Whatever stage you are at in your relationship, remember that just like a beautiful rose, it needs to be tended to and nurtured in order to bloom.