Almost everyone wants to love and to be loved. After centuries of human experience, there still isn’t a magic spell to concoct the perfect relationship. Shouldn’t it be as simple as a+b=c?
Much has been written as to why relationships fail. Incompatibility, timing, and a variety of issues such as trust and Daddy are often pinpointed as the culprit.
But what are the reasons relationships succeed?
You can’t argue with statistics about divorce, but if 50% of marriages end in divorce, that means that 50% of marriages end in, well, marriage. Rather than focusing on all the ways it could go wrong, maybe the key is shifting to a more positive perspective by practicing what does work.
Most relationships tend to follow the same pattern, starting with the always-awkward first dates where you try to get the know the person. Then after a time, you stop. For some couples it’s after a few months, others a few weeks, but eventually all couples reach a point where they believe they know their partner well, inside and out perhaps. Of course we’ve all seen this end in disaster for some who were dead wrong on this point. They rushed into marriage only to find out later they really didn’t know the person at all.
But what about other ways this can affect a relationship?
Even if you agree on most issues and trust each other greatly, there’s still more to learn. It’s not just staying together, but growing together, that leads to a successful relationship. Women’s Health points out how important this is as your relationship progresses. In 10 Secrets of Super Happy Couples, author Sheila Monaghan suggests spending some time each day pretending you’ve just met. Ask your partner to describe their greatest achievement or whether they believe there are aliens on Mars. It’s ok if it’s silly or irrelevant to your life. You may be surprised by your partner’s response, and either way these chats will keep things fresh and fun.
Along those same lines, happy couples who stay together (and happy) long-term tend to play together. If you have a goal you want to achieve, like re-purposing some old furniture, invite your partner to join in. The challenge of a creative venture can remind you that you make a great team. AARP Magazine, who undoubtedly has a reliable pool of experience to draw on, counts playing together as a tool that will make you feel like newlyweds. In 5 Habits of Successful Couples, Author Dr. Pepper Schwartz says trying new things will help a couple to reinvigorate the passion and make a couple feel younger. Even if you’re not married, all couples long for a return to the early honeymoon phase. Have fun together and watch the arguments lessen.
Speaking of arguments, we’ve all heard that to an extent arguments between couples can be healthy. If a couple never comes across any problems, then it may mean they’re bottling up how they really feel. While it’s good to be honest and direct with your partner, name-calling and shaming rarely have positive results. Screaming matches lead only to feeling badly about our relationship and ourselves—and sore throats.
Learning how to fight fair is a lifesaver. This means being respectful and mature even when you strongly disagree. If things get too heated, take notice of it and ask if you can continue the conversation later. According to Adam and Eve, experts on keeping the good energy flowing, there are some things you can do post-argument as well. On their blog, Penelope Pardee writes about The Seven Minute Relationship Fix. Research shows that couples who reflect on their arguments from a third-party perspective reported happier marriages. This “conflict reappraisal intervention” tactic allows each partner to see the truth in specific arguments, therefore improving the way they approach the resolution of future issues. It only takes a few minutes and is proven to be effective.
All of these tips remind us that a successful relationship does take work. It’s not like in the movies where the work is done once you find the right person. However that’s a great place to start, and if you meet someone amazing it’s worth the time and effort.
By John’s Special Guest: Rachel Greville
Rachel Greville, a freelance writer from New York who spends most of her free time hanging out with her friends, enjoying new cocktails, and walking her two dogs.