Why do some marriages survive a lifetime when others fail after just a few months? Although it is a question many experts are still struggling to answer, many happy couples swear their success comes through constant communication, the ability to adapt to life changes together, and realistic expectations of their partner.
Although none of us are perfect, many of us presume our partner or spouse can read our minds, will act the way we want them to act, and always know the right thing to say. But in reality, these types of expectations are just not plausible. The happiest couples know that relationships need to be tended to like gardens. They do not take each other for granted, are steadfastly committed to their relationship, and respect each other’s individuality and dreams.
So what can you do today to enhance your own relationship, starting today?
1. Listen more than you talk.
This exercise may be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done in your lifetime. During a conversation with our partner, we may have their best intentions in mind when interrupting during a disagreement, story, or even a heartfelt apology to interject our own opinion. But it is often more effective to sit back and really listen to what our partner is saying. The after-effects of listening more than we talk are often life-changing. In the end, we all want someone to listen and then make an attempt to understand us. We are all complex beings who crave the gift of unconditional love, especially from the one we have pledged to walk through life with forever. The next time your partner initiates a conversation, just quietly listen. What you hear may be more illuminating than you ever imagined.
2. Identify each other’s wonderful attributes.
Often, we get caught up in talking about all the things that annoy us most about our partner. Yet at one time, we were attracted to our partners because of all their wonderful attributes, not their faults. Schedule a time when you can both sit down together, uninterrupted, and create a list of ten things you love about your partner. Do not show your list to your partner until you are both done. Then read your list aloud and watch how the mood in the room completely transforms. When you are done sharing, hang your partner’s list somewhere where you can see it on a daily basis (like a bathroom mirror). Finally, use the list as a reference and make a point of complimenting or encouraging your partner at least once a day. When you say things like, “I love how you kiss me goodnight,” or “I so appreciate you doing the dishes after dinner tonight,” or “You are so good at comforting our kids when they are sad,” you bring the kind of positive energy to your relationship that will sustain you through the most challenging of times.
3. Plan adventures.
Experiencing adventure together creates a bond like no other. Adventure can mean different things to different people. To some, it may mean climbing Mount Everest. To others, it might mean traveling the country via two-lane highways. To another, it may mean taking a class to learn to make chateaubriand for two. A great way to identify future adventures is for each partner or spouse to create a vision board that outlines all their interests (snowboarding, hiking, cooking, running) as well as the places they would like to visit one day (England, the Rocky Mountains, a gourmet restaurant in France, or the Caribbean). Once you have your vision boards created, each of you should then identify the first adventure you would like to experience with your partner. Toss a coin to determine where you will go first and then, follow through with the plan. While on your adventure, take photos that capture the fun. Display the photos on your desk at work or at home as a gentle reminder of all the reasons why you love your partner and why fate brought you together in the first place.
It’s true: making your relationship successful does take time and energy. But the rewards for your efforts are worth more than anything else in this world.
Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.