You’ve seen that adorable elderly couple sitting on a park bench or taking a stroll around the park. They’re always holding hands and they look so comfortable with each other, like they’ve spent their entire life in synchronization. If you could interview that couple, there are probably a few major things you could learn about cultivating a successful relationship.
The American Psychological Association estimates that between 40 and 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. That number is a 40 percent increase from 40 years ago, and it’s not looking any better for the future.
Divorce is sometimes the best option for everyone involved, but other times, it could have been prevented if there had been some great role models to turn to in time of need. The reality is that you could be sabotaging your relationship without even realizing it! If you could spy on a couple that has a successful, lifelong marriage, here are a few things you’d notice they do.
1. They tell each other what they’re thinking
How many of your arguments come as a result of poor communication? Contrary to popular belief, being “one” in marriage doesn’t mean that you have the same thoughts. Even those who’ve been married for 50 years can’t tell what their spouse is thinking all the time. That’s why it’s so important to tell your spouse what you’re thinking, without making them guess.
2. They continue to date each other
If you look back at the days before you were married and compare them to now, you’ll probably notice a significant difference in the attention your spouse pays to you. That’s probably because before you were married, you went on real dates.
Dates are the best place for you to really bond as a couple. You can revert to the days where you were trying to impress one another and make each other happy while getting away from the stress of life, kids, and work.
3. They have children
These married couples will likely tell you that having children was one of the most difficult things they’ve done. They’ll also tell you it’s one of the most rewarding. Children define a new kind of intimacy among parents. Creating a child, finding out you’re pregnant, being a part of the birthing experience, teaching your child to ride a bike, and more are all a part of an amazing experience that helps your entire family grow closer together.
4. They argue with a purpose rather than for the sake of arguing
There are probably a few things that you and your spouse argue about over and over. For example, he leaves his muddy shoes on the carpet, while she parks the car crooked. The list could go on and on. Instead of yelling and complaining without any kind of resolution, argue with the intent of finding a solution.
Constructive arguing involves asking questions, understanding your spouse’s feelings, and presenting some kind of solution. These arguments end with an action. Try and plan to correct the problem, so that the topic doesn’t come up again in the same negative light.
5. They don’t complain unless they have a solution
“You always leave the butter sitting on the counter.” “You never help me get the kids ready for school.” “You never remember parent teacher conference.” Sound familiar? Those in lasting relationships recognize that constant complaining gets you nowhere. All it does is heighten your anger and increase the likelihood of an argument. It’s okay to vent – just make sure you have a solution for what’s frustrating you before bringing it up.
6. They express gratitude
The best way to avoid complaining is to look for things to be grateful for in your spouse. You could even try documenting these things in a gratitude journal. It might take a little pondering at first, but you’ll soon find that there are many things to be grateful for. Your gratitude can go as deep as, “I’m grateful that my husband never gives up.” Or it could be as lighthearted and simple as, “I’m grateful that my wife picked me up from work today.”
You can also try and take the time to express gratitude for your spouse verbally. Studies show that those who make sure their spouse feels more appreciated have significantly greater feelings of love and contentment than those who go days at a time without saying thank you.
7. They recognize that their marriage comes first
Any lifelong couple will tell you that your spouse should come before anything else, even a deadline at work, and especially a night out with friends. When you prioritize your marriage, you cultivate an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, which is an invaluable quality in any marriage.
8. They prioritize pillow talk
It’s easy to go to bed at separate times, especially when you have different interests and responsibilities to attend to. But couples who have been married for years recognize the value of pillow talk. They make it a priority to go to bed at the same time, even if it means going to bed later or earlier than you like. The time alone with your spouse in such an intimate setting will be priceless for relieving stress, talking about kids and work, and discussing hopes and dreams. These night-time chats really help develop your relationship – in every sense of the word.
9. They nurture common interests
Most couples don’t have nearly as much in common as they thought they did when they were dating. She might suddenly lose interest in ESPN, and he might suddenly decide he doesn’t like star gazing after all. But there will be some things that every couple still has in common. Successful marriages find the few things they have in common and cultivate a strong relationship through their common interests.