Despite the dire implications of the often repeated data that half of all marriages end in divorce, this is a glass half empty approach to thinking about marriage.
The glass half-full approach points out that half of all marriages persist “til death do us part.”
This means that millions of Americans are figuring out how to overcome obstacles in their marriage, beat the boredom of regular routines, and stay together over time. Importantly, this means it’s not impossible. And while there is not a formula for how to do it, there are plenty of road maps for how to help your marriage stand the test of time.
In their book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work”, John Gottman and Nan Silver detail some of the ways that love can be rekindled or maintained over a lifetime.
It is important in your relationship to foster a warm feeling for your loved one. This fondness is the part that used to make you feel “tingly” when they came into view. Time and habit and familiarity may have doused this feeling, but you can restart it with three key ideas.
Remember the foundation of your relationship
However your relationship might feel this moment, there was a time when it felt like a fairytale. When your spouse walked into the room your heart leapt. When their name showed up on the phone you immediately left the room to take the call.
You looked for reasons to spend time together, even when doing nothing at all.
Sure that can fade over time. But the act of intentionally remembering those feelings and those times can help you rediscover those emotions. You can feel them anew.
Ask your partner these questions on a date or time together:
- When did you first know you loved me?
- When did you first know I loved you?
- What is your first memory of us as a couple?
- Why did you fall in love with me?
Treat each other with respect
No matter how cold and distant your relationship might feel in this moment, it is important to always treat your partner with respect.
This means taking specific steps to thoughtfully interact with them. If your relationship has become cold and rude, it might help to think of your spouse as a work friend, or perhaps a potential client. Prioritize your interactions with them.
In this case, you can’t make your partner change all of their actions and words at once. However, you can set clear boundaries and make it clear when their communication or actions have crossed a line into disrespect with you.
Of course the work begins with you. Because you are the person you control in this relationship.
- Give your full attention to your partner when they are talking to you, especially when talking about something that animates them.
- Prioritize your time with them, including returning calls and texts
- Set boundaries when they are rude or careless with your emotions or time
- Respect or amplify their positions in a group or on social media
Find and praise qualities you admire in your partner
In addition to remembering why you love them and acting with respect towards them, you must invest yourself in finding the qualities you admire in your partner.
You may have gotten in the habit of noticing what gets on your nerves and – worse yet – pointing this out to friends and even (yikes!) social media.
That has got to stop.
Instead, examine their work and their free time activities. Search for a positive quality that is obvious, and not necessarily about the place where they demonstrate that positive quality.
For example, perhaps your spouse gets lost in a particular video game for hours at a time. You might admire their persistence and dedication (while not loving that it is spent on the video game.)
Or perhaps your spouse can remember all the details of a gossip session or a particular TV show, and can spread that information around for days. You might admire their ability to pay attention to and remember lots of small details.
The point is, these underlying qualities are part of what you fell in love with, and finding them again can help provide a pathway to a better relationship.
- Thinking about work play and time at home list some positive qualities your partner has.
- Write them down in individual sentences starting with “I really like…”
- Once a day for the next 7 days, say one of those sentences. It’s best if you can do it at the appropriate time / when it is happening but that is not necessary
Following these steps can help you find what attracted you to your spouse in the first place.
This is part of your roadmap to a longer, more fulfilling partnership.
You and your partner deserve to be you best selves in the best possible relationship.
Start working on it today by getting in contact with a trained online therapist like Sakina Issa Just press the red button at the top of this page, share some key contact information, and find a time that works for you to discuss options for a single session or an ongoing series.