So you’ve managed to stay in a serious romantic relationship longer than you had anticipated. Now you’re wondering how to continue to build on this love, how to keep the love going strong and alive!
Stop the Negativity!
John Gottman, Ph.D. is known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations. Dr. Gottman claims to have developed a method that predicts with 90% percent accuracy which newlywed couples will remain married and which will divorce four to six years later. It is also 81% percent accurate in predicting which marriages will survive after seven to nine years. Dr. Gottman’s prediction method is described in the book Blink and the television series The Human Face.
After a one-hour interview with a pair of newlyweds he can predict with excellent accuracy whether they’ll still be together in five years. He evaluates how couples communicate and identifies key factors that can make or break a relationship. He has found that when couples pay attention to these factors they can change their relationship and improve their chances of staying together for the long haul. Through words we use with each other we can influence behavior. Positive comments help to keep relationships alive. Negative comments brings threat to a relationship.
Gottman has classified harsh statements into four categories of which he calls the four horsemen:
- Criticism - This negative comment personalizes a complaint. A complaint is a behavior description of the problem such as, “You haven’t been doing any dishes this week.”
- Contempt - This is a put-down of the other person. You show contempt by adding a negative emotion, “Your are really lazy”
- Defensiveness - This is a reaction, in kind, to criticism or contempt. Example: “Oh shut up!”
- Withdrawal - One partner turns away from the other, often after a period of criticism, contempt, and defensiveness. A planned withdrawal for cooling down is fine but when there’s no attempt to get back together later to work on issues, that’s a problem.
One negative response after another can be difficult to break, but for marriages to be successful, this pattern must be broken. How can this be done? Gottman says began making ‘repair attempts’. Every time we hear a harsh comment from our partner, we have the option of responding harshly or attempting to repair the situation.
Building Blocks For A Strong Relationship
Every relationship has to have a great foundation of which to build on. There are several essential building blocks needed in order to help a relationship thrive.
- Communication: The lifeblood of all healthy relationships. Every aspect of a relationship is touched by communication. It’s hard to trust someone, have intimacy and give attention without communicating.
- Friendship: A strong friendship is the best way to start and maintain throughout a relationship.
- Trust: Without trust there can be no lasting relationship. Trust, if broken is very difficult to repair.
- Compromise: Give and take is needed in any relationship because no two people are perfectly suited for one another.
- Freedom: Granting another person freedom to be themselves. We draw people toward us when we let go of any inclination to control them.
- Respect: Partnered with freedom, respecting another person’s individuality and competences gives a positive support that is important to freedom.
- Support: As we encounter obstacles a supportive relationship gives us strength and reassurance.
- Equality: The enabler that says, “We’re both equal partners” in this marriage, partnership or friendship. Without equality, all other building blocks disintegrate.
- Commitment: Requires you to explore, develop and nurture a co-created boundary around your relationship. A relationship can’t flourish without commitment.
- Honesty: It’s important in all relationships. If you’re not honest with your partner, you’re setting up walls and keeping the person (at a distance) from learning who you really are. This will not build a strong relationship.
- Attention: The means by which you give someone or something importance in your life. When you give your partner and your relationship attention, they will notice and respond positively.
Keeping The Love Alive
“Having great fun and terrific sex will not sustain an enduring or fulfilling relationship. Without an exclusive, emotional, caring bond between two people, at least one of the partnership will search for the next exciting affair, once the thrill of their current relationship wears off”, says Dr. Ginger E. Blume, Ph.D.
Things you can do to make your partner feel treasured:
- Look your partner in the eyes when talking - engage their spirit
- Invest time in your relationship by having fun together (i.e. dancing, hiking, going to the movies, taking classes together, camping, playing sports together)
- Both verbally and behaviorally, let your partner know how fortunate you feel to be with him/her
- Do things on a weekly basis (call before arriving home to see if there’s anything they need. Leave a love note under their pillow; offer to give them a massage)
- Remember to say, at least weekly, how you appreciate their good qualities
- Kiss and hug your partner before leaving home and again when you return home
- Give each other a break (when you come home give each other at least 30 minutes to unwind quietly and leave work behind)
- Eat dinner together with soft music without the distraction of the TV
- Break up chores so that you won’t end up doing everything on the weekend
- If you both have a career, eat your heavier meals at lunch and eat a light dinner to save time on cooking and cleaning. This will give you time to enjoy each other
- Don’t lose your identity as a couple, create a date night
- Shower together to conserve energy
- Kill the ‘dead routines’ - don’t fall into a routine and begin taking each other for granted. People have to feel cared for and valued by one another. Break out of a rut - take time to plan exciting, romantic time together.
- Listen carefully - it creates an emotional connection between the two of you
- Never stop dating your partner
Testing the above suggestions will surely make for a strong romantic relationship that will be built on a solid foundation of ageless love.