Guest Blog Post By: Maile Proctor
Whether you’re planning a wedding, celebrating newlywed bliss, or you’ve been together since the beginning of time, there are certain tell-tale signs that can help predict the success of a marriage. While these are reliable indicators, remember, there are not always hard-fast rules when it comes to love and relationships.
We reached out to psychologists and relationship experts to find out the secret sauce behind a successful marriage. If you incorporate these nine things in your relationship, you’re well on your way to happily ever after.
You Can Be Silly Together
When you can let your guard down and be vulnerable in front of your partner, not only can you communicate openly, you can also have fun and be goofy together. Of course, there’s a time and a place to joke around, but in any relationship, you don’t need to be serious all the time.
“Sex is one kind of passion, but true passion and intimacy is being able to point blank be completely and utterly silly in front of eachother,” says Dr. Anjhula Mya Bais who holds a doctorate with expertise in social and international psychology, psychoanalysis, personality, relationships and trauma from The Chicago School, Columbia University and University College in London. “Can you do this? That’s true passion.”
You Accept Your Differences and You Make Them Work for You
As humans, you’re not going to agree on everything. Rather than constantly arguing, however, you can accept your difference of opinion and figure out how to work together despite these differences.
“Most couples come from different backgrounds and have different philosophies on important things like raising children and spending money,” says Monte Drenner, LMHC, CAP. “Most of the arguments couples have are about their differences. The secret to success is two fold. First, learn to appreciate the differences. Then, work harder to understand than to be understood. If the couple will learn to do these two things, they are well on their way to a successful marriage.”
Rather than trying to win an argument or have the last say, challenge yourself to understand your partner’s perspective. Express your thoughts or feelings without yelling or trying to prove that you’re right. Then, try to find a middle ground or compromise where both partners feel like their opinions are valued and respected.
You Find Joy in the Little Things
Sure there are engagements, weddings, honeymoons, anniversaries and special celebrations, but every day can’t be exciting and exhilarating. Part of a successful marriage is being able to appreciate your partner and enjoy your day-to-day lives together.
“Early on, relationships can be fun, exciting and thrilling, but after 5, 10, 15, 20 years... not so much,” says Jonathan Bennett a certified counselor from Columbus, Ohio. “If both partners can enjoy and appreciate each other through the everyday joys and struggles of life, they will be more likely to stick together.”
You Give Each Other a Break
There is no such thing as a perfect marriage or perfect husband or wife. There will be times where you or your partner will screw up or do something that upsets the other person. While it’s important to let your partner know how you feel, you have to also do your part to move past it, and not hold it against him or her in the future.
“We are human, sometimes we fall short in how we want to behave or treat our partner,” says Paul DePompo, PsyD, ABPP, a board-certified clinical psychologist/ researcher and author on relationships. “A successful couple is able to look at those moments as a human moment and they do NOT take it personal. They’re able to see their partner's behavior on a continuum and their partner is not being judged on a case-by-case basis.”
Remember, you and your partner are a team, so if you want to level the playing field, don’t keep score.
You Support Each Other's Goals
It’s important to set goals as a couple: buy a house, save money, start a family. Whatever you want to achieve as a couple, set your intention and do what you can to work toward your goal. This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t also have individual goals. According to The Anatomy of Love, “mutual perceived instrumentality, or a relationship in which each partner is instrumental in helping the other to achieve those goals, is considered to be the most satisfying type of relationship.
Along with travel and exploring hobbies and passions, many people’s individual goals have to do with work and career ambitions. It’s essential for a couple to be supportive of career aspirations, which means being honest about work, income, and schedules, especially when/if kids come into the picture. While in some cases both partners working can put a strain on the marriage, according to a study, 38 percent of employed females and 32 percent of employed males got divorced, compared to 43 percent of unemployed females and 42 percent of unemployed males. So whether one or both partners work, make sure you do what you can to support each other.
You Both Value Your Marriage
When you get married, you exchange sacred vows. These vows are supposed to last, well, until death do you part. In some cases, however, one or both partner may not place as much value in marriage, and this can lead to a lot of disagreements and issues down the line.
“Many studies show that large numbers of people simply don’t hold marriage in a very high regard anymore,” according to Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating and relationship coach. “If both partners have a high view of marriage (as a sacrament, holy, unbreakable, etc.), then it’s more likely to last.”
While you should know each other’s views on marriage before you tie the knot, it’s OK to check in with your partner and reaffirm priorities and values.
You Make Each Other Better
Happy couples appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses but also constantly challenge one another to improve. Also, don’t forget you can learn a lot from your partner, take advantage of the opportunity to improve yourself and strengthen your bond.
“Be competitive in a caring way,” advises Josh Kaplow, a licensed clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Public Health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “You bring a set of skills and attributes to the relationship. Your significant other brings theirs. Don't settle. Look at what they have that you don't and strive to improve to get closer to their level. Maybe it's becoming more compassionate, maybe more athletic, maybe more scholarly. You are not becoming them, but take their strengths and let those set the bar for what you can strive towards.” When you do this, you push each other to be better over time.
You Maintain Your Individuality
Yes, couples need to work as a team in order to be successful, but this doesn’t mean you should abandon who you are as an individual, and the same goes for your partner. You most likely have different interests and hobbies, and you shouldn’t stop doing these things just because your partner doesn’t share the same interests.
According to Huffington Post, “Simply put, a “grown-up” relationship is one in which both partners will feel closely connected while maintaining a strong sense of individuality and independence within the relationship.” While it can be fun to do things together, understand it’s also healthy to pursue your individual interests.
You Trust Each Other
Trust is the foundation for any relationship; you have to trust your partner in order to work together, to be vulnerable, to set goals for the future, love is built on trust. When you trust your partner, you don’t go looking for issues or try to instigate arguments and conflicts.
“Of course, trust goes both ways, but when you trust your partner you can have confidence in your marriage and you don’t need to look for issues,” says Dion Metzger, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist, relationship expert, and co-author of The Modern Trophy Wife: How to Achieve Your Goals While Thriving at Home. "If you know your marriage is strong, do not waste time looking for or causing cracks in the foundation" (don't snoop through the phone or spy).”
Marriage isn’t always easy, but partners are more likely to have a successful relationship when they share love and respect, work together, and make each other better. What signs do you think indicate a long-lasting marriage? Let us know in the comments below!
Maile Proctor is a blogger and content editor. She has written articles on health and fitness, lifestyle and family, advice, how-to and more. She earned her Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism from Chapman University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking in San Diego, CA.