Last week I discussed how to make a marriage/relationship long lasting. For me and my spouse it is having a solid foundation with God and unconditional love for one another. Plus not worrying about what someone thinks we may be missing out on….. the whole grass is greener scenario. I listed the first three keys to a long-term relationship based on an article written by Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. published in Psychology Today: titled 7 Keys to Long-Term Relationship Success. 4-7 are as follows: 4-7 Keys for a successful long-term relationship are as follows:
4. Does Your Partner’s Communication Lift You Up or Bring You Down?
Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington, a foremost expert on couple studies, concluded after over twenty years of research that the single, best predictor of divorce is when one or both partners show contempt in the relationship.
Contempt, the opposite of respect, is often expressed via negative judgment, criticism, or sarcasm regarding the worth of an individual. In communication studies, this is known as being “tough on the person, soft on the issue.” An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue (or behavior), and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. An ineffective communicator will do the opposite – he or she will literally “get personal” by attacking the person, while minimizing or ignoring the issue.
Ineffective communication: “You are so stupid!”
Effective communication: “You’re a smart person, and what you did this morning was not very smart.”
Ineffective communication: “You never do any chores. You’re useless!”
Effective communication: “I noticed that you didn’t do the chores this week.”
Ineffective communication: “You’re always forgetting about me – do you even have a clue?”
Effective communication: “I know you have a lot on your mind lately, and I think it would be good for us to have a date night to reconnect.”
Contemptuous communication works like poison – it destroys the health and well-being of a romantic relationship.
Consider the following questions:
- Does your partner’s communication lift you up, or bring you down?
- Is your partner’s communication with you “soft on the person, firm on the issue,” or the other way around?
- What about your communication with your partner?
If your relationship suffers from ineffective communication, the good newsis that as long as you and your partner are willing, improvements can be learned quickly and put to use immediately. For more resources on this topic, click on titles & download free excerpts of my publications: “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People,” “How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People,” and “Communication Success with Four Personality Types.”
“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” – Brian Tracy
5. How do You and Your Partner Deal with Conflict in the Relationship?
It’s normal for a couple to quarrel from time to time – just part of what it means to be together. Conflicts and arguments won’t necessarily jeopardize a relationship. In fact, there are times when disagreements can actually bring a couple closer together. The key is in how you and your partner decide to handle the conflict.
Couples with poor conflict resolution skills typically engage in Fight, Flight, or Freeze behaviors. They fight and stay mad, sometimes holding grudges for years. They flight and avoid important issues by sweeping them under the rug. Or, after endless arguments with no resolution in sight, they freeze emotionally and shut down. Someone who freezes in a relationship typically goes through the motions on the outside, but has stopped caring on the inside.
Successful couples have the ability to solve problems and let it go. They focus on taking care of the issue rather than attacking the person. Even when angry, they find ways to be upset and stay close at the same time. Once the matter is resolved, they forgive and forget. Most importantly, successful couples have the ability to learn and grow through their interpersonal difficulties. Like fine wine, their relationship improves with age and gets better over time.
I was sitting at a coffee shop once when I witnessed a brilliant example of an elderly couple’s conflict resolution. They were sitting next to me when the husband accidently knocked a cup of water over the table and onto his wife. As he got up to get some napkins, his wife announced to everyone: “He’s been doing this to me for twenty-three years!” And as the husband gently cleaned off the spill on his wife, he turned to us and said: “She deserves it!” His wife laughed. He laughed. We all laughed.
“The group with whom I’ve always been most fascinated is the one I call ‘marital masters’ – folks who are so good at handling conflict that they make marital squabbles look like fun. It’s not that these couples don’t get mad and disagree. It’s that when they disagree, they’re able to stay connected and engaged with each other. Rather than becoming defensive and hurtful, they pepper their disputes with flashes of affection, intense interest, and mutual respect.” – John Gottman
“Let the little things go. People who struggle often fight over little things. We obsess over things that don’t really matter. We create resistance instead of letting things glide off us. Let the little things go, breathe, and move on to the important things.” – Leo Baubauta
“…and at the end, so much of it turns out not to matter.” – from “Evening”
6. How do You and Your Partner Handle External Adversity and Crisis Together?
Several years ago, my elderly mother sustained a major injury and became incapacitated. My wife, the amazing woman that she is, helped me care for my mom. When I told my wife how grateful I was for all that she’d done, she simply smiled and said: “No problem, she’s MY mom too!” The flip side of this example is once when my wife felt extremely stressed studying for a professional exam, I poured over a three hundred page study guide and outlined it for her. I simply wanted to help make her task a little easier.
Like all couples, my wife and I are a journey in progress. One of the traits I’ve noticed about highly successful and enduring relationships is the partners’ ability to stand together in the face of external challenges. A true test of a relationship is whether two people have each others’ back when times are tough.
Consider these questions:
- Do external adversity and crisis bring you and your partner closer together, or pull you farther apart?
- In difficult life circumstances, do you and your partner act like adults or children?
- Can you and your partner share the bad times, or only enjoy the good times?
“Companions who have endured physical challenges together… form a bond that can last a lifetime.”
– Ronald Adler and Russell Proctor II
For more on how to stay strong in the face of life’s challenges, click on title & download free excerpts of my publication: “The 7 Keys to Life Success.”
7. Do You Have Compatible Financial Values?
Numerous studies have identified disagreements over finances as one of the top reasons couples seek marital counseling, as well as one of the top reasons for divorce. While a variety of financial factors can affect nuptial happiness, such as the level of one’s consumer debt and spending habits, one of the most striking statistics is the correlation between frequency of financial disagreements and divorce. According to Jeffrey Dew of the National Marriage Project, “Couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were over 30 percent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times per month.”
Differences in financial values often appear early in a relationship. For example, who pays for the first date? What about the second date? And the third? Is your partner happy when you give a thoughtful but non-monetary birthday gift, or will he or she feel disappointed because you didn’t purchase something? Additional questions to consider:
- Do you and your partner argue over finances regularly?
- Do you often cringe when you see your partner buy items you believe are a waste of money, or vise-versa?
- Is your partner generally happy with what he or she owns, or is there a constant, insatiable desire to always acquire more? What about you?
- Are you and your partner able to solve financial difficulties and differences as a team?
Formulating with your partner a viable financial plan, paying attention to patterns of financial discontent, initiating conversations early to resolve differences, and seeking financial or couples counseling when needed are some of the keys to maintaining financial peace.
“Married couples don’t have to be facing poverty or a job loss for ﬁnancial issues to impact their marriage. Rather, decisions like whether to make a major purchase using consumer credit or how much of a paycheck to put into savings can have substantial consequences for the short-term and long-term health of a marriage. In particular, couples who are wise enough to steer clear of materialism and consumer debt are much more likely to enjoy connubial bliss.” – Jeffrey Dew
In closing, whether you’re single, dating, or in a committed relationship, these seven keys to long-term relationship success may serve as a “check-up” of your relational health and well-being. With self-honesty, openness, and a desire to grow, you can significantly increase the possibility of not only having a wonderful partner in life, but making the love last. To grow old with your life mate, knowing that in each other’s warm embrace you have found Home.