I recently hit a major milestone in my life – my husband and I reached thirty-one years of marriage. We’ve now spent more than half of our lives together. I was asked recently by a friend how we’ve stayed together so long. I decided in this post I would share 3 fundamentals of our – and (I believe) every- strong relationship.
You’d think that after thirty-one years, I would have this “marriage” thing all figured out. I’ve been married for more than half of my life, and my education and work background are in psychology and counseling.
Turns out, my marriage is always changing and evolving, and some things that were important five years ago may not be important today.
While I don’t by any means have all of the answers, I have decided that there are three elemental factors that have helped my husband and I remain together this long.
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3 Fundamentals of A Strong Relationship
What Works for Us May Not Be The Same for You
First, though, I want to make it clear that I am only talking about my specific relationship.
What has worked for us may or may not apply to any other relationship.
No two couples are the same, and therefore what works for one may or may not be the right thing for another.
Take inspiration where you find it, toss away what you disagree with, and contemplate the possibilities of what’s left.
I also understand that not all marriages are destined to last.
There are plenty of reasons that marriages end, even when both people involved are good, solid, caring, loving, wonderful people.
Ending a relationship is not a sign of weakness, giving up, or failure.
Any relationship (including long-term ones like mine) can unravel for a million different reasons. I’m not here to judge anyone.
3 Fundamentals of A Strong Relationship – in a Bit More Detail
Relationship Fundamental #1: Communication
Yes, communication is a key to any relationship. There is certainly no new bombshell idea there. I’m not talking about simple, basic, everyday communication.
Communication involves so much more than just talking.
Any two strangers can make small talk at a cocktail party and that is not the same as communication between partners.
In a marriage, you must make small talk.
Listen to each other’s daily ups and downs.
Banter about the news, the weather, and which restaurant to go to for dinner.
But, unlike small talk with strangers, as a couple, you must go beneath the surface as well.
Complaints about her job? She may be expressing frustration or anxiety about other areas of her life but doesn’t know how to express it.
Does he want to have dinner at the same old restaurant you always go to? Perhaps it’s his way of saying that he is craving consistency right now.
In a relationship, you must look beneath the surface of your small talk and find deeper meanings.
And then there are “the conversations”.
Those deep, detailed verbal confrontations can be joyful expressions of a future together – planning a vacation, starting a family, settling into a new home.
Or they can be fraught with emotion and conflict – dealing with aging parents, handling a financial crisis, confronting broken trust or addiction.
But no marriage will survive without having them from time to time.
One key to communication is honesty.
You must be truthful with your spouse, and trust that he/she is also being truthful with you.
Speaking your truth allows your partner to know who you are and understand not just your needs, but the why behind those needs.
We must be clear and honest in our communication. There is no room for dishonesty or secrecy. Be sure you know the difference between privacy and secrecy.
This isn’t about taking away privacy – we all deserve privacy. But dishonesty, including secrecy, can be extremely damaging to a relationship.
You must see and be seen clearly.
A second key to communication is active listening.
Most commonly, people listen to one another in order to respond. They are already thinking about what they will say when the other person is finished.
Real communication is about listening to understand.
Make it a focus to restate your partner’s words, and have him indicate that you have really understood them before you offer any response.
Relationship Fundamental #2: Friendships
It’s a wonderful experience when your partner is your best friend. BUT:
Your partner should not be your only friend.
First, you need shared friends.
These people may also be couples, but can also be individuals or groups of people. You seek them out, generally (but not necessarily always), as a couple.
My husband and I have been fortunate to find our BFF couple nearly twenty years ago. The four of us are all close friends, and despite several moves that have taken us across the country from each other, we manage to find ways to keep in touch and stay close.
We can’t imagine life without them.
Beyond that, despite your “couplehood”, you must each have friends of your own.
You need a Girls’ Night, and he needs his golf day. Or whatever restores you that involves friendships separate from your spouse.
That’s not to say your spouse doesn’t know or like these separate friends.
But you both need the opportunity to socialize and have friendships with other people, and these relationships should be valued and nurtured.
You need to have friends as a couple.
You need to have individual friends of your own.
Relationship Fundamental #3: QTIP
Are you familiar with the QTIP method?
This acronym harkens back to my school counseling days.
QTIP stands for “Quit Taking It Personally“.
Women, in particular, tend to blame themselves far too often for their partner’s behavior.
QTIP helps let it go.
To understand this better, think back to times when your partner has:
- Spent the day vegging on the couch watching sports on tv
- Responded to your questions with an unhelpful grunt
- Slammed a door, sworn under his breath, and retreated into his “man cave”
Would you naturally assume that he is upset with you somehow? Most women would answer yes.
In truth, the probability is that his behavior in no way reflects on you.
He could be thinking about unfinished work at the office, feeling tired from tossing and turning all night, or just wishing he had a peanut butter sandwich to snack on.
It could be anything.
Give your partner the trust that if he’s upset with you in any way, he will let you know. And don’t take on burdens that are not yours to carry.
Quit taking it personally.
Marriage is a Choice – Why Not Choose to Make Yours as Strong as Possible?
Marriage is hard; marriage is complicated.
No two marriages function in the same way.
I make a daily choice to be married to my husband. We work hard in our relationship.
Any good relationship is not something you want to take for granted.
Read More About Relationships:
- What are the Keys to a Committed Relationship?
- 3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before a Disagreement
- How to Support Your Partner During a Difficult Conversation
- How to Stay Calm During a Relationship Disagreement
- Can Humor Help During a Relationship Disagreement?
Final Thoughts on How to Make a Relationship Last: 3 Fundamental Needs
Communication is vital; but the point is not that you talk, it’s how you talk, and how you listen.
The goal is not two people making noise, but two people understanding each other.
You and your spouse must be friends. But you both need other friends, as well, some that you see as a couple and some that are yours independent of your spouse.
Quit taking it personally.
Don’t assume that you are the cause of your spouse’s behaviors or moods. He’s probably not even aware of his impact on you, so don’t try to take on what you don’t know to be true.
Certainly, there are plenty of other keys to a lasting marriage, but these are the big three for me. What are the keys to your relationship?