Do you make the effort to consciously nurture your midlife marriage? Today we take a look at several elements seen with long-term spouses – the keys to a committed relationship.
Recently, a fellow blogger reached out to me about guest posting on her website. As a life coach, she had taken a special interest in an Instagram post in which I announced my thirty-first wedding anniversary. She asked if I would be willing to share some insight into some of the factors that contributed to my long-term marriage.
Naturally, I accepted, and writing that post led me into a deep dive into identifying many ways to nurture a long-lasting marriage.
What are the Keys to a Committed Relationship?
In my post, I focused on the need for
- listening skills
- friendships outside of the marriage
- acceptance that your partner’s actions don’t necessarily reflect back on you – good or bad.
- QTIP – Quit Taking It Personally
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Of course, I feel like I barely scraped the surface of the factors that contribute to an effective relationship, so I wanted to add a few more thoughts here on my own blog today.
I’ve added four additional keys to a committed relationship.
Please note: I am not even going to pretend, in that post or this one, that I have all the answers! Why not? Because despite being married for thirty-one years, here’s the harsh truth:
I can’t tell you for sure what makes a marriage work.
Every marriage, like the people in it, is unique. What works for one relationship may not work for others. There are no absolute guarantees when it comes to intimate relationships.
What I can do is share some ways to nurture your marriage, and actions you can take that will help to strengthen the bond between two people and possibly make it more likely for the relationship to last.
Hopefully, I can offer a nugget or two of wisdom that you will want to apply in your own life.
What’s One Absolute Truth About Marriage?
Here is one thing I know to be true: Marriage is hard.
It’s hard because it always involves two unique human beings.
Two personalities, two backgrounds, two histories, two ways of thinking and doing and acting and living. And as long as there are two reasonably complete, individual souls involved, there will be conflict. There will be confusion. There will be disagreements.
That’s just the way it is. And really, the way it is meant to be.
Any relationship worth having will have huge, soaring, blissful, idyllic times.
But it will also spend plenty of time crawling through the mud, strangled, sore, bruised, and broken.
Yes, my marriage has lasted a long time, but it’s not perfect, never has been, and never will be. And it shouldn’t be, because it incorporates two complete but separate individuals. Like every relationship, it is its own special blend of behaviors, emotions, situations, histories, wants, and needs. As no two people are like myself and my husband, no other relationship is like ours.
There are similarities from couple to couple as well. Such as the need to nurture the relationship in order to keep it strong.
Here are four ways we nurture our long-term relationship:
4 Keys to a Committed Relationship
1. Understand Your Communication Styles
Honesty, of course, is key to building trust in a marriage.
Listening skills are vital as well – listening to understand, not just respond, to what your partner is expressing.
But what about your style of communicating?
Are you a match, or do you approach communication differently?
My husband and I are very different.
He goes wide – he has a broad knowledge base, and can talk about almost any topic with anyone at any time. I, on the other hand, prefer to go deep. I am far more introspective than he is, and prefer substantive conversations with someone I know over small talk with strangers.
When mulling a problem, he likes to think it through on his own.
I like to talk things out.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of these communication styles – as long as we have an understanding of the other person’s ways.
If he expected me to subsist on light conversation, or if I always wanted him to get deep and philosophical, there would certainly be conflict.
When we recognize and respect each other’s communication styles, we do fine.
Together, we create a balance.
2. Speak Each Other’s Love Language
The concept of love languages was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, who has written a multitude of books on the subject. I highly recommend them!
According to Dr. Chapman’s theory, there are five general ways that romantic partners express and experience love, which Chapman calls “love languages”.
For each person, one love language predominates.
In order to best express our love for our partner, we need to know each other’s preferred love language, understand it, and speak to each other in the ways that matter the most to them.
The five love languages are:
- Words of Affirmation;
- Physical Touch;
- Receiving Gifts,
- Quality Time, and
- Acts of Service.
If you are unfamiliar with Dr. Chapman and the love languages, I highly recommend his books. They will open your eyes to so much you’ve never thought of before.
3. Be Each Other’s Strong Shoulder
As I’ve mentioned, every long-lasting relationship goes through plenty of difficult times as the years pass.
Balancing careers, raising children, inevitable clashes over housework and finances, illness and disease.
And then the children grow up and suddenly you are an “empty nester”, your parents grow ill or pass on, and your friends move away.
A new stressor, be it internal in the marriage or external, is around every corner.
It’s so, SO important that we support our spouses at the most difficult times.
We need to be able to offer a strong shoulder for the other to lean on when times get tough, and both spouses must do their fair share of leaning on, and being leaned on.
This is a positive form of mutual dependency.
I am not suggesting brutal self-sacrifice here.
It’s vital that you care for yourself, as well.
But if one partner is experiencing greater hardship, it helps if the other can be calm and supportive until the first has a chance to move forward into a place of healing.
4. Realize That Marriage is a Choice to be Made Every Day
It’s not hard to get married. It’s not hard to get divorced. Millions of couples do each every year. I make a conscious, daily choice to be with the person I am married to.
There are alternatives out there. There’s plenty of temptation, fear of missing out, shiny object syndrome, and other distractions to take you away from your commitment.
If you want to stay married, you must make it a choice – every single day.
Don’t assume it will survive on its own. Think of your marriage as an infant. Nurture it. Help it. Love it. Recognize that you have the power to craft a lasting relationship, and own that power.
Read More About Relationships:
- How to Make a Relationship Last: 3 Fundamental Needs
- 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 What are the Keys to a Committed Relationship?
I encourage you to try out these ways of nurturing your midlife marriage, if only to see how they work for your relationship. Again, the 4 keys referred to today are:
- Understand Each Other’s Communication Styles
- Speak Each Other’s Love Language
- Be Each Other’s Strong Shoulder
- Realize that Marriage is a Choice to be Made Every Day
Hopefully, I’ve given you some food for thought; some new ways to look at your marriage.
Do I have all the answers? Certainly not!
Marriage is made up of a lot of big things, and a hundred million little things.
And a big dose of luck, honestly, because there are never any guarantees. If you value your relationship, do whatever you can to nurture it and keep it healthy.
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