Every relationship is different, entailing unique experiences. Each couple goes through distinct moments of bliss and challenges. While nobody needs a roadmap to enjoy the happy moments, getting through the problems can be tricky. No matter how much we’d like to believe, there can not be a generalized algorithm or rulebook that can be implemented to make those problems disappear. However, with some guidance from veteran relationship experts overcoming relationship issues can get somewhat easier. They cannot relinquish your problems completely but, in gloomy times, they can show you the path of light.
Along with combating marital problems, relationship experts can also identify latent marital issues and avert the impending troubles. Prevention is indeed better than cure. Their advice can save you from a lot of conflicts, consequent negative emotions, and time and effort that would have been spent on resolving the problem.
We have collated advice from experienced relationship counselors and therapists to help you prevent and eliminate your marital issues.
Experts unveil the best marriage advice for a lasting and fulfilling relationship-
1. Sideline the anger triggers, embrace the zen mode
Dr. Dean Dorman, Ph.D.
The key to having a great marriage is to be able to ignore the “anger invitations” that your partner throws out. These are such things as bringing up things from the past, swearing, rolling their eyes or interrupting your partner when they are talking. This allows the couple to stay on the topic of the discussion. When arguments get derailed they never get resolved. When left unresolved they build up and damage intimacy. Only when a couple can stay on a topic long enough to resolve their problems can they keep the relationship “resentment-free.“
2. Take responsibility for your own emotions
Barbara Steele Martin, LMHC
Mental Health Counselor
Emotions, positive or negative, can feel contagious when we are around our partners. The reality is that whatever you are feeling comes from you, not your partner. Mindfulness and regulation of your own emotions will help you to respond to your partner in healthier ways.
3. Here’s how your spouse spells love – A-P-P-R-E-C-I-A-T-I-O-N
Dr. Mary Speed, Ph.D., LMFT
In over 20 years of practice, the main one theme I hear from couples from all walks of life is: My wife doesn’t appreciate me. My husband doesn’t notice what I do for him. Remember how your mate spells love; A P P R E C I A T E!
4. Have fewer expectations from your partner
Vicki Botnick, MFT
Counselor and Psychotherapist
Often the best advice I can give to couples is to expect less from their partners. Of course, we all want our spouses to give us the love, care and support we deserve. But we tend to enter into a relationship thinking our spouses will provide us with all the good feelings we’re missing out on, and the truth is, we always end up disappointed (because that’s asking too much of any person), and our partner ends up feeling judged.
Instead, we have to know how to give these things to ourselves. Angry that your boyfriend doesn’t give you compliments? Build your self-esteem so your confidence comes from within. Frustrated your girlfriend doesn’t ask you enough about work? Go out with a friend who’s a good listener. Having a full life, with lots of friends, activities, and achievements that fulfill you, is a much better path to satisfaction than asking someone else for it. Once you feel secure that you can provide yourself with love and support, then you can ask for something realistic from someone else, and really bask in it when you get it.
5. Respect intermittent separateness (in decent measures)
Nicole Tholmer, LPC, LLC
Invite and embrace separateness in your relationship. This will help to draw you closer together. Pursue a hobby, spend time with your friends and encourage your partner to do the same. It will give you more things to talk about and will keep your marriage from becoming boring.
6. Meditate and explore the depths of your relationship
Mark OConnell, LCSW-R
An activity I do with every couple I work with begins with a meditation during which I ask each partner to imagine a bedroom from childhood. I then ask them who (if anyone) is in the doorway, and to take in the emotional experience of what they see as they breathe.
Some people see one parent smiling, who makes them feel secure and comforted. Others might see two parents in the doorway, or their whole family. The people in the doorway may have disapproving expressions on their faces, or maybe watching the client’s every move hawkishly. Some clients see no one at all, and may even hear arguing in the next room. Then, as we come out of the meditation, we discuss what they saw, what they felt, and how that applies to their relationship with each other. This exercise gives us evocative images to work with the next time the couple is in conflict. I may ask each of them to play the other’s defense attorney–and to have fun with the role, perhaps by impersonating their favorite TV lawyer–and to validate the other person’s feelings and point of view, with as much curiosity, compassion, and conviction as possible–invoking the images as exhibits as appropriate. My advice to all couples is to try all of this at home.
7. Express your needs truthfully to avoid future resentment
Arne Pedersen, RCCH, CHt.
We can get so conditioned to being a certain way, avoiding circumstances where we feel uncomfortable or trying not to disappoint our partner because we don’t like the result, that we don’t fully express what we really feel. This can turn into a habit of not communicating a need or a healthy boundary of something that is important to us. It can happen innocently without noticing, but over time of doing this, we lose pieces of ourselves and resentment can slowly build because we are not fully getting our needs met as a result. When we regularly practice speaking our truth in compassionate ways, like starting off by saying “I need to speak my truth”, we are practicing expressing and being heard for who we are, which is someone who we can maintain better than practicing being someone who we are not.
8. Really listen to your partner, read between the lines
Dr. Marion Rollings, Ph.D., DCC
It’s important to learn how to argue and not fight. Communication is not just about how to talk with one another-it’s also about how we express our emotions with each other. Disagreements and misunderstandings can escalate to fights. Learn how to really listen to what your partner needs,–Get below the surface of their anger to their pain.
9. Talk for 15 mins every day about things that are not related to your household
Lesley A Cross, MA, LPC
Marriage is hard. Often much harder than we think it will be. We go into the marriage after having a wonderful courtship “interview” and are often surprised to find that the job we got (i.e. we were hired as a spouse) wasn’t the one we thought we were interviewing for. The romance shifts a bit and the focus turns away from courtship to the routine of life. Conversations can quickly start to focus on household, finances, children, schedule, and work. To combat that my best advice is to talk with your spouse daily at least 15 minutes about things that are NOT the house, finances, work, children or the schedule. None of those items were involved in the interview process of falling in love. In order to keep the flames alive and the commitment, attraction and connection strong- couples need to be connecting on emotionally deeper levels and communication is a key part of that.
10. Developing emotional intelligence is important for a successful marriage
Kavitha Goldowitz, MA, LMFT
Regarding marriage advice, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that you are in full control of changing yourself! The bad news is that you can’t change your partner!
Developing emotional intelligence is of primary importance to a successful marriage. Emotional intelligence means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and needs in any given situation. You then have the choice to respond and communicate to your partner with greater clarity. It is an empowering relationship skill that couples can develop to build a deeper connection with themselves and with each other.
11. Don’t let parenthood hijack your marriage
Michelle Scharlop, MS, LMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist
Keep in mind that even though you may become parents, never forget to make time to be husband and wife. Keep your marriage alive with a commitment to each other that includes having mutual respect, a strong friendship, willingness to compromise, daily acts of appreciation and being able to communicate, to really communicate about any topic.
12. Being right is unimportant, focus on understanding your partner’s feelings
Katherine Mazza, LMHC
Take the notion of Being Right and put it on the side for now. What’s more important is that your partner is feeling a certain way. Bring Curiosity to this notion. Invest in learning why and how your partner feels this way. If you can relinquish your need to be right, you can learn something interesting, and connect in the process.
13. Never assume things, keep communicating
Lesley Goth, PsyD
Look for the positive in each other on a daily basis. Always listen and make sure your partner feels heard. Don’t assume you know what your partner is thinking or feeling. Ask questions and never stop exploring who they are.
Men, keep pursuing your partner, even after you say, “I do”. Women, let your partner know you are proud of him (often and genuinely).
14. Listen to your partner
Myron Duberry, MA, BSc
Provisional registered Psychologist
Like any team, communication is key. Sometimes your partner isn’t looking for a solution to a problem, just for you to listen. Address issues early, don’t let them build up until you can’t take it and you just explode. Talk about who’s responsible for what at home. Otherwise, someone may feel they’re doing more than their share.
15. Never ignore small problems. Together they can snowball into bigger problems
Henry M. Pittman, MA, LMFT, LPHA
Do not ignore the little problems. Many times “small” problems are not shared or voiced and these problems build up into “bigger” problems. The couple doesn’t have the skill set to handle this “big” problem because they never learned how to address the “little problems.
16. Remember to be kind to your partner all the time
Suzanne Womack Strisik, Ph.D.
Kindness to yourself and to your beloved is healthy and life-giving; it protects you from disconnect, despair, and fear. Kindness is conscious, intentional, and powerful: it promotes self-esteem, sound thinking, and clarity in decision-making. Drop unpleasantness and harshness as often and as fast as you can.
17. Five foundational “R’S” for marriage
Sean R Sears, MS
RESPONSIBILITY- For any marriage to be healthy each spouse must learn to take responsibility for their own feelings, thoughts, attitudes, actions, and words.
RESPECT- This may seem like a “no-brainer.” However, I am not just talking about treating our spouse with respect in our actions and words which is important. I am referring to the respect that accepts, values and affirms our differences.
REPAIR- John Gottman has often said that most of marriage is repair work. By repair, I mean specifically forgiveness. We have to be diligent to keep our hearts from becoming bitter, mistrustful or closed. The main way to do that is to develop the habit of forgiveness. Couples that are really struggling are usually at a point where neither partner feels safe or connected. The main path back to safety and connection starts with the willingness to forgive.
REPEAT- One of the first lesson’s you learn as a counselor is the art of active listening. Active listening is repeating back to the other person what you heard them saying in your own words. Spouses need to make sure the intent of their message is the same as the impact. The only way to do that is to do a “check in” which is to repeat what is heard and ask if you understood correctly. There is a difference between effective communication and constructive communication.
REMEMBER- We need to remember the “golden rule.” We need to treat our spouse the way we would like to be treated. We need to know that marriage is always a work in progress. We need to remember that marriage is not necessarily about finding the right person but becoming the right person.
18. Be tolerant of each other’s vices
Carlos Ortiz Rea, LMHC, MS Ed, JD
Mental Health Counselor
Everyone has heard the following: There is no such a thing as something for nothing, always there is something for something. While this is an ancient and popular apothegm, it can be applicable to couples dynamics as well. Whether we want to accept it or not, the exchange, trade or the reciprocity between the dyad is always latent.
From this premise, we can infer, that in order to keep an amicable and comfortable and healthy relationship, we must apply this principle. In other words, to keep a good relationship, we have to accept and tolerate our partner spouse’s weaknesses and pitfalls in a reciprocal way. Maintaining this middle ground, so to speak, seems to be the key to a balanced, fulfilled and ultimately healthy relationship.
19. Don’t share the details of your marriage with others
Marissa Nelson, LMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist
The person you are marrying is no longer your bf or gf- you will be sharing a life together. To that end, it’s important to preserve and protect the integrity of the relationship. When you get mad, no Facebook rants or cryptic quotes about a fight you may be having. No more calling all of your friends for consensus about whether you are right or wrong in an argument. Your marriage is sacred and what happens in your relationship needs to stay in your relationship. When that doesn’t happen you invite others into your connection which is never a good thing. Lean in a trusted best friend to blow off steam or find a therapist that you can confide in AND learn skills to be a better mate and get through conflict.
20. Focusing on developing awareness around negative patterns is important
Delverlon Hall, LCSW
Most couples are never interested in knowing who their partners are nor are they ever really willing to be known. Becoming aware of unconscious fantasies in your relationship is important, understanding unmet needs from childhood are activated in relationships; these needs almost always are projected into the relationship and interfere with couples feeling close to one another. Relationships require emotional engagement, attunement and a real willingness to understand one another. Focusing on developing awareness around negative patterns and the willingness to develop skills around communicating needs and vulnerability is vital for a healthy relationship and marriage.
21. Conflicts are healthy. They help sort out latent marital issues
Martha S. Bache-Wiig, EPA, CA
Holistic Coach and Counselor
Don’t be afraid of conflict; it helps you get clear about what is truly important to you, and how to make sure both your needs are met. But once you are clear, choose Love, overdominance or spite. Nurture the purpose and joy that brought you together in the beginning, and your Love and Connectedness will grow!
22. Expecting your partner to complete you sets you up for disappointment
Jessica Hutchison, LCPC
Don’t expect your partner to complete you, expect them to contribute to you. Expecting another human to make us whole, leads to unrealistic expectations, and disappointment. If you feel disappointed in your current marriage, ask yourself, “Am I expecting my partner to do more than they are capable of?”
Abide by these tips to enjoy a happy and fulfilling married life. These tips will not only help you tread through critical periods of your relationship cautiously but also help you recognize signs of troubles well in advance.
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