Last month, I was featured in the Chicago Tribune. I was originally giving quotes about how couples can approach Valentine’s Day, but when the writer learned that I was celebrating my 20 year anniversary this summer, she sent over a photographer and highlighted me as the expert, not only professionally as a therapist, but personally as someone in a successful marriage.
Why did I choose my spouse as a lifelong partner took years to understand as I got to know myself, my family-of-origin and all sorts of other factors. That is a question many of my clients get clarity on during our sessions. The easier question to answer is the how.
Making a marriage work
How do I make my marriage work? How does one remain happily married? Twenty years ago I would have believed that it is an easy question to answer after 20 years of “wedded bliss” and I want to tell you that it is in my clinical opinion that the happiest marriages take work.
Think about it.
When a partner has given up, checked out, or pursued someone else, that takes zero work on the marriage.
It is the couples that put in the most effort, the continuous effort, that are the most satisfied.
I did a survey of 100 people and asked if they have regular relationship check-ins with their partner. The kind of talk that requires some courage and vulnerability and honesty. “I feel like we haven’t been connecting lately… I’ve felt your tone/annoyance/distraction and don’t know it’s because of something at work or about me… We have been really connecting lately, can we talk about how to keep that going?” Even better is to ask that really important, loving question “Is there something I can do that would be helpful”?
These kinds of talks. I then asked how fulfilled they felt in their relationship. Guess what? Almost a 5:1 correlation.
Emotional intimacy is really important. And it takes work to carve out time for that. To talk about ourselves, and to talk about us as a couple.
Many have heard of the 5 Love Languages. It is a great starting point for those that are unsure how to even begin talking. Whether it is taking the quiz or even just bringing it up can go a long way.
In relationships, most don’t have to be right. We don’t have to win. But we do need to be heard. To be acknowledged. To be understood. Therapy can help lay the groundwork and before you know it, it becomes a part of just what you do.