The Four Ingredients in a Healthy Marriage

I am frequently asked what type of work I find to be the toughest. Since I am blessed to be both a psychotherapist and a personal life coach (PLC), I have no problem answering that question. Undoubtedly, personal life coaching is the easiest and marital counseling is the toughest.

When a person seeks out a PLC they are typically motivated to make a change in their life. More often than not, that change involves working on themselves solely. When couples come into my office, they profess that they want to make a change in their relationship, but more often than not, they are looking for a referee to prove to their partner that they are wrong and need to change.

When you are with someone exclusively, there are things that you can change to deepen your commitment (no matter how healthy your relationship is). It is necessary to do a personal inquiry and ask yourself if you’re ready to change how you relate to your partner. If you find yourself saying ‘yes, but they need to change first’, or even worse, ‘they need the help more than I do’ then you aren’t really in a place to make the needed changes. You have heard me say it before, I firmly believe that if there is a problem in the relationship you are capable of making a difference and strengthening it.

Here’s what I have found to be a good foundation for creating a close relationship:
• Do you treat your spouse like a friend? Most couples get so involved in the day-to-day tasks that they forget to use the same skills on their significant other that they would in a friendship.
1. Are you polite?
2. Do you make the person an equal?
3. Do you nurture the relationship?
4. Is there a true sense of appreciation?
• Do you have special ways of de-escalating conflict in your relationship? All couples fight and argue, but the most successful couples don’t let an argument get out of hand. They have the special knack at making fun of themselves when things get too tense. Maybe it’s a saying or a gesture that softens the tension. Do you and your partner do this? If not, explore finding some ways of slowing down the frustration that naturally occurs when there is conflict. Unfortunately, when most couples fight, they either start blaming each other and putting down their spouse, or they engage the silent treatment, which creates distance and can lead to an emotional separation. Don’t let that become the norm in your relationship.
• Do you respect your spouse? If you really want to work on improving the relationship, you need to emphasize the qualities in your partner that you most admire and appreciate. Admiration and appreciation are like antibiotics. It heals the wounds of marital stress. When used regularly, it acts like a vitamin and helps to keep a marriage healthy.
• Do you have mutual dreams that you talk about regarding your future? Dream-building is an important element in keeping a marriage intact because it presupposes the likelihood that you will stay together and it provides a positive framework from which to build. Some couples have discussed retiring and having a bed and breakfast in the woods. Others have talked about living by the water. Regardless of what type of dream you and your spouse may have, the dream itself is a tool to remind you of your teamwork capacity and your passions. Anytime we talk passion, it’s a fortifier for the relationship and causes emotional closeness.

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