Good morning BlockThat! adventurers! Today I’m posting an excerpt from an article I found on Huffingtonpost.com. The author is a fantastic writer, whom I enjoy reading.
Samantha Parent Walravens is the author of TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for the Motherlode Book Club.
So, how do marriages today stand the test of time? I’ve gathered some useful insights from marriage therapists, life coaches and married couples that have been together for over 25 years. Here are 10 ways they say will help affair-proof your marriage:
- Agree that marriage is a commitment. At the end of the day, marriage is about commitment. Whether it’s viewed as a sacred bond or a civil contract, a marriage that is embraced by both spouses as a binding agreement — not to be broken by sickness, financial hardship, or the temptation of an attractive co-worker — is more likely to survive. These couples are committed to working through conflict together, without fear that the other person will jump ship when the going gets rough.
- Meet your partner’s emotional needs. Simply put, a husband and wife must learn how to make each other happy — and how to stop making each other unhappy. Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr, marriage therapist and author of the book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building An Affair-proof Marriage, starts his therapy sessions by asking the couple: “What could your spouse do for you that would make you the happiest?” He has identified the 10 most common “emotional needs” that couples want met: admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment. Not surprisingly, the woman’s top needs are often the opposite of the man’s top needs. For example, conversation and family commitment top the woman’s list of needs, while sexual fulfillment and admiration are at the top of the man’s list. Understanding what your spouse’s needs are — and how to fulfill those needs — will lead to a happier marriage.
- Be willing to negotiate. Being able to understand and respect your spouse’s perspective, especially during conflict, is critical in a relationship. For example, one husband I spoke with needed more time alone together with his wife. He wanted her companionship. She, on the other hand, felt that their time as a couple should be spent with the children, as a family. Resolving this issue involves understanding and respecting the other person’s feelings and being willing to compromise to satisfy both partners’ needs.
- Learn how to fight. Resolving conflict in a way that meets each other’s emotional needs and accommodates each other’s feelings is critical in making a relationship last. Whether your style is to yell and shout, or to write letters to each other expressing your feelings, doesn’t matter. What matters is finding a communication style that works for both of you. Bottling up anger and hiding issues will only lead to bigger problems down the road.
- Schedule time together. When I had my first child, a friend of mine with grown children gave me this piece of advice: she told me to schedule a weekly date night, and to hold fast to it no matter the circumstances. Four kids and 14 years later, my husband and I still have our weekly date night. Sometimes it’s at night, sometimes during the day when the kids are in school. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is scheduling time when you and your spouse can give each other undivided attention — away from the kids and other couples. Dr. Harley seconds this advice and suggests that couples give each other a minimum of 15 hours alone together each week. In that time, says Dr. Harley, you should focus on the four emotional needs of affection, sexual fulfillment, intimate conversation, and recreational companionship.
- Make time for romance. The definition of “romance” for men and women is very different. Romance for most men means sex and recreation; for most women it’s affection and conversation. Try combining all four of them for the greatest satisfaction. Women often resent having sex without affection and conversation first, and men resent being conversant and affectionate with no hope for sex or recreation.
- Keep expectations in check. Marriage isn’t a fairy tale. If you go into it thinking that it’s going to be easy sailing, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Every marriage experiences conflict. The ones that succeed are the ones that develop healthy coping strategies to deal with problems. Viewing marriage as a working partnership, not just a romantic relationship, helps put things in perspective. Not that romance can’t be part of the working partnership — it can and should be. Just keep expectations in check and don’t compare your marriage to what you see in the movies.
- Put marriage at the top of the list. With everything that couples have on their plates today — kids, careers, ailing parents, financial stresses — it’s hard to put marriage first. It may be politically incorrect to say this, but marriage must come first — even before your kids. A couple that’s been married for 50 years told me that they always spent the first 20 minutes when the husband came home from work alone together, talking and having a cocktail. The kids had to go in the other room. It’s okay to show your kids that your marriage comes first.
- Develop your own interests. Relationships that last have something interesting in common — each partner has developed interests of their own, independent of their spouse. It might be a job, volunteer work, a book club, or a regular girls’ night out. According to Dr. Noelle Nelson, relationship expert and author of Your Man Is Wonderful, having a part of your life that is your own can boost your self-confidence, which in turn can help your marriage. Along these lines, Dr. Nelson advises couples to take care of their physical health, not only to please their spouse, but to boost their self-esteem. Women worry too much about aging, she says. They get confused, believing that affairs happen because they get older and become less physically attractive to their spouses. Remember, confidence is attractive.
- Show your appreciation. Having an “attitude of gratitude” can go a long way in keeping a marriage intact. Couples often let appreciation slide because they assume, after many years, that their spouse knows what they are grateful for. As one couple told me, “We don’t let a day go by when we don’t communicate what we appreciate about each other.” Be specific: “Thank you for dealing with all the awful politics at work, so you can support our family.” Or, “thank you for driving the kids around after school every day. I know how hard it can be.”
Bottom line? Many people have a misconception that marriage is the culmination of a relationship. Far from it. Marriage requires constant work and attention. Don’t expect it to come easy. Talk, talk, talk. Be willing to see things from your spouse’s point of view. If you can’t work things out on your own, talk to a licensed marriage therapist before the problems grow too big. An experienced therapist has seen all the issues you’re experiencing — and then some — and can help you and your spouse find strategies to work through them.
This was a great article to find at a time when I’m almost divorced and ensuring I remain focused going into the next stage of my life. It is vitally important to remain honest in all of your dealings, romantically and otherwise. I think this article helps reinforce that. Thanks for reading and I wish you the very best in your travels.