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Despite all the happiness that newlyweds enjoy, it appears that marriage is not always for the long run with the number of case separations increasing every year (Karney, 2010). “Most first marriages will end in divorce or permanent separation” (Bramlett & Mosher, 2002), and the rate of dissolution for remarriages is even higher (Cherlin, 1992).
The decision to marry is one of the greatest decisions that any human being is bound to make during their lifetime. But does it always have to end in the same way?
Can marriages be filled with fulfillment and happiness throughout a lifetime?
The answer is yes! Those of us in couples tend to see our partners from different perspectives, sometimes we believe the best whether it is in the way they flick their hair or their overall demeanor, which makes us experience positive emotions for them. Nevertheless, as soon as our spouses make a mistake we tend to point fingers.
In order to keep happiness in your relationship it is good to be aware of your marital challenges, however Karney (2010) explains that the happiest couples will always remain those who do not give much weight to those aspects which have declined.
According to Chatterjee (1999), the best marriages are those based on intimate friendships. Indeed, if you regard your spouse as your intimate friend, both on an emotional and intellectual level, you are more likely to ‘repair’ relationship issues.
To keep a relationship healthy you do not need to do extraordinary things as most people might think, but simply pay attention to their intentions. Gratitude and appreciation in even the littlest act thatyou do for each other makes a world of difference.
Happiness is brought about by finding time for each other every single day even if it only entails listening for a quarter of an hour. Become empathetic and develop your listening skills by eliminating bad habits such as criticising, contempt and sarcasm. This will have an immense impact on your married relationship.
Too much independence on each other can be a marriage breaker. On the other hand too much dependence isn’t good either. Find a balance between being someone’s partner and making enough alone time to refresh your own body and mind. It is also very important to keep social networks, outside of your marriage (Elder, 2007). This may be done in a hundred of ways, from sports clubs to coffee dates with friends. Ensuring time for a social life and self-care is key to living independent separate lives and creating a flourishing relationship.
Positive psychology enables us to acknowledge more of our partner’s strengths and virtues, to respond to ruptures with love and forgiveness so that we can build healthy relationships.
If you want to achieve something in life you need to work at it, being open to learn new skills and coping mechanisms is very helpful. This can be done by undergoing self-development programs, watching films or reading books.
So what can you do today?
Talk. While there are several tips which help maintain a happier marriage- talking is definitely one of them. It is fundamentally important to express and share your feelings. Discuss, converse and respectfully debate with your partner, this way feelings can be shared and internal lessons can be learnt. Talk about everything, from your deepest fears to your greatest joys.
Don’t try be in control. Norment (1993) found that controlling behaviours are detrimental to harmonious relationships, so living a happy life means enjoying life together not just completing your daily routine on time.
Be caring and romantic. Show your partner that they are essential in your life. This also involves taking sex seriously. Sex is sacred and the responsibility of both of you. Use gentle communication and always be respectful of your partner’s thoughts and feelings when it comes to discussing sex.
Take care of your appearance. Although we need to love and respect each other regardless of physical appearance, your spouse loves to see you in good shape. Don’t let go of your self-control, keep fit and healthy.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly: you cannot change your partner. Respect and love your spouse for all their flaws and special quirks. Be accepting of changes that may happen in your marriage and remember that people evolve and change so take the time to learn about your partner’s thoughts, feelings and intentions.
In my opinion, the best relationship is honest and intimate; where you can stand close to each other and talk about anything and everything whilst feeling strong and supported.
About the Author
Alan Seychell is a trainee counselor completing his Masters a the University of Malta. His main areas of expertise include Behavioural Psychology, Developmental, Cognitive and Applied Psychology.
Chatterjee, C. (1999, September 1). The Science of a Good Marriage. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199909/the-science-good-marriage
Elder, S. (2007, June 1). Secrets to a Happy Marriage. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from webmd: http://www.webmd.com/men/features/secrets-happy-marriage?page=4
Karney, B. R. (2010, February). Keeping Marriages Healthy, and Why It’s So Difficult. Retrieved Februrary 20, 2016, from American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2010/02/sci-brief.aspx
Norment, L. (1993). 10 Secrets To A Happy Marriage. Johnson Publishing Company.