Couples in trouble are usually wondering what to do to make their marriage really thrive. In couples therapy they are learning new ways to communicate, ways to repair damaged trust, hurt feelings and resentment. But, it’s also helpful to find out what the most successful couples are doing that keeps their relationship close, passionate and filled with that “in-love” feeling.
Here’s what the happiest couples are doing:
• Listening to each other. This always means stopping your own thought process while you are listening. Stop thinking of what you are going to say next and really listen. If you continue to think about your response, you are not really listening. One of the best ways to show you are listening is to repeat back what you hear your partner saying.
• Comparing your to-do list to your partners. Then move your partners top priority items to the top of your list – at least some of the time. Here’s what this means: When you think about all the things that are important to you to do around the house and list them…we can call that your to-do list. Your partner also has his or her own list. While your list is important to you and does require your attention…picking an item from near the top of your partner’s list and doing it for them usually is very well received.
• Thinking about what would make the other happy. You likely know what would make you happy, but do you know what would make your partner happy. We tend to think the same things that we like will also be what our partner likes. This is frequently not true. Sort out in your mind what they actually do want. It is likely they used to tell you and may have finally given up…or perhaps they are still trying to let you know.
• Giving your partner attention when they call or enter the room to talk to you. Your partner is likely the most important person in your life (or was the most important before the relationship got into trouble). You can show the other how important they are to you by answering your phone when they call, or giving them your attention when they enter the room and want to talk to you. If they are thoughtful, they will not necessarily expect your attention if you are watching your favorite show on TV, but, when they enter the room to talk to you, give your partner your full attention, even if this means turning down the volume or turning off the TV to help you focus on one of the most important people in your life.
• Going out on dates. Couples don’t thrive if they are not going out on dates. A date refers to just the couple going out alone. It’s not a date if your children, other family members or friends are there. A date doesn’t have to cost money. You can go to the beach or for a walk.
• Active sex life. The most successful couples seem to be having sex. But you can’t push the other to do it or force them into it. If they are not into it, you may be doing something that is either turning them off or making their sex drive disappear. Perhaps you haven’t been setting the mood well enough, or haven’t apologized for the last conflict (or maybe the last 20 conflicts). Perhaps you have not been demonstrating any flirting or other behaviors that show you like your partner in the days preceding your last attempt to initiate sex.
• Having a list of baby sitters. To go out on dates, if you have children, you will need a babysitter. The most successful couples have a list of trustworthy babysitters. Don’t stop at one person on your list. That’s a great start but aim for at least three.
• Watching your partner’s reactions to what you are saying, and changing what you are saying if you see them reacting unhappily or tuning out. If you are talking and you see your partner get uncomfortable or tune you out, don’t keep talking. Stop what you are doing and find out what their reaction is to what you are saying. In a calm and peaceful manner talk about the issue. Be careful to not keep on talking if they are not able to take in or hear what you are saying. Ask them how they are doing. The connection between you two is way more important than the details of what you were saying.
There are many other things that the happiest couples are doing. The items mentioned on this list are issues that commonly show up in couples counseling. You may be able to use these suggestions very successfully at home. If they don’t seem to be working for you, you may want to talk to a couples therapist to get some help in moving forward and making your relationship thrive.
You can get more tips for creating a happier relationship at www.donwallach.com.