Good marriages are healthy marriages. They’re built on a foundation of love, trust, safety, commitment and respect. Great marriages have these elements, too. But they go further.
Below, John Harrison, LPCC, a counselor and coach who specializes in working with couples, shares three ways to transform a good marriage into a great one. His tips are simple and straightforward. But these are not quick, empty fixes. Instead, they are steps we must take on a regular basis to enhance our relationship and connect on a deeper, truer level with our one and only.
Challenge each other
According to Harrison, good marriages have good communication. “They are polite, amiable, respectful and assertive.” These, of course, are important ingredients for healthy relationships. Couples in great marriages, however, keep moving: They challenge each other. They call each other out on their “stuff,” he said. That is, when one spouse is acting in an offensive, passive-aggressive, or all-around unloving way, the other partner points it out (in a compassionate way).
Harrison suggested couples have a conversation about how each partner behaves when the other is relating dysfunctionally. This should come from a place of compassion and love. It is about growing and nurturing the relationship. It’s not about criticizing, blaming, or shaming your partner. So these talks are without resentment and eye rolls. “Emphasize that you are both in the marriage to help one another grow as individual people,” he said.
Hold each other accountable
In good marriages when things don’t go as planned, couples understand and accept the circumstances. However, in great marriages partners hold each other accountable and “make things happen,” Harrison said.
To do that, prioritize your time together. Put it on the calendar. This is just as important as any meeting (likely even more so). Harrison suggested making plans for face-to-face activities, not side-by-side. For instance, go to dinner (versus seeing a movie). Instead of spending time with friends, take a walk. Even schedule time for sex, he said.
“Each partner has a responsibility in making sure that the other is keeping to their promise to make ‘face-to-face’ time a top priority.”
Keep dreaming — and doing
Couples in good marriages accept the current state of their relationship, Harrison said. Couples in great marriages are grateful for their relationship, too. But they also encourage their partners to dream — both for themselves and for the relationship. “A great marriage allows each partner to find ways to make their life as fulfilling as possible with both people wanting the same for the other.”
For instance, don’t make all your discussions with your spouse about money, the kids, routines and other family matters, he said. Instead, make time to talk about your dreams. Talk about “what your dream life scenarios would be like.” Then actually plan out how you’ll manifest these dreams. Would you like a new job or a new home? Would you like a longer vacation? Do you want to explore a new passion? How will you make this happen?
“Whatever it is, allow each other to be creative and imaginative and challenge one another to make those fulfilling dreams a reality.”
Great marriages are supportive and intimate. They provide a space for both spouses to be themselves and to flourish. They provide a space for wishing and for these wishes to come true. Great marriages are constantly growing with spouses who genuinely enjoy each other and have fun together — and prioritize their relationship.