You are now married. It’s a shift in a relationship even if you’ve been together for years. How you treat each other in the next few months and years lays the foundation for forever.
If you want to celebrate your 50th, join with your spouse and commit to avoiding these 6 obstacles to a healthy and happy marriage.
- Ending the courting with the wedding. There are some people who are absolutely wonderful while dating. The goal is to win the man or woman of their dreams. A day after the wedding, all their courting behavior stops. Having won the prize, they see no reason to keep up what for them was hard work. It’s a huge letdown for the man or woman who thought they’d found the partner of their dreams only to find they got the frog instead of the prince or princess.Always act to some extent like you are still dating. Shower and change if you come home dirty. Bring flowers now and then. Make dates. If you have kids, the best $10 you can spend is for a babysitter so you and your true love can have an hour or two of uninterrupted time. Continue the endearments and courtesies that went on before you were married. It’s part of what keeps love alive.
- Holding on to new love.New love is exciting. There’s the wonder of discovery. There’s the intoxication of someone new who is fascinated with every story you tell and smitten with wonderful you. There’s the exploration of a new body and perhaps new ways to enjoy sex. Nature sends off pheromones of attraction. It’s exhilarating stuff. Sadly, some people become so addicted to the novelty of newness, they can’t settle in and enjoy the quieter pleasures of long-term love.There’s nothing wrong with getting high on new love. In fact, we’re wired to do it. But then couples need to shift expectations to what mature love can offer. Depth replaces the high. Intimacy grows from knowing someone so well that you really can anticipate what he or she thinks. Sexual pleasure increases as you know how to pleasure and comfort each other in bed.
Embrace the new stage by making time for each other as a couple to cultivate your mutual growth. Make memories by going on adventures both large and small. Find new ways to delight each other. Show affection and interest. You probably won’t ever be as crazy in love as you were when you first got together, but you absolutely can be a very loving and devoted couple.
- Being negative. Real life can be hard, even when things are going along normally. It’s easy to find fault, to criticize, or to focus on disappointments. Too much complaining and criticizing can sink a marriage. In fact, positive psychologists have found that there needs to be three to five positive comments for each negative one if a marriage is to thrive.Now that you know the tipping point of negativity, make a conscious effort to emphasize the positive in your life together. Compliment each other. Acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments. Be encouraging when there are setbacks. Point out little things you love about each other. Leave each other love notes. Touch and stroke each other when you can.
- Being unwilling to compromise.For some people, compromise is a dirty word. To them, it means they lost something, not that they created a new, mutual reality. Marriage isn’t a contest between two people with a winner and a loser. It’s a challenge to be a member of a functioning team.Make no mistake: making a successful marriage is a team effort. When two people learn to work together to take on problems rather than working against each other, they can accomplish almost anything. Work on your negotiation skills. Don’t throw your temper at your partner. Focus on your mutual goals, not on winning or proving something to each other.
- Acting on insecurity.Not feeling worthy enough for love, some people try to hold their lover captive. Instead of working on their own trust issues, they become controlling and critical. They don’t allow a partner to have independent friends, independent money or an independent life. They may even play detective, searching their partner’s emails and text histories for indiscretions they are sure they will find. They are wonderful when everything is going their way and become a beast when it isn’t. Their partners learn to walk on eggshells in order to keep the beast from emerging.If your partner has given you no good reason to be insecure, work on yourself. This isn’t your partner’s problem, unless you make it one. There is probably something in your history that makes you suspicious, jealous and insecure. Make an appointment with a therapist and work it through.
If, on the other hand, your partner betrayed you and you decided to stay, you have work to do as a couple. Your marriage will not survive if the shadow of a mistake haunts your every moment. If you can’t find a way to forgive and trust again but decide to stay married, consider seeing a couples therapist for help.
- Withholding commitment.Some people have been so hurt by past experience that they keep a piece of themselves apart from their marriage. Their worry that the marriage won’t work actually sets up the very possibility they fear. By not fully committing, they end up being hurt yet again.Commit to your commitment. Couples that make it over the long run are couples who understand that there will inevitably be some lows along the way. Their commitment to their commitment keeps them in the marriage until they can do whatever they need to do to find each other again.
A loving, lasting marriage is grounded in these principles: Delight in mature love. Positivity. Team work and compromising. Trust and commitment. None of them can be taken for granted. Keep working on them and you’ll find yourself among the 50 percent of couples who stay married for the rest of their lives.