At the heart of every marriage is conflict. No two people are ever going to agree on everything. Actually, a relationship without conflict would not be able to move forward. Facing obstacles and overcoming them together is part of healthy and happy married life. Along with growth and change, however, there will always be complaints, disagreements, compromises, new challenges and responsibilities with each partner making mistakes that may hurt the other. Normal!
But did you know that it’s what you are doing when you aren’t fighting which can make all the difference in the world- not to mention in your words -when you do fight?
Research consistently shows that couples who regularly maintain their friendship -alongside fondness and fun- actually repair the bumps and bruises of their relationship battles much better than most. Yes, how well a couple connects when conflict is not part of the conversation is what can ultimately protect and preserve a loving relationship.
It’s All About that Base
Friendship is at the core of commitment, respect and trust. As my all-time favourite marriage educator, John Gottman PhD says: “Couples with deep intentional friendships have mutual respect and enjoyment of each other’s company. They tend to know each other intimately – they are well versed in each other’s likes, dislikes, personality quirks, hopes and dreams. They have an abiding regard for each other and express this fondness not just in the big ways but also in little ways, day in and day out.” Most importantly, because of these positive efforts made through their daily connection, couples automatically create a common bond, which naturally buffers their stress and helps sustain soothing love between them…even during the worst of times. By default, it’s their goodwill and shared history together which allows them to give each other the benefit of the doubt, communicate and repair rifts together, offering them an emotional safety net, especially when needed most.
Maintaining a healthy partnership takes time, energy, and commitment. But, building that base is important. Keeping the following in mind can help you stay on the right track:
1. In a digital world where shiny screens and silent communication seem to be replacing face to face human emotions, Pay More Attention To One Another! Put away the phones and reconnect the old-fashioned way!
2. Create Rituals with Each Other that have special meanings. What did you used to enjoy doing together? Coffee in the morning? Glass of wine or walk at the end of the day? Or, perhaps create something new?
3. Storytelling can allow for more mutual self-disclosure and connection. Go down memory lane together. Talk about your childhood. Get to know each other again. Emotional intimacy can help a relationship grow.
4. Say Thank You. These two words often get taken for granted but are so vital in helping us feel loved and appreciated.
5. Break out of your routine. Book a play date together. Keep it interesting and fun.
(originally published for Young Authors Magazine Sept 2016)