Donald A. Price, Ph.D. LMFT and Linda M. Price, Ph.D.
Keeping And Enhancing Your Marriage
In a marriage the saying: "The Grass is greenest on the side of the fence that you water" holds true. Most of us got into marriage thinking that it would happen and flourish naturally. There are four important areas that couples can address to improve the quality of their marriage, each of which do require some time and mindfulness. Happy marriages are not a matter of chance, but take a lot of work.
1) When people are dating and first forming a relationship attraction is what is most noticeable. Jim is attracted -- after her looks --to Sue's behaviors. Her attractive behaviors meet Jim's needs. But what Jim is not often aware of is that he is also doing things that elicit and induce and enable these attractive behaviors in Sue. When they come for marriage counseling Jim is no longer doing the things that earlier in the relationship drew out the desired qualities in Sue. Feeling appreciated and valued in a relationship is essential. If you don't know if your partner feels appreciated, or what makes him/her feel appreciated, ask. (For more ideas on feeling appreciated, loved and valued, see the Book Reviews section of this web site, and look at Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages. His concept of love languages is close to and overlaps with the concept of being appreciated. He lists five: Words of Affirmation; Quality Time; Receiving Gifts; Acts of Service; Physical Touch). If both people in a relationship are attending to eliciting the attractiveness in their mate and making sure their mate is feeling appreciated i.e., attending to their love language, the relationship is most likely going along very smoothly.
2) A second important area is communication skills. We can care a great deal for our partner, but if we are unskilled in communicating we can cause confusion and hurt those we love. Learning effective communication styles, listening skills, and problem solving steps helps partners feel more understood and achieve more lasting and rewarding solutions to problems. For more details click Couples Communication.
3) There are differences between men and women; some biological, some due to differences in how boys and girls are raised in our culture; some arising from our sibling position. Understanding all of these can help couples make sense of some of the frustrating patterns that have developed, as long as they are not used to excuse all behaviors (e.g., "that's just the way I am, so accept me.")
4) Coping with changes in each other and the relationship. Change happens. And going into marriage with the idea that we are joining together in a journey (rather than "I've found the perfect mate who had better not ever change") is most realistic. We can view marriage as "serial monogamy," facing these crises as opportunities for growth, for renegotiating the marriage, making a new marriage contract, and "remarrying" the same person.
Consider an annual "Marriage Check-up." Researchers tell us that it is a way to insure that your marriage is improving.
For more information and resources click on Strongermarriage.org