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Building a Thriving Marriage

In honor of my 10-year wedding anniversary today (6.1.2013), here are 10 things I’ve learned about marriage from my own personal experience and my professional experience working as a marriage and family therapist for the last 15 years.

1) Emotional intimacy is the building block for everlasting love. Emotional intimacy is the friendship piece of a romantic partnership. Being an active listener who stays engaged in the conversation, asks curious and probing questions while refraining from giving advice will keep your lover seeking your closeness and companionship.

2) Commitment is essential to a successful marriage. Commitment can look like: Prioritizing the needs of your relationship. Following through with your word. Treating your partner with respect even when angry. Putting effort into perusing your partner. Not speaking poorly about your partner to others. Taking time to think and act toward ways that make your relationship stronger in the future. Paying more attention to your partner’s good qualities than the qualities you don’t like. And remember to have fun together.

3) Keep the passion alive. Passion is often a powerful emotion present in the beginning of a romantic relationship. It’s also the quickest to fade. You can keep passion at a healthy level in your relationship by making a conscious commitment to being a passionate lover. Touch and kiss daily, tell your partner how attracted you are to them, and make love consistently regardless of whether you are “in the mood”. You’ll likely enjoy it once you get started, and the closeness you’ll feel after that intimate exchange will keep your partnership feeling alive with love and affection.

4) Conflict is inevitable. Here is how to handle conflict in a healthy way: 1) Have empathy for your partner so you can understand the conflict from their perspective. 2) Pay attention to nonverbal communication. We say more with our body language than we do with our words. 3) Always take the time to repair. Take accountability for your part of the conflict, acknowledge areas for growth, say you are sorry, and hug it out.

5) Communication is key. Take time daily to check in with each other. Share your thoughts, experiences, and even your worries. Use the T.E.A.M. check-in to help structure this process. It’s a quick way to keep communication flowing. T: Start with a Touch. Sit close, hold hands, hug. E: Educate each other on something you’ve learned that day. A: Appreciate your partner with affirming words. M: Metric- Provide feedback on an area you’d like your partner to grow.

6) Keep things in perspective. Think before reacting. Will this matter in 5 years? Most often it won’t. Is this worth a fight that will tear down our marriage? Most often it isn’t. Couples will often come to me after a conflict and can’t even remember what they were fighting about. Learn to take perspective before reacting to your triggers. Let the little stuff go.

7) Live a proactive vs. reactive life. Take time to touch base about the day ahead the night before so you two can be on the same page and clear on expectations. Living proactively means addressing things before they are a problem. Make that grocery run the night before, fill the gas tank before reaching empty, pay bills in advance, plan fun outings together a month ahead. Being proactive means anticipating your relationship needs and meeting them, rather than fighting over the disconnect and then trying to repair the damage.

8) You must give to receive. Often, I see couples stuck in conflict because they are not willing to be the one to reach toward their partner to offer the closeness, connection, and love they themselves are desiring. The next time you feel angry that your needs are not being met, try giving that exact need to your partner. In doing so, you practice making yourself happy and create space for your partner to move toward you in reciprocity. 9) Allow space for individual growth and change. If you want your love to last forever, you must allow space for your partner to evolve. Support your partners new interests. Encourage them to try new things. Embrace who they are becoming at every stage of life. Blocking their evolution will block their love for you. 10) Pray for your partner. This can look different for everyone depending on the depth of their spirituality, but I’ve found that taking a moment to close your eyes, place your hands on your partner, and pray for their health, happiness, growth, stability, peace, and mental clarity can do wonders for not only your feelings of sentiment toward them, but also works to heal your partner energetically.

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