Lots of couples ask me how to keep a relationship healthy. I get it—a lifelong commitment can be a bit intimidating or a scary venture—especially in a society where divorce is rampant, infidelity is common, and for those that remain committed, few are happy. I’m convinced that a successful marriage is possible, but it does take work. Here are a few suggestions to help your marriage be exceptional:
Premarital counseling is a must. Younger people in the U.S. who are marrying for the first time face roughly a 40-50% chance of divorcing in their lifetime under current trends (and the divorce rates are even higher for those entering their second or third marriages). Unfortunately, many divorces occur because couples have never learned the skills and principles associated with successful relationships.
We all learn skills regarding romantic relationships from our parents, extended family, and friends. Some of these skills we learned might have been positive, others negative. Often, when it comes to our marriage, we just assume we’ll know what to do. The truth is, there are basic relationship strategies that can be taught, through premarital counseling. These skills can help you have a happier, more successful marriage. You can obtain a discount in Florida on your marriage license for completing a premarital course with a registered provider. If you’re already married and need to learn some skills, there are some fantastic relationship education classes and seminars available to learn these skills.
Many people say until death do us part, but how many enter a marriage with a plan B? Or how many people, after a few years of marriage, start to figure out a plan B? It’s easy to commit, but it takes time to keep a commitment. I’m not saying that there aren’t some justified reasons for divorce. But I am saying that many divorces are preventable if couples are willing to uphold their commitment and do whatever it takes to fix the marriage. It’s hard work, but I am confident that it’s possible.
There are three types of safety in a relationship—physical, (I’m free from physical harm), emotional (I can say what I want to say, and be who I am, and that is accepted in this relationship), and commitment safety (I know this person is going to be here, no matter what). All three are necessary to have a healthy marriage.
Too many times, I’ve sat in a therapy session, listening to the couple’s latest argument, informed that one or both of them threatened a divorce during the heat of the argument. Some people use the “d” word in arguments to get the other’s attention. Immediately, the commitment safety of the relationship has been threatened. Once that happens, at least one spouse wonders whether or not the relationship will survive.
When two are people are dating, they are intentional about spending quality time together. It feels so good and they envision spending the rest of their lives in this ideal state. However, we live in such a busy society, and as time passes in a relationship, it’s easy to lose focus. Without quality time, couples can’t connect emotionally to one another. When that happens, friendship fades, and ultimately, that impacts passion, romance, and sex.
To go from an exceptional dating experience to an exceptional marriage, I recommend weekly dates to couples. It doesn’t have to be an expensive date—it could be having ice cream together, hanging out at a coffee shop, or going for a picnic in the park—but it signals to your partner that the relationship is a priority—and it does wonders for your marriage.
I also recommend scheduled sex. It’s a controversial idea, but I think scheduled sex is important. As time goes on, sex tends to decrease in marriages. There are 40 million Americans in a low-sex or no-sex marriage—yep, 40 million! We schedule our haircuts, dentist appointments, work meetings, and kid play dates, yet we leave one of the most important aspects of our romantic life to chance. If we both have enough energy tonight…if we go to bed at the same time…if we’re both in the mood. We can’t afford to cross our fingers and hope that the stars align so that our relationship (and sex life) remains intact—we have to do the work and make it a priority. Besides, scheduled sex is helpful for the relationship, particularly for women, as it allows women to mentally focus on having sex that day, and increases anticipation and ultimately the sexual experience. A healthy sexual relationship is an important part of having an exceptional marriage.
Okay, here’s where the rubber meets the road! What is one thing you can do today to make your marriage extraordinary? It’s the small steps you take each day that makes a big difference.
Perhaps you have dreamt of an exceptional marriage but it feels like your relationship may need a little more help to get back on track. We can help! Click here to learn more about couples therapy.
You might also enjoy reading our blog Five Hours to a Better Marriage.