I talk a lot about strategies for solving common relationship problems, because nearly everyone who’s been married for more than a week knows that marriage, sadly, is rarely as easy as we wish it were. But then, is anything in life easy?
Today, though, I want to take a break from relationship problems for a moment to look at the secrets of relationship successes. Long-term couples who have survived struggles and live to tell the tale have utilized strategies that they’re willing to share if you ask. Even a casual Internet search turns up more of these “secrets” than we have room to name, so I picked just a few of my favorites
Have a “failure is not an option” mindset. Sometimes the sheer prevalence of divorce or breakups of long-term relationships—many among our close friends—makes us too trigger-happy when it comes to our own relationship. A bad fight? Skeptical friends or family? “Irreconcilable differences”? If deep down you are more prepared to pull the plug when trouble arises than put in the work that might be difficult, slow and painful to get past challenging hurdles, that doesn’t speak well for the longevity of your relationship. Instead, successful couples say that they simply try not to let their mind go there. Whatever they are facing, they do everything they can to face it, including seeing a couples counselor if that will help. And every time they successfully work through a tumultuous time, they feel more confident in their ability to conquer the next challenge that comes along.
Give more than you take. Take care of yourself, but put real dedication into showing love and understanding to your partner as often as possible. Make small, thoughtful gestures of kindness without trying to score points or expecting anything in return. Be a good listener when they’re having a bad day, without getting lost in thought about your own problems.Having a giving mentality is actually one of the secrets to personal happiness overall, so it’s no surprise that employing it in your own relationship works wonders as well.
Remember that life is short. You hope that you and your partner will both live to be 100, and maybe you will—but all we can count on for sure is the moment right in front of us, so we should appreciate it. Treating every day together as a gift can go a long way towards putting petty disagreements in perspective.
Get real. Having realistic expectations of your relationship is another secret to staving off feelings of disappointment that your life together isn’t perfect. Maybe you like to compare your relationship to those of other couples you know—those who seem to have everything in common, are always there for each other and never fight—and feel yours doesn’t measure up. But you have no idea what others’ relationships are like behind closed doors, and the chances are they face many of the same challenges you do. And those romantic movies you love to watch? Funny how they always seem to end just as the happy couples finally gets together…before they’ve had time to have their first argument over how often one plays golf or how much the other spends on shoes. It doesn’t mean your relationship has no room for growth or you shouldn’t strive to make it better when you’re feeling disappointed or experiencing other problems. It just means that if you’re looking for a fairy tale, your real life is never going to measure up.
If you spend more time looking for the good in what you have, you might find your mindset—and the state of your relationship—will shift in a fundamentally positive way.
You deserve to have a great love life. If you’re having difficulty getting past obstacles that are hurting your relationship, a therapist can help you get things back on track. Let’s see if we can make yours better. The Orange County Relationship Center counselors look forward to connecting with you.