5 Secrets to a Happier (and Stronger!) MarriageNone By Zach Brittle
My wife and I like to say that we’ve been happily married for 16 out of 17 years. The truth is that year #7 was pretty rough and we almost didn’t make it. But rather than submit to the “seven year itch” we decided to get to work. We got into therapy which forced us to take a sober look at our relationship and do some serious soul searching about when and where and why it went off the rails.
The simplest explanation is that we forgot that we liked each other. We knew that we loved each other, but we’d gotten so caught up in the daily grind that we failed to protect our friendship. We’d gotten really good at taking care of everyone in our lives except each other. We’d become roommates, business partners, It’s a story I hear a lot in my work with couples. The friendship is broken, conflict is escalated (or avoided) and the big dreams you once held are dead. One day you wake up next to a stranger that used to be the love of your life.
It’s not a happy story, but it’s common enough. If this sounds like you, and even if it doesn’t, I want to tell you: There is hope. Dr. John Gottman spent nearly 40 years researching couples and discovering the patterns that exist in both healthy and toxic relationships. His book, 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work, details a comprehensive and actionable theory for how to strengthen your friendship, manage conflict and create shared meaning together. The seven principles themselves require your attention and intention, but in the meantime, here are five secrets embedded in Dr. Gottman’s research that may help you achieve a happier relationship:
Small Things Often
If marriage is a journey, then it’s important that you’re oriented in the right direction. It’s way easier to make small efforts as you go than a major course correction when it may be too late. Small changes early and often can create big changes over time. Prioritize practical expressions of kindness daily. It’ll help you remember that you like each other.
Process is Everything
I believe that the end of therapy is when the couple can process the relationship without the therapist. This means that couples need to focus on HOW they talk to one another matters far more than WHAT they say. Process basically consists of knowing (a) what you’re feeling (b) why you’re feeling it and (c) what that feeling means. As you develop this skill, you will dramatically shift the quality of conversation in your relationship.
Most Relational Conflict is Not Resolvable
Dr. Gottman’s research revealed that roughly ⅔ of all relat