Many think that finding someone to love is the hard part of romance. But, relationships take much work for couples to stay connected and to evolve together, strengthening their bond. Relationships, whether married or not, and keeping them connected is the hard work. But, it’s so worth it for couples who are willing to put in the work.
Here are 7 tips on how to build a healthy and happy marriage or relationship
Cultivate Emotional Intelligence
Understanding and managing emotions is key in modern relationships. Dr. Daniel Goleman, the psychology guru, stresses the importance of emotional intelligence. Stay tuned in to your feelings and practice empathy to better understand your partner's emotions. You can do this by actively listening and hearing your partner non-judgementally so you can better understand them. We can also become emotionally intelligent by first and foremost understanding ourselves and how we relate to others. Self development such as coaching, talking therapies, meditation, breathwork and journaling are all great tools to get to grips with our own emotions. By nurturing emotional intelligence, you'll be able to communicate better, resolve conflicts constructively, and deepen your emotional bond.
Creating a safe emotional space is essential for a thriving marriage. Dr. Sue Johnson, the relationship expert, who teaches about Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT).
Encourage open communication without judgment, allowing both of you to express feelings freely. By fostering emotional safety, you build trust, intimacy, and a solid foundation for your marriage.
It’s natural for couples to experience conflict or disagree from time to time, and that’s because each person in the relationship is different and we’re attracted to the differentiation. We should harness that in relationship rather than try to create oneness. Couples that do the work together are likely to feel more connected than those that do not.
According to the Guardian in April 2022, they said that “What is clear is that we’re more prepared to “do the work”. A Tavistock Relationships YouGov poll in July 2021 found that 66% of people in relationships said they valued their partner more after navigating the pandemic together. Even for those who struggled – 18-24-year-olds were almost twice as likely (46%) than average to experience conflict with their partner during the pandemic – there was an awakening around relationship care, with Tavistock therapists reporting a rise in millennial and Gen Z couples attending counselling for maintenance rather than crisis.”
Practice Active Listening and Validation
Being present and actively listening to your partner is a game-changer. For many couples, they are in the same room as one another but not emotionally present, despite being in each others presence. Many couples opt in for low level interactions that are safe but disconnecting such as watching tv together, sitting next to each other on their smart phones or reading next to each other. Don’t get me wrong, this is nice from time to time, we can’t always feel deeply connected, that’s just not sustainable. However, we can be present with our partners by carving out times we have quality time together rather than quantity of time together. By being present we can take time to actively listen to our partners, share and simply enjoy their humanness in our presence. Embrace their friendship.
Dr. Harville Hendrix, the couples therapist extraordinaire, emphasizes active listening and validation as part of the dialogue experience for couples. He and his partner who are experts in the field suggest to show genuine interest, listen attentively to their concerns, and validate their feelings and experiences as you go. This strengthens your emotional connection and promotes better understanding when done in a positive and safe structure which they call the couples dialoguing process.
Balance Autonomy and Togetherness
Finding the right balance between "me time" and "us time" is vital. Often couples when they attach to one another they feel so ‘one’ that the lose the parts that attracted them to each other in the first place; each other's individualism and differentiation.
Dr. Alexandra Solomon, the relationship guru, suggests supporting each other's individual growth while cherishing shared experiences is the key to deep connection and relationship success. This balance allows you to celebrate each other's uniqueness while deepening your relationship, and I wholeheartedly agree.
Whilst we all lead busy lives trying to balance it all and have it all, if you focus on filling your cup first you can overflow that cup and give to others in the process. This is the same for your relationship. I believe that when we have our separate and individual life experiences we are able to conversationally bring more to the table with our romantic partners. By sharing our different experiences, points of views and passions we are able to, in turn, explore their and deepen connection through friendship and conversation. This is where the beauty of romantic connectIon unfolds.
Handle Conflict with Grace
Conflict is inevitable in any relationship, but the way you handle it can make a significant difference to your relationships wellness. If you’re currently experiencing so much conflict that you are struggling to overcome it, you can seek relationship reconnection through my couples work and enquire right here. However, it might be helpful for you to explore what conflict behaviours might look like. The Gottman Institute labels those behaviours as the four horsemen in a relationship and the more you know about relationship wellness and behaviours, the more you can identify whats serving you and your partner in a healthy way and perhaps what is not.
When couples approach conflicts with a sense of curiosity and a willingness to understand each partner's perspective, they are able to step into each others shoes with empathy and they can look at each other with soft eyes. This approach, from the angle of non-judgemental friendship, can create the environment of teamwork through tough times. Couples that operate this way through the tricky stuff are likely to create a healthy, meaningful connection and when navigating conflict well, it could result in deepening the connection and understanding more about one another as they seek to create relationship resolution. Compromises that satisfy both of you can strengthen your bond. How beautiful is that?
Communicate Financial Values and Goals
Money matters, especially in modern life and relationships. Alongside sex and physical intimacy, it’s one of the matters most avoided by couples. The matters that are avoided by couples are the very issues that couples come to couples therapy and do couples work to create reconnection and overcome arguments and conflict in their relationship.
In relationships couples often seem to take the path of least resistance and they don’t talk about the things most important and necessary to create the foundations for long lasting love. In essence, I’m saying most couples stick to the easy stuff. But, they aren’t willing to talk about sex, desire, self-development, inner work, finances, family building and share objectives for the long-distance future. Not all couples, but many. Avoidance of any topics means its difficult to talk about and that's through fear of not hearing what you want in return, sometimes its from shame and other times its fear of rejection if our partners don’t want or accept what we have to say.
Communication about all of the sticky, tricky and icky stuff is crucial. You want to foster trust and you also want to ensure that you’re able to be your true, most vulnerable and authentic self with your romantic partner so you can ensure you’re actually with the right partner and on the same page most of the time.
Disconnecting from screens can bring you closer together. Dr. Sherry Turkle, the sociologist and psychologist, suggests embracing a digital detox during quality time with your partner. Be present and attentive, putting away digital distractions. This allows for deeper connections and more authentic moments together.
A great marriage is a harmonious blend of love, understanding, and effort.
Encourage each other's personal growth, practice forgiveness, and nurture emotional intimacy. Celebrate your shared values and mindfulness, while infusing your relationship with love, romance, and playfulness. By expressing physical affection and handling conflicts with grace, you'll build a lasting love that brings joy and fulfilment to both you and your partner's lives.
If you’re struggling with any of the above or simply want the guidance and support of an expert who can help you and your partner do this couples work in a meaningful way, I’ve got you. There’s really nothing I love more in this world than helping others find, build and deepen the romantic connection they deserve. Ultimately, you and your partner get to be deeply happy and in a loving relationship that fulfils you. No matter where you’re at or how you’re feeling right now, be sure to know that with my relationship dialoguing tools I use Imago to help couples reconnect and reignite the spark. Sometimes couples have lost the spark and other times they just need a little support to help reignite it. I work face-to-face or online and would love to hear from you - get in touch right here.