By Jenna Birch for Your Tango.
Marriage is hard work, whether you’ve been together for just two months or 20 years. No couple jumps the broom, breaks the glass or ties the knot without genuine hopes for happily ever after, right?
But every couple inevitably has issues beneath the surface — it’s how they handle these obstacles that are the telltale signs of success. We tapped a few top marriage therapists to help us identify the common denominators among couples with healthy, enduring relationships.
After all, what are the ingredients for long-lasting love?
1. They argue.
Occasional disagreements and “fighting fair” are not necessarily signs that a relationship is falling apart.
“There is good data showing arguments are OK,” says psychologist Kristen Carpenter, PhD, Director of Women’s Behavioral Health at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. “As long as you have positive interactions to offset them, you’re fine. These might include good discussions, date nights, affection or gratitude. Every couple is different, but arguments are definitely OK.”
In fact, arguments can actually be effective if they’re productive. By simply bottling up feelings, you’re creating a recipe for resentment and hostility, which can destroy a marriage.
Watch: Mamamia staff on the moment they knew they had to ask for a divorce. (Post continues after video.)
So, how do you fight right?
“Couples need to be able to identify and communicate their needs,” Dr. Carpenter says. “The minute one thinks, ‘He should know what I need,’ you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.”
No. One. Reads. Minds. Don’t lose sight of that.
2. They listen.
Just as much as you want to vocalise your own wants and needs, it’s imperative to hear the other person out, says marriage therapist Carin Goldstein, LMFT. “One of the biggest things that gets in the way of problem-solving is when a couple does not want to listen to each other,” she explains. “They do not hear each other, and they do not want to understand.”
If you’re struggling with this, Goldstein says the following re-framing exercise will help.
“You effectively listen by repeating back what you’re taking away,” she says. “So, say to your partner, ‘What I’m hearing you say is that, when I do X, Y or Z, you feel attacked.'” That way, you get temperature checks along the way, rather than barreling down a course of misunderstanding.