It sounds obvious, but it’s true: in order to have a healthy, satisfying relationship husbands and wives have to actively work to keep it happy: interrogating their communication methods, making sure to treat one and other with respect, making sure you both have the ability to grow independently. So, what are some signs of couples who are doing it right? Here are some ways to know what you’re doing well — and what you might need to focus on a bit more.
They Treat One Another With Respect, Not Contempt
Every couple fights. And everyone says things they don’t mean in the heat of the moment. But, when there’s legitimate bile behind the berating, it’s a problem. “Contempt is a genuine devaluing and disrespect for the other person,” Raffi Bilek, LCSW-C, a marriage counselor and director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, told us. “Respect is essential in a marriage, and it can still exist even in the face of disagreement or anger. But, when you see your spouse as someone unworthy of your respect, your marriage is likely to go downhill from there.”
In a relationship, mutual respect looks like speaking to one another in a respectful and considerate fashion, keeping your partner in mind when you’re making decisions, and responding to your partners needs and wants,” says Saba Harouni Lurie, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and founder and owner of Take Root Therapy in Los Angeles. “That doesn’t mean necessarily sacrificing yourself in order to make or keep your partner happy, but it means communicating with love, even when it’s difficult.”
They Tell One Another The Truth (Most of the Time)
No, you don’t have to tell your partner everything everything. But truthfulness appears to be a major factor in keeping couples happy in the long term. In his interviews with older people for the Legacy Project at Cornell, Dr. Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., sociologist at Cornell University and the author of 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice From the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage, says that couples cited honesty and open communication as the two most important elements of a successful, lasting relationship. When asked what they regretted most, the number one answer was that they weren’t able to be fully honest with their partners. Being honest has its rewards.
They Don’t Ignore One Another
Marriage is built on a foundation of good communication. But when one partner regularly gets distracted or acts like they have better things to do while their partner is speaking, contempt can easily flourish. Phubbing, the act of mindlessly scrolling through one’s phone while someone else is speaking, is a common pain point. Will you tune out the occasional conversation? Sure, you’re only human. But marriage is a game of odds. And couples who often listen to one another no matter how small or large the discussion are on surer footing.
They Control Their Body Language
Body language speaks volumes in any relationship. Listening to [your spouse] or speaking your mind with crossed arms might send the message you are hiding something or that you have your guard up,” says Sullivan. “This can make your partner feel like you aren’t connecting,” Maria Sullivan, a relationship expert and vice president of dating.com explained to us. Couples who are mindful of how they’re body language affects those around them, have better conversations, and a healthier marriage.
They Avoid Complacency
The roommate phase is a real phenomenon. If you find yourself falling into familiar patterns, it can breed boredom and disinterest, which can lead to other, more toxic, behaviors working their way into the marriage. “If your partner isn’t receptive to trying something different, like a class or exploring a new location, this can discourage partners from experiencing the joys that married life has to offer,” Robinson says. Complacency quickly leads to contempt. Couples who try new things and actively work to bring new things into a marriage are often happier for it.
They Let Their Partner Grow Separately
It’s crucial to grow together. But it’s also important for partners to let one another grow on their own. Being needy and clingy all the time can be a drain on your partner’s emotions and ultimately lead to them giving you attention out of obligation as opposed to desire. Eventually they will start to look at your relationship as a job, one that they might be looking to quit.
“Letting your partner grow separately from you is an important factor is personal fulfillment,” Sullivan told us. “Remember, you are two individuals who are in love, not a packaged couple.”
They Go to Counseling When Issues Arise
Marriage counseling is a good thing. It allows you to speak about issues with a knowledgeable third party who can help you gain perspective. “Whatever the problem is, if you have been unable to solve it on your own, a professional couple’s counselor can help enormously,” Bilek says. “The act of simply going to counseling is an expression of your commitment to each other.”
They Compliment More Than They Criticize
Criticisms are necessary in any relationship. That’s how partners evolve and understand issues. But criticism alone cannot sustain a partnership. “If you are criticizing each other more than you’re complimenting each other, you’re headed for trouble,” Bilek says. “In fact, research shows that you need five positive statements to counteract every negative one in order to keep a relationship on good terms.”
Click Read More for other signs.