Marriages and long-term relationships require work if we want them to survive. In my last post I talked about three strategies to help strengthen your marriage. In this post, I’ll discuss three more strategies. They are all based on data from a longitudinal study by Dr. Terri Orbuch and her colleagues. Dr. Orbuch, a professor, therapist, and research scientist, is also known as The Love Doctor and she has some pretty impressive research on relationships. I first read about her work in an article by Anna Miller of the American Psychological Association.
You can find my first post, which outlines three more strategies here.
4. Talk about the tough stuff. It’s easy to avoid talking about difficult things in your relationship. In my practice, I often hear about couples who talk about some of their daily activities instead of making time for discussing deeper, bigger concerns and issues. “Most couples think they’re communicating with one another, but what they’re really talking about is what I call ‘maintaining the household,’” says Dr. Orbuch, such as discussing their to-do lists and household chores. Her research finds that the happiest couples also share their hopes, dreams and fears. “They’re spending time getting to know one another.” Every now and then, try and talk about what you and your partner would like for your future together. What is your dream? What is your partner’s dream? Getting to know your partner’s dreams gives direction on how the two of you can deepen your marriage or relationship.
5. Keep the spontaneity and sense of adventure alive. Some of the most memorable dates I’ve been on are those that involved more than just dinner at a nice restaurant. They were the ones that had a road-trip to a new place, a walk in a new neighbourhood, or sometimes going on a hike. The spontaneity added a level of excitement that made the date special. Orbuch’s research indicates that it’s important for couples to continue with this spontaneity many years into their marriage. Couples reporting boredom in the seventh year of marriage were significantly less likely to be satisfied with the relationship by their 16th anniversary (Psychological Science, 2009). But, you don’t need to go on adventurous dates to bring excitement to your relationship. Psychologists say the answer can be summed up in three words: novelty, variety and surprise. By trying new and exciting activities together, couples can rekindle feelings similar to ones they once had, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a social psychologist who is author of the 2013 book “The Myths of Happiness.” “If you open yourself up to new opportunities and potential surprises with your partner, then that can slow down adaptation,” says Lyubomirsky.