Eboni Baugh, Ph.D., CFLE, Assistant Professor, Family Life
The summer months are a perfect time to renewing your marital relationship. Newlywed couples should continue building upon the relationship quality that started during their courtship. The patterns of communication, intimacy, conflict, and problem solving established in the beginning are crucial to the satisfaction experienced throughout the relationship. Research has highlighted four important aspects of marital relationships that predict satisfaction and longevity. Why not try some of these with your partner today?
1. Working on building a trusting relationship - Couples who experience the most satisfaction within their marital relationship, state that trust is an important aspect. Trust increases when partners feel accepted in sharing themselves without fear of ridicule or disapproval. Work on building trust with your partner by making them feel special, establishing exclusivity in your relationship, and providing a comfortable atmosphere for them to share. This summer try the following to increase trust in your partner:
- Share embarrassing experiences with each other
- Publicly show affection
- Listen without judgment and expect the same in return
- Create a secret word or phrase to use with each other, that no one else knows
2. Balance individuality and connection - Most people believe they must abandon their individuality when they get married. This is definitely not the case! Couples must learn how to balance their separate lives with the connection to their partner. Although, this requires effort it is attainable. Some couples even report that repairing damaged relationships outside of the marital one, increases closeness to their partners. Become a whole individual within your couple relationship by:
- Break your usual routine – do something new
- Make time for yourself, away from your partner
- Re-connect with distant family members, friends, etc.
- Encourage your partner to develop his/her own interests, friends, etc.
3. Settle your differences effectively - Conflict is inevitable and healthy, so learn how to deal with it! Researchers report that the amount of conflict in a relationship is not as important as how a couple resolves conflict. Satisfied couples have many different conflict styles: some work out disagreements calmly, some try to avoid conflict, while others have passionate, explosive arguments. However you decide to problem solve, remember that every interaction counts. Start working on your problem-solving style this summer by:
- Have 5 positive interaction for each negative one
- Apologize after an argument
- Make your partner laugh
- Show interest in your partners opinion
- Do something nice for each other
- Try to agree on which style you prefer-as a couple
4. Handling change – Life is full of challenges, both predictable and unpredictable. People change jobs, deal with in-laws, have children, incur debt, try to balance work and family, etc. Newlyweds must negotiate new patterns of dealing with change within their marital relationship. Using the ideas outlined in the previous section, couples who agree upon a problem solving strategy ahead of time will have less difficulty coping with life’s various transitions. As a newly married couple try to:
- Set realistic plans or expectations during change events
- Minimize blaming each other for life events
- Maintain open communication about opinions of change
- Utilize social support systems
Brown, N. M. & Amatea, E. S. (2000). Love and Intimate Relationships. Journeys of the heart. Philadelphia, PA: Bruner Mazel.
Driver, J., Tabares, A., Shapiro, A., Nahn, E. Y., & Gottman, J. M. (2003). Interactional patterns in marital success or failure. In F. Walsh (Ed.), Normal family processes (pp. 493-513). New York: Guilford Press.
Gottman, J. M. (1994). Why marriages succeed or fail. New York: Simon & Schuster.