One of your most important relationships is the bond you have with your romantic partner. Your relationship and your marriage shape your daily life and your mental health — not to mention your future and your children’s future.
But maintaining a marriage isn’t easy. You’ll face challenges, and perhaps you’re facing some now. You’ll have doubts, and so will your partner. You’ll deal with sudden stresses and long-simmering problems. Through it all, you’ll fight to make your marriage work. Below, we’ll lay out some of the most effective ways to do that.
Communication is key
The best marriage advice is also the most predictable: you need to communicate! It sounds obvious, and it is obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Study after study and expert after expert have come again and again to the same conclusion: nothing is more important the strength of a marriage than communication.
That’s because communication breeds understanding. It keeps you and your partner on the same page, and it helps you understand each other’s needs, emotions, and motivations. It brings you closer and gives you a better shot at resolving issues with the things couples fight about most (sex and money lead the list) before they become irreconcilable.
Communication isn’t always easy, of course. You may need to structure things and agree to check in and have conversations at certain specified times. You may be more successful communicating in writing. Or, if you’re wise, you might call in a pro to help you connect with your spouse.
Choose a great therapist
Couples therapy is perhaps the single most important tool that we have for protecting and strengthening our relationships. We’re only human: we’re busy, we’re stressed, and we’re not always motivated to communicate and explore our own relationships. But in a couples therapy session with a professional counselor, you may find that you can communicate better than you thought (and your spouse may find out the same thing about him or herself, too).
You can (and should) choose a therapist who understands and respects your lifestyle. If you’re in a same-sex marriage, you should look for a gay marriage counselor who specializes in just that. Other possibilities include therapists who specialize in certain mental health disorders or certain types of marital conflict.
Care for yourself
You can’t care for a marriage or a partner unless you’re caring for yourself first. This doesn’t mean that you should be selfish, of course. You shouldn’t be demanding that your partner cater to your every need, for instance. But you should be thinking about your physical and emotional needs, and you should be caring for your own physical and mental health.
That starts with your lifestyle. Americans have notoriously bad diets and get too little exercise, and those problems are contributing to an obesity problem. They’re also contributing to mental health issues — issues that can easily affect a relationship.
Caring for yourself may also mean seeking individual therapy sessions. Great mental health is going to help you build a great marriage, so don’t put the cart before the horse by assuming that you need to fix your marriage before you can be happy and mentally healthy. Care for the issues that you may have, and you will find that creating the marriage you want gets a whole lot easier.
Nothing will change your marriage overnight. The key to building a beautiful marriage is to be thinking about the future. Have a “growth mindset”, and always strive to better yourself and your relationship.
Stick to your healthy habits, and keep going to couples counseling (it can be a great thing for healthy and happy couples, too, you know). If you want a bright future for your marriage, create it!