If you’re married or in a long-term committed relationship, you probably realize that at some point there is a danger for your relationship to fall into a rut—many couples end up feeling stuck in an ongoing succession of lifeless routines. The vast number of relationship advice and marriage help books (as well as the growing number of relationship help websites) is a clear indication that couples are eagerly searching for ways to head off marital/relationship problems and keep their relationship fresh and vibrant.
Are entrenched marriage problems and painful relationship issues always inevitable?
Absolutely not–there are steps you can take to prevent relationship/marital problems from taking hold and these steps can also help improve an already strong relationship.
Marriage help: 5 ways to create (and maintain) a vibrant union
1. Validate one another
Reality: As your life becomes more hectic and you’re faced with competing demands, it’s easy for you and your partner to overlook each other.
Relationship Trap to Avoid: Becoming temporarily preoccupied with too many commitments is one thing, taking the most important person in your life for granted over and over again is an entirely different ball game. Make an effort to check in with one another each day. Share the trivialities of your day with your spouse/partner (if you did this at the beginning of the relationship when you first fell in love, you can do it now!).
2. Don’t let frustrations go underground and fester
Reality: You’re going to get frustrated with your spouse/partner from time to time—no matter how much in love you are with each other. The reason for this is simple: You’re both human and committed relationships present certain long-term challenges that even the best of us have difficulty adjusting to.
Relationship Trap to Avoid: Too many couples let frustrations mount without clearing the air and addressing important issues. Unresolved issues have the tendency to build over time and lead to bigger, more insidious marital/relationship issues—try not to keep your head in the sand (especially if you’re the conflict avoidant type) and never assume your marriage or relationship will take care of itself.
3. Make the effort to break up lifeless routines
Reality: Your marriage or relationship (like all relationships) will fall into predictable patterns and routines–all relationships develop predictable rhythms.
Relationship Trap to Avoid: Routines aren’t inherently a problem; in fact, you might take comfort in and look forward to the routines you and your spouse/partner have created. However, continuously feeling bored and apathetic about time spent with your mate is a concern. If this is the case, you’re definitely not alone. You and your spouse/partner need to regularly infuse novelty into the relationship—when you stir things up by trying something new and exciting, your relationship gets energized and you deepen the emotional intimacy that feeds your relationship.
4. Don’t let the negatives take over (and outweigh the positives)
Reality: Negative relationship patterns and Marital conflicts have a way of spiraling out of control if left unchecked.
Relationship Trap to Avoid: Research shows that couples in healthy marriages/relationships have a greater number of positive exchanges/interactions than negative ones. This suggests that you and your partner need to make an effort to recognize and highlight any positives that occur—and for an added intimacy boost, don’t forget to express appreciation for all the little things your spouse/partner does each day (even if you believe s/he’s “supposed” to do these things).
5. Work toward creating balance in your life
Reality: Nurturing yourself emotionally, physically and spiritually will have a positive impact on your marriage/relationship.
Relationship Trap to Avoid: There are many different forms of self-neglect: Working too much, not getting enough sleep, repeatedly ignoring signs that you’re not feeling well, consuming too much alcohol… When your life is out of balance and you’re continuously feeling emotionally depleted and overwhelmed, your ability to be a present, reliable and responsive spouse/partner suffers. Work toward creating pockets of time and opportunities to nurture and feed your mind, body and spirit.
If the idea of implementing all of these suggestions into your life and relationship feels too daunting, pick one or two and stay with them. With persistence, each one can have a positive impact on your relationship. And if your spouse/partner is open to it, share this list with him/her and make a mutual plan to incorporate these ideas into your daily lives.
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Do you and your spouse/partner struggle to communicate effectively? Check out my communication ebook designed to teach couples good communication skills.
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro
(Featured image “Couple in playful mood” by Stockphoto; Freedigitalphotos.net)