Rare are those people who enter marriage intending to split. “Till death do us part” has been in the ceremony for long enough to stick with us.
And yet, the statistics have shown that almost half of the marriages in the western world end in divorce.
Sometimes, you may think it’s reverse to its party’s scope- the bigger the party, the shorter the marriage.
You may have spent more time deciding on the color scheme of your reception area then wondering about how to build a lasting marriage.
Can we say it’s almost epidemic? And if so, is there a recipe against it?
This isn’t an easy fix, though.
Especially when children enter the picture, a person usually spends 6-7 years before deciding to end the relationship.
So what is the key to a lasting marriage? In this article “the ABC’s of marriage,” we offer you some tips for a long-lasting marriage.
Not all spouses are ready to be vulnerable in front of a stranger.
But those who are, usually see the light at the end of a tunnel- either a clear “why” they are splitting, removing the shame attached to it, or the “how” to work things out.
Therapy shows couples how to fortify their relationship by teaching them to reflect on their past traumas and attachment style and heal them.
Only then can a couple work on their emotional connection and start building long-lasting marriages.
You have to know yourself well, your fears and drivers, your (unmet) needs, and triggers to learn how to manage conflict in a lasting marriage. It all starts with that skill.
1. Conflict management
Can you stop when you start arguing with your partner?
If they’re healthy, conflicts are healthy. Ok, WHAT?
Nevertheless, this sometimes leads to conflict. Why is something triggering to the other person? You need to know each other well, your worries, insecurities, and the way you feel seen heard and validated.
Attachment is usually the answer. It can be transformed into a secure one, but it takes a true commitment to heal.
A couple’s therapy isn’t a miraculous cure for a lasting marriage. You need to decide to want to improve your relationship– first with yourself, then with your partner.
If it’s not an unhealthy, abusive relationship, it’s workable. Sometimes you just need a coach to guide you through the process.
Research shows that when in the middle of a fight, you need to press pause for at least 20 minutes- that’s how much it takes for your heart rate to calm down.
Just do something completely unrelated to self-soothe, like deep belly breaths, reading… Don’t spend time building up contempt:
“He’s such a loser; I’ll show him how irrational and stupid he is,” or replaying a victim role in your head “Why do I ALWAYS have to go through this misery?
Resume the dialogue afterward. You’ll see the change. You didn’t forget; it’s just about gaining perspective and calming your nervous system.
Then again, since #attachment plays a huge role in how you respond when triggered if you know that your partner is anxious, and cannot stop before the problem’s fixed, reassure them of your love.
“I know you get really anxious around conflict, but I’m livid right now, and I need to (…) for a while. We’ll talk in 20 minutes, ok?”
When you express empathy and truly see the other person, this works wonders. This is possible even during conflict. More than that- it’s necessary.
You’ll feel awkward when you do that for the first time. This is your ego trying to protect its old story (ego hates new things; it thrives on old, recognized, deeply seated patterns, no matter how (dis)functional they are).
Do that anyway. It takes a lot of practice, but you’ll see the change in your connection. It’s absolutely worth the (initial) cringe.
After all, it’s what love and affection are about. You are on the same team; you are not in a war.
That’s what I mean when I say conflicts are healthy. After each of them, you’ll understand your partner more, and your bond will grow stronger, which is needed for long term marriage success.
You can try different conflict management techniques that work best for you and your partner.
2. Anger management
Anger is a primary emotion, but it often serves to protect other less desirable “raw emotions,” such as sadness, distrust, embarrassment, hurt, fear, rejection, etc.
The usual responses are explained in Gottman’s famous concept of the “Four Horsemen”-.
Defensiveness is one of them. It never works though. It’s guilt projected onto your partner, and it takes maturity to become accountable for your actions.
Remember- do not take anger personally. Not your spouse’s, and especially not your child’s. It’s your partner’s way to deal with being overwhelmed (mind you, we’re still talking about non-abusive relationships).
Next, don’t say “calm down.” It shows a lack of understanding. It shows that not all emotions are allowed. It also shows that you need to check with yourself why this particular emotion feels threatening to you.
After that, ask yourself: “What is anger telling me? I have an UNMET NEED. What is it?” Get curious. Understanding what anger management issues trigger is the first step to resolving them and building a long-lasting marriage.
3. Emotional intelligence or EQ
Finally, learn emotional intelligence skills. They say that in heterosexual marriages, if a husband has high EQ, it’s likely to last longer. Understanding other people’s perspectives will get you far in life, in all human relationships.
Attentive listening, understanding, and validating others’ needs and feelings and empathy are superpowers. Emotionally aware people can identify and express their feelings easily.
The short recipe
Let’s check what we need for a long-lasting marriage:
- Dependability. You need to be a trustworthy person.
- Intimacy. Both of you need to “click” in terms of Intimacy- not only physical but also intellectual, emotional one, and regarding activities you do together.
- Your own personality. You should ask yourself if you are a better person with them and if you like yourself around them.
- Good conflict management skills. Apply the “soft on the person, tough on the issue” approach, not vice versa.
- Rough time management. Check if you’re each other’s rocks.
- Laughter. Laugh often together.
“Take care of love, and it will take care of you.”
You’ll know when you’ve arrived.