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Marriage

How to Have a Fulfilling Marriage

Practical, but nuanced, marital tips.

Key points

  • After a decade, or less, there are predictable marital patterns that emerge, causing periods of optimism and pessimism.
  • After marriage, and a few years, your sense of the other is more psychological than physical. You "see" things invisible to strangers.
  • Your marital arguments are not special: all couples argue about the same things.
  • Shouting during an argument does not make your premise true; it is simply annoying.
Pavlo Melnyk/Shutterstock
Source: Pavlo Melnyk/Shutterstock

A fulfilling marriage includes trust, empathy, respect and companionship.

Marriage for men is also good medicine. Married men live seven years longer than single men. The marital emotional security contributes to male longevity. It might seem trivial, but the woman reminds the man to see the doctor.

After a while how you sense your spouse is more psychological than physical.

In a long-term relationship, there is lust and limerick, and then these biological romantic notions wane replaced by psychological notions culminating in a sense of companionship. After thousands of interactions, the other sees you more psychologically than physically, and different than a stranger. Of course, beauty is a factor, by character is sacrosanct.

This may surprise you. Essential to an enduring marriage is conflict––it proves you that you care)––and the negotiation how to resolve differences of opinion. A couple that does not argue does not care unwilling to invest emotional energy in a losing cause. This is a bad sign. Here is a tip: The best way to settle an argument is, “I understand.”

All shared events in a marriage are stored as interpretive memories.

Many arguments are a subjective matter of opinion. No partner can be correct all the time; we all have moods. And most shared events become interpretive memories. During marital therapy, I usually hear separate versions of the same event, with no right or wrong answer, but some partners can be stubborn and insist their version is what happened.

The essence of a good marriage is learning how to negotiate arguments––mostly honest differences of opinion, or values––then make up, learn from it, and and move on.

Try not to harbor grudges––a psychological weight that is emotionally exhausting––morphing into cold hostility and animosity. No one wants to live walking on eggshells. A cure for this animosity is empathy. Try to understand the other’s point of view. This evaluation process is hard. Even in my role as a therapist, some people confound me, as to the logic of their arguments.

One clue to the status of your marriage:

Here is a clue as to the current emotional status of your marital relationship. If you work at an office and think, “I don’t want to go home now” there are major interpersonal issues that have to be addressed and resolved. The corner bar used to be a small town’s neutral living room––a halfway house to ease the transition from work to home––and still is, as well as screen life as a diversion.

All couples experience the same kinds of problems. All couples have disagreements about finances, power, sex, in–laws, parenting, values, communication, gender roles, family life, and parenting.

This said, try to ignore the long, lost past and instead focus on current concerns. For example, Do not complain, “You never finished college,” if you are now in your fifties, and it all happened thirty years ago. If you complain about an event more than ten years old it is no longer about the event, but something that reminds you of the event. There is current, emotional trigger reminding you that the other is a low achiever, and it remains annoying.

Kill your spouse with kindness. Catch them being good. Make them feel special. Play nice. Remain congenial. Don’t pound the table while making your point. It is annoying. Have a sense of humor. Humor diffuses conflict, and lightens the mood causing the other to be more receptive to petty gripes.

Try not to do anything high that you wouldn’t do low. Put the smartphone away at meals. If you have nothing to say make an observation, “I won the five hundred million dollar Powerball today, and I forget to tell you.” If the other still fails to look up you have a problem.

Shouting louder does not make you the premise of your argument truer. And don’t stay in a relationship with a history of psychological and physical abuse. It will be repeated, and intensify, to your dismay.

All beefs are not created equal. If you have a beef, wait. For example, using common sense, if you know a spouse is exhausted after work, do not hit them with a list of petty gripes after fighting two hours in traffic. Wait two minutes.

Never storm out during a knockdown, drag-out argument. Often, the only reason marital therapy works is the situation prevents leaving when hot button issues are discussed. The couple has to remain in place inside the therapy room. If not, why even continue in marital therapy?

The concept of a legal marriage is relatively new in human affairs.

How is it a couple becomes a couple? In evolution there is natural and sexual selection––coequal branches of the genesis of reproduction and passing on your genes as a specie, but the institution of romantic marriage, a legal contract, is fairly new to human beings, and still not universally practiced, given the perpetuation of arranged marriages, that are more like of a merger of two families than like a emotional marriage between two people.

Events that cause petty arguments:

Settle your emotional books daily by making up and moving on. Life is too short being in a chronic state of anxious, hostile turmoil. Swallow your pride. No one is perfect.

Don’t blame your partner for your problems of your past. If you had a hard life prior to the marriage you will bring some of that baggage with you, and if, again, seek personal counseling.

Don’t blame your partner for your personal problems acquired prior to the relationship. They had nothing to do with in creating them.

Having similar philosophies of life and shared values matters, and is a reason we date, in order to determine this. Once children come along, it gets harder to find time to be a couple. These lifecycle stages are normal, and to be expected.

Technology is also an 800-pound gorilla in a home. It is omnipresent, and often more enriched than having a conversation. Screen life and cyberspace distract from marital communication, especially social networks causing an external focus with others.

All the new time spent on social networks used to be spent elsewhere, including tuning in to each other and “talking.” On the other hand, people need personal time absent criticism for doing so, or made to feel guilty seeking solitude.

Why seek marital counseling, and why do couples remain in bad relationships?

Marriage counseling elucidates and accelerates whatever conflicts are happening, with the aid of a professional generating more viable solutions. Some troubled marriages remain so in order for one spouse to continue to emotionally abuse the other, and when physical is the area of domestic violence. The other needs to feel in control.

Let’s say you call it quits. Usually, there is an immediate rebound relationship to enhance self-esteem: “I am worthy.” My suggestion after a divorce is to see someone to clarify ambiguous needs. If you move on absent insight, then the same self-defeating patterns will probably be repeated with the next person.

If each partner is fulfilled then the relationship has a better chance than if one or both partners are main unfulfilled or don’t even argue about it. A lasting marriage weathers life’s vicissitudes. And yes, applying the Golden Rule goes a long way in sustaining a fulfilling marriage.

Let me end with this. If you have a long-term, fulfilling marriage, you were plain lucky who you met. Thank your lucky stars, and appreciate what you have.

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