You might be surprised to find that love, chemistry and passion will not (on their own) create a marriage that lasts forever.
You need something more: a commitment to showing up and loving your partner every single day.
This doesn’t come easily to all of us, especially with busy lives and the many needs of family and friends. The good news is that “little and often” is the key. You don’t need to book a fancy holiday or even blow the budget on babysitting. You just need to carve out the time you need to connect.
Here are my seven top pieces of advice for creating a stronger marriage.
The two of you promised forever, but the day-to-day is getting you both down. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Too many of us grew up without seeing our parents model a lasting relationship, and most of us don’t get taught the basic skillset to create a solid marriage.
Making marriage last is not just about how much you love your partner, but how much you feed your relationship. Here are seven ways to make a difference and fight back against the dreaded “I love you but I’m not in love with you”.
The goal should never be to stop arguing. If you want your marriage to last forever, you need to learn the art of constructive conflict.
Problems don’t disappear just because you love each other. They go underground, where they’re harder to fix and pop up as sniping and sarcasm. Ideally, you should solve issues as they arise – like leaving wet towels on the bed – rather than letting them build into a list of accusations.
Arguing is actually one of the most intimate experiences the two of you will share. If you can learn to disagree, your connection will build and your relationship will steadily grow stronger.
For more on learning how to argue, take a look at my article for the Gottman Institute – Three Common Mistakes Couples Make During Conflict
Don’t drop hints. If you want to push the boat out for your anniversary or you’d rather he didn’t spend all weekend working, say so.
No-one is a mind-reader and hints can be so subtle, they’re missed altogether. Value yourself and accept it’s okay to have needs and to express them.
Andrew's Relationship Toolkit
We are taught that sex is all about spontaneous, overwhelming passion, but sadly, married people cannot rely on that.
Especially with small children in the mix, if you wait for both of you to crave wild, spontaneous sex, you will likely be waiting a long time. You’ll be in danger of ending up in a place where sex has become a special treat for Valentine’s Day, birthdays and Christmas.
Instead, set aside regular evenings when you plan to be sensual with each other. Slow dance, or have a bath together. If you’re feeling tired and not in the mood, penetrative sex does not need to be on the menu. Use your imagination and ask each other what might bring pleasure.
It isn’t always easy to talk to your partner about sex: my colleague Tracey Cox, sex therapist, has some great resources around having these conversations and trying new things in the bedroom.
Children are just passing through but marriage is forever. You can put so much energy into family time, it can hide how little you spend together as husband and wife – and when they grow up and go, you discover you’re strangers.
Ring-fence couple time, and put a lock on your bedroom door. It sends a signal that you are lovers as well as parents. In the long run, you’re showing your children what it means to honour and connect with a partner, a lesson which will serve them well as adults.
“Children are just passing through but marriage is forever.”
It’s easy to come up with a list of his faults and imagine your marriage would be wonderful if only he didn’t have them.
But that’s just a recipe for resentment and defensiveness. Instead ask what you could do differently to solve a problem. The only person you can change is yourself – but that can have a major knock-on effect on your marriage.
There is some good advice here from therapist Laura Silverstein on how to create change if your partner won’t consider going to therapy.
Appreciate and concentrate on each other. Check in every day, even just for five minutes. You’d be surprised how many couples never do this; and yet “little and often” is the best way to prevent a destructive deluge.
A surprise cup of coffee, a massage, an invitation to sit and have a glass of wine – creating these moments together is one way to escape the pressures of modern life and shore up your marriage for the long term.
The temptation is to do the same as before, only complaining louder or sulking longer, but you know where that leads.
By having a short circuit break – to count to ten – you can try something else. For example, instead of minimising your upset and being resentful: report your feelings: I was upset when…. Instead of complaining, again, ask a genuinely curious question to understand your partner. Follow it up with: How could we do things differently?
If you’re feeling frustrated and struggling to understand your partner’s point of view, I recommend my podcast interview with Matthew Fray, author of My Wife Divorced Me Because I Left the Dishes By the Kitchen Sink.
I have a team of trained relationship counsellors who can help you have the difficult conversations and learn these seven secrets of make your marriage stronger.
We believe that relationships run into problems because of poor communication but that good relationship skills can be taught.
We concentrate more on solving current problems than understanding what went wrong. Our approach is solutions-focused.
Remember the advantage of stepping out of your house, getting a fresh perspective on your relationship and what needs to change. Easy access via the new Elizabeth tube line.