The way is easy to describe: Both spouses treat each other with love and respect, and they talk with each other well enough to solve problems together and resolve conflicts constructively.
But how do people actually do that?
Many people may offer to help you keep or revive the sparkle in your marriage or help you work through problems. Very few have actually done scientific research to find out what works and what does not.
Dr. John Gottman is the big exception. He and his research team have been studying marriages and sometimes divorces for decades. You can find his insights, recommendations, books, and programs at The Gottman Relationship Institute.
Here is a very short version of some of his major recommendations.
- Express validation and appreciation of your partner about five times as often as you express negative feedback.
- Make sex fun and satisfying for both of you.
- Avoid voicing or showing contempt.
- No stonewalling.
- Instead of criticizing, say what happened, how you felt and what you want. Then LISTEN.
- Try to understand your partner’s perspective. Say what you think he or she has communicated, and ask whether you understood correctly. If not, both of you can try again, until you understand each other’s perspectives, even if you do not agree.
- Instead of becoming defensive, let your partner’s thoughts and opinions be just that -- his or her thoughts, which might be pretty interesting, even if you do not like them when you first hear them.
If these ways of interacting do not come naturally to you and your partner, you an learn them. The Gottman Relationship Institute makes books, DVDs and couples workshops available. Their website also helps you find therapists they have trained.
This article is for informational purposes only. The author is a Certified Family Mediator. She is not an attorney or a clinical psychologist. Additional information is available at http://fairfaxmediator.com.