Fostering a good relationships takes skills. We are a very romantic society. Everyone says communication is key but in reality most of us don’t have adequate communication skills going into marriage. For couples to be happy in their marriage they must be able to understand not just what their partner is saying, but the experience behind the words,” writes Hamburg. If partners are unable to do that, “they cannot understand what it’s like to be their partner place—to understand their partner empathically—and the best communication in the world won’t help.” In a nutshell you and your partner need a similar worldview.
“When you commit to someone, you don’t actually know who you’re committing to. You know who they are today, but you have no idea who this person is going to be in five years, ten years, and so on. You have to be prepared for the unexpected, and truly ask yourself if you admire this person regardless of the superficial (or not-so-superficial) details, because I promise almost all of them at some point are going to either change or go away.”
“The relationship is a living, breathing thing. Much like the body and muscles, it cannot get stronger without stress and challenge. You have to fight. You have to hash things out. Obstacles make the marriage.”
Advice given by readers included:
Never insult or name-call your partner. Put another way: hate the sin, love the sinner. Gottman’s research found that “contempt” — belittling and demeaning your partner — is the number one predictor of divorce.
Do not bring previous fights/arguments into current ones. This solves nothing and just makes the fight twice as bad as it was before. Yeah, you forgot to pick up groceries on the way home, but what does him being rude to your mother last Thanksgiving have to do with anything?
If things get too heated, take a breather. Remove yourself from the situation and come back once emotions have cooled off a bit. This is a big one for me personally, sometimes when things get intense with my wife, I get overwhelmed and just leave for a while. I usually walk around the block 2-3 times and let myself seeth for about 15 minutes. Then I come back and we’re both a bit calmer and we can resume the discussion with a much more conciliatory tone.
Remember that being “right” is not as important as both people feeling respected and heard. You may be right, but if you are right in such a way that makes your partner feel unloved, then there’s no real winner.
The key to fostering and maintaining trust in the relationship is for both partners to be completely transparent and vulnerable:
- If something is bothering you, say something. This is important not only for addressing issues as they arise, but it proves to your partner that you have nothing to hide.
- Those icky, insecure things you hate sharing with people? Share them with your partner. Not only is it healing, but you and your partner need to have a good understanding of each other’s insecurities and the way you each choose to compensate for them.
- Make promises and then stick to them. The only way to truly rebuild trust after it’s been broken is through a proven track record over time. You cannot build that track record until you own up to previous mistakes and set about correcting them.
- Learn to discern your partner’s own shady behavior from your own insecurities (and vice-versa). This is hard and will likely require confrontation to get to the bottom of. But in most relationship fights, one person thinks something is completely “normal” and the other thinks it’s really grade-A “fucked up.” It’s often extremely hard to distinguish who is being irrational and insecure and who is being reasonable and merely standing up for themselves. Be patient in rooting out what’s what, and when it’s your big, gnarly insecurity (and sometimes it will be, trust me), be honest about it. Own up to it. And strive to be better.