The 13 Ingredients of Healthy Couples
“A wedding anniversary is a celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance, and tenacity—the order varies for any given year.”
If you’ve ever tried to bake you know about the importance of following a recipe. No, you don’t have to follow it to a tee, and no one does, but you certainly must be careful what you change. Imagine that you set out to bake delicious chocolate fudge brownies. Imagine if you decided to make some “minor” substitutes in the recipe. You’re out of chocolate so you use tar instead. You don’t have milk, so you just use vinegar. No sugar, so you opt for salt instead. Can you imagine what this will taste like at the end? Your goal of creating a sweet confection will certainly not be met.
It is the same with relationships. There are specific ingredients in the recipe that make for a sweet and healthy connection. When you substitute these items with negative replacements, it is no surprise that things do not work.
The 13 ingredients below offer a clear guide of how to create and cultivate a strong and healthy relationship. You can download a clear PDF of these 13 ingredients as well as their negative counterparts and start working on this today!
The Challenge of Marriage
We all know that 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce. Although, in all fairness, it should be noted that these statistics lean towards teen marriages. The older one is when getting married, the lower the rate drops. What if you could learn a more effective recipe and begin applying it in your current relationship? I believe that this will have a strong positive impact and I invite you to try it for one week and even one month if you are brave enough to commit. Just to stress the point, 50% of first marriages end in divorce. For 2nd marriages it’s 67% and for 3rd it’s 73%. This means that it only gets harder each time. What I am am advocating for here is to change the recipe. Stop doing negative partner divorce actions and learn to use the right ingredients! Keep reading.
The 13 Ingredients:
1) Have a 1-2 hour weekly date
Couples who play together, stay together. This is vital part of developing and maintaining a relationship. Healthy couples make time for this and each partner takes responsibility to make it happen.
2) Complement each other often
And do it more than you criticize each other; at a 4:1 ratio. Criticism corrodes relationships.
3) Daily 5-10 minute repair conversation
Don’t let issues linger. Make time each day to chat for 5-10 minutes about what worked, complementing what touched you and quickly repairing the misunderstandings and hurts before they build up.
4) Call time out and do-over
Let’s face it, sometimes things didn’t come out the way we had hoped. Give yourself and your spouse a chance to do over. If things are escalated, don’t be afraid to call a timeout. Sometimes, we are too agitated and upset to have a productive conversation.
5) Give love and acceptance
Acceptance and validation are the bedrock of intimacy, while judgement and criticism destroy closeness. Never question the motives of your spouse.
6) Put being Happy before being Right
Sometimes the two are at odds. Take the higher road, it’s just not worth fighting on principle. Unhealthy partners put being right first and they suffer with their happiness.
7) Laugh together often
It’s the best medicine and it allows you both not to take the fight so seriously. Think about it, when was the last time you fought about something really important anyway. Dr. John Gottman says that most fights are about…. Nothing! Think about it, really. Just laugh. I’m not saying there aren’t important things to discuss, of course there are. I’m just saying, it’s going to be easier and more productive to do so in a place of connection and while pleasantly enjoying each other’s company.
8) Validate the 10% You Agree With First
When we fight, we tend to see ourselves as all right and our spouse as all wrong. And it simply is not that way. The problem is that when you focus on the 90% you disagree with, the conversation quickly goes downhill. So learn to validate first, you will see how much it defuses the tension and how smart your partner actually is… sometimes…
9) Make time for intimacy at least weekly
This is a touchy topic for many couples, but intimacy is an important part of the relationship. Healthy couples make time once a week. Of course each couple has their own individual needs.
10) Celebrate each other’s success
Let’s face it, with all the challenges of couplehood, the benefits we are seeking is camaraderie and someone to enjoy life with. Learn to celebrate your spouse’s success and to give them opportunities to celebrate yours.
11) Encourage individualism and autonomy
Don’t suffocate each other and think that you need to spend every waking moment together. Have your own friends and your own support team.
12) Give and receive trust
Trust can only be partially earned. After that there is an element of it just being a gift. Look for ways to develop trust in your relationship and to show your spouse that you can be trusted.
13) Seek help when needed
It’s easy to brush things under the rug and to be embarrassed or too busy to seek help. The problem is that things usually only get worse and do not work themselves out. If things are tough, consider an experienced mentor, therapist or relationship expert to help you navigate. It’s easy to get stuck in your own head, but it won’t do either of you good. Healthy partners seek support, guidance and accountability in their relationship.
There you have it, a recipe to improve your relationship. Pick out one item from the healthy partner side that you will work on this week and pick out one item from the unhealthy partner side that you know you need to change and tell your partner about it (for accountability reasons and to encourage him or her to do the same!) and get to work!